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BJ Watling has announced he will retire from all cricket at the end of New Zealand's upcoming Test tour of England. This will mean that form and fitness permitting, he will end his career with two Tests against England at Lord's (June 2-6) and Edgbaston (June 10-14), followed by the World Test Championship final against India, which is scheduled to be played from June 18 to 22 in Southampton.
"It's the right time," an NZC release quoted Watling as saying. "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.
"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."
The 35-year-old Watling will end his career as arguably New Zealand's greatest-ever wicketkeeper-batsman in Test cricket. He has scored more runs (3381) than any other wicketkeeper from his country, and at a better average (39.77) than any New Zealander to have kept wicket in at least ten Test matches. He also has more dismissals (257) than any other New Zealand keeper, apart from ten catches as an outfielder.
"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," Watling added. "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."
Overall, including his eight Tests as a specialist batsman, Watling has played 73 Tests and scored 3773 runs at an average of 38.11, with eight hundreds, including a highest score of 205 against England at Mount Maunganui in November 2019.
Known for his nuggety, hard-to-dislodge style with the bat, Watling was involved in two of Test cricket's three highest partnerships for the sixth wicket, both coming at the Basin Reserve in Wellington: 352 alongside Brendon McCullum against India in January 2014 and an unbroken 365 with Kane Williamson against Sri Lanka a year later. Both stands turned their respective Test matches around, earning New Zealand a series-clinching draw and a win, respectively.
"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.
"BJ's been a huge part of the success of the current Black Caps team and on behalf of NZC, I want to wish him well for the upcoming Tests in England and life after cricket."
New Zealand coach Gary Stead was effusive in his praise for Watling too.
"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 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."