Bradley-John (BJ) Watling, New Zealand’s wicketkeeper-batsman, has announced that he will retire from the game after the World Test Championship final against India at Southampton, England in June.

"It's the right time," a New Zealand Cricket (NZC) release quoting Watling read. "It's been a huge honour to represent New Zealand and in particular wear the Test baggy… Sitting in the changing rooms having a beer with the team after five days' toil is what I'll miss the most.”

The 35-year old has a stellar record, having accumulated the most Test runs as well as the most dismissals by a New Zealand keeper. At 257 dismissals, BJ Watling stands ninth on the all-time Test list, behind Mark Boucher, Adam Gilchrist, Ian Healy, Rod Marsh, MS Dhoni, Brad Haddin, Jeff Dujon and Alan Knott. 

And with 3,381 Test runs as keeper, he is just outside the top ten at no. 11 for most runs by glovemen. Overall, he has made 3,773 runs in 73 Tests at an average of 38.11 with eight centuries.

Watling made his Test debut against Pakistan in Napier in December 2009. He has more or less been a specialist behind the stumps in the longest format. Watling also played 28 ODIs and 5 T20Is as Brendon McCullum mostly donned the gloves in white-ball cricket, followed by Tom Latham and Tim Seifert now.

It was Watling who was at the other end during most of McCullum’s epic triple century against India at Basin Reserve in Wellington in 2014. Watling himself made 124 and put on 352 with his skipper for the sixth wicket as New Zealand recovered from 94/5.

"BJ turned games around," NZC chief executive David White 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.”

New Zealand coach Gary Stead said that Watling’s 205 against England - his highest Test score - at Mount Maunganui in 2019 was one of the best innings he had seen. The Black Caps were 127/4 in reply to England’s 353 when Watling conjured another turnaround in the company of Colin de Grandhomme and Mitchell Santer to propel his side to 615/9 declared. The Kiwis went on to win the match by an innings.

“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,” Stead said. “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 epitomised 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 Black Caps. He is without a doubt one of our best ever wicketkeeper-batsmen."


Photo: ICC Cricket