For New Zealand, the South Africa-born cricketer was a man for crisis situations
Bradley-John Watling takes us to the heart of New Zealand cricket — fight, absorbing pressure, changing scripts.
Wellington, 2014: Watling addresses the media after the second day’s play. It has been a productive outing for him with five catches with the big gloves. However, New Zealand, 24 for one after conceding a massive lead of 246, is staring at a certain defeat against India.
Speaking to the press, Watling is typically defiant. “I like such situations. It gets the best out of me. This is the reason we play Test cricket.”
These were not empty words.
New Zealand was reduced to 94 for five in the second innings and the Indian scribes were making plans for two free days with the Test heading for an early finish.
Then Watling joined skipper Brendon McCullum. And India was wicketless till the post-tea session on day four. McCullum (302) and Watling (124) were involved in a record 352-run stand for the sixth wicket, frustrating the visitor.
McCullum displayed typical flair and Watling was rock solid. And the Test ended in a draw. And now Watling has bid adieu to international cricket after the Kiwis conquered the Test peak at Southampton.
The respect for Watling, pushing 36, is enormous within the New Zealand team. No wonder he was among McCullum’s favourite cricketers for his never-say-die attitude. Belief was the cornerstone of Watling’s game.
In fact, Watling began his Test career as a specialist opener against Pakistan at Napier in 2009.
And it was McCullum’s decision to only ’keep in shorter duration matches that opened the path for Watling to be a wicketkeeper-batsman in Tests.
He grabbed the opportunity. Watling figured in 75 Tests, scoring 3,790 runs at a commendable 37.52 with eight centuries and holding 267 catches and pulling off eight stumpings.
For New Zealand, this South Africa-born cricketer was a man for crisis situations in the middle-order. He had the priceless quality of soaking in the pressure and using it as a motivating factor.
The super-fit Watling evolved as a ’keeper and airborne catches on both sides of the wicket were commonplace as his career wore on.
And now when he leaves the international stage to spend more time with family, he does so knowing he has given it his best shot.
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