DateLine: 20th December 2005
To those who belittle the traditional conservatism of English selection policies, there is a salutary lesson in the case of Mark Lathwell. After a very good start to his Somerset career, and with a clutch of “best young batsman I’ve ever seen” type comments behind him, a great A Tour to Australia in the English winter of 1992-3 seemed to indicate that this was a man who would play many times for his country. For a man born in Buckinghamshire, there was an unexpected amount of sub-continental wristyness to his play, which, when in form, made him a delight to watch. Despite a great start to his 1993 season, Lathwell (as Mike Atherton revealed in his biography) was petrified and certain of failure on debut. Scores of 20 and 33 on his Trent Bridge debut, in a series where England were systematically dismantled, was a start to a Test career which many batsman would have been happy with. After 0 and 25 at Headingley he was discarded and replaced by Matthew Maynard, although the fact that Graham Gooch had dropped himself to no.5 to accommodate Lathwell might have indicated that he was worthy of a longer run. With his mother publicly stating that he’d been picked too young, and with a poor second half of the 1993 English season followed by a desperate England A tour to South Africa, he already seemed yesterday’s man at the age of just 22. Despite scoring 206 against Surrey in 1994, he embarked on a series of so-so seasons after that, usually averaging between 30 and 40. It was clear that his cricketing growth had been stunted by an unhappy experience at Test level, and that he was never quite the same again. Lathwell left the First-class game of his own accord at the end of 2001, before he had even turned 30 (and with two years left on his contract), and a rather unenjoyable case study in unfulfilled potential was complete.
(Article: Copyright © 2005 Matthew Reed)