New Zealand’s wicketkeeper-batsman BJ Watling will retire from all forms of the game after his team’s tour of England in June. The Kiwis will play two Tests against England, followed by the World Test Championship (WTC) final against India, which will be BJ Watling’s swansong.
The 35-year-old BJ Watling is New Zealand’s most successful Test wicketkeeper, with 257 dismissals - 249 catches and eight stumpings. In addition, he has also taken ten catches as a fielder.
BJ Watling has represented New Zealand in 73 Tests and has scored 3773 runs, doing so at an average of 38.11, with eight hundreds and 19 fifties. His career-best of 205 came against England in Mount Maunganui in November 2019. The veteran player has also represented New Zealand in 28 ODIs and five T20Is.
Beginning his career as a Test opener, BJ Watling later moved down the order and has been a constant presence for New Zealand in the longer format over the last decade.
Announcing his retirement from all forms of the game after the England tour, BJ Watling said:
“It’s the right time. It’s been a huge honour 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.
Reflecting on his career, the wicketkeeper-batsman added:
“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.”
BJ Watling also thanked his wife Jess for supporting him wholeheartedly throughout his long career. He said in this regard:
“I’m certainly looking forward to being able to spend more time with (Jess) 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.”
Reacting to BJ Watling's decision to retire, Black Caps coach Gary Stead termed him as 'a wonderful player and a great bloke'.
Stead was quoted as saying by stuff.co.nz in this regard:
“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."
Stead described BJ Watling’s double hundred against England in 2019 as one of the best innings he has witnessed, saying:
“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 Black Caps. He is, without a doubt, one of our best ever wicketkeeper-batsmen.”
New Zealand’s tour of England will begin with the first of two Tests at Lord’s on June 2. The World Test Championship final between India and New Zealand will be played in Southampton from June 18 to 22.