The New Zealand wicket-keeper batsman, BJ Watling has announced that he will retire from all forms of cricket after the inaugural World Test Championship (WTC) Final in England next month. The 35-year old will call time on his cricketing career after being a dedicated server for more than 12 years, both behind and in front of the stumps.
Watling debuted for New Zealand in a T20I in 2009, but much contrary to what his career had in store for him, he became a mainstay in the New Zealand red-ball team. Watling went on to play only 33 white-ball games (5 T20Is and 28 ODIs) for the Kiwis but represented them in over 70 Test matches. He has a total of 3773 test runs at 38.11 with eight hundreds and 19 half-centuries. His highest score of 205 that came against England at Mount Maunganui in 2019 after coming in under pressure at 127/4 is regarded as one of the top Kiwi knocks in recent times.
Watling began his Test career as an opener but did not yield much success, however, since his return to the Kiwis Test team in 2012 as a middle-order wicketkeeper batter, Watling has had amazing success and has been a vital cog in the team’s batting lineup. Not only did he bat with the tail exceedingly well, but has also been instrumental in building key partnerships with the set batters from the top order. The two most noteworthy partnerships that Watling has been part of include the 362 run-stand with Brendon McCullum against India at the Basin Reserve in 2014, 365* with Kane Williamson against Sri Lanka at the same venue in 2015, and the record 261-run stand with Mitchell Santner in England in 2019.
To go along, his safe and rock-like stature behind the stumps has also benefited New Zealand cricket dearly. Watling holds the record for the most dismissals (257) by a New Zealand Keeper in Test matches including 8 stumpings and another 10 catches as an outfielder. He is also likely to pass Adam Parore’s record of most Tests as a New Zealand keeper in the upcoming 3-Test England tour.
As New Zealand build-up towards the England Tour and the consequent WTC Finals, the announcement from Watling is sure to catch many off-guard. Having said that, the keeper-batsman felt that this was the right time to bid adieu and that the WTC Final will be a great event to be a part of. He said, “It’s been a huge honor to represent New Zealand and in particular wear the Test baggy. Test cricket really is the pinnacle of the game and I’ve loved every minute of being out there in the whites with the boys.
“Sitting in the changing rooms having a beer with the team after five days’ toil is what I’ll miss the most.
“I’ve played with some great players and made many good mates. I’ve also had plenty of help along the way for which I’ll always be grateful.
“My wife Jess has been a constant source of stability and support and I’m certainly looking forward to being able to spend more time with her and the kids. I also owe a big thanks to my mum for steering me in the right direction early on and always being there for me.
“Although I’ve had to make this announcement ahead of the tour to England, my focus is very much on the three Tests ahead and preparing to perform in them.
“This tour will be a challenge on a few levels and we know as a team we will need to be at the very top of our game if we want to succeed.”
NZ Management about BJ Watling:
NZC chief executive David White said Watling would be remembered for the tremendous courage and determination he brought to the game, and especially when the chips were down. “BJ turned games around,” he said. “I can’t think of another player who reacted so positively, and who was successful in the face of adversity.
“His ability to wring every possible run out of the tail was unmatched; his work behind the stumps tireless and efficient.
“He has a quiet, unassuming, and undemonstrative manner that belies the huge appetite he has for the contest and the challenge.
“BJ’s been a huge part of the success of the current BLACKCAPS team and on behalf of NZC, I want to wish him well for the upcoming Tests in England and life after cricket.”
The New Zealand Head Coach Gary Stead also talked a lot in good regards to NZ’s Mr. Dependable. He said, “BJ is a wonderful player and a great bloke,” Stead said.
“He works really hard on his game to get improvements and always puts the team first.
“You just have to look at the respect he’s held in by his teammates and the opposition to appreciate his standing in the game.
“The records speak for themselves and he’s been such a crucial cog in the Test team’s rise over the past decade.
“That double hundred he scored at the Mount in 2019 was one of the best innings I’ve ever seen and epitomized BJ Watling as a player, really.
“The attitude and fight he brings to every day and every session of a Test is what has made him such a valued member of the BLACKCAPS.
“He is without a doubt one of our best ever wicket-keeper batsmen.”