BJ Watling

BJ Watling

Player Bio

Bradley-John Watling, commonly known as BJ Watling, is a name that resonates deeply within the annals of New Zealand cricket. Born on 9th July 1985 in Durban, South Africa, Watling's journey from a South African-born lad to one of New Zealand's most reliable wicket-keeper-batsmen is nothing short of inspirational. His contributions to the Black Caps, especially in the Test format, have been instrumental in many of the team's successes over the years. With a career spanning from 2009 to 2021 at the international level, Watling has left an indelible mark on the game, especially with his record-breaking feats behind the stumps and his gritty performances with the bat.

Early Life and Entry into Professional Cricket

BJ Watling's cricketing journey began in South Africa, but it was in New Zealand where his talent truly flourished. At the age of 10, Watling's family moved to New Zealand, and it was here that his passion for the sport grew exponentially. During his school days at Hamilton Boys' High School, he was mentored by former Test cricketer Chris Kuggeleijn. Under Kuggeleijn's guidance, Watling's skills were honed, and he showcased his prowess by winning the Gillette Cup twice. He also represented New Zealand in the Under-19 Cricket World Cup in 2004. One of his standout achievements during this period was a mammoth 378-run innings in the 2008 Hamilton senior club final, playing for Hamilton Old Boys against Eastern Suburbs.

Watling's consistent performances at the school and club levels paved the way for his entry into professional cricket. He made his first-class debut for Northern Districts against Auckland on 6th December 2004 in the State Championship. In this match, Watling batted at number eight in the first innings, scoring a respectable 37. However, in the second innings, he was promoted to open the batting, a position he would come to occupy frequently in his domestic career. Initially, Watling played as a wicket-keeper for Northern Districts, but the team soon recognised his potential as an opening batsman, leading to a shift in his role.

His List A debut came later that month against Wellington in the State Shield. Although he was dismissed without scoring in this match, it was just the beginning of a career that would see many highs and milestones. Watling's adaptability and resilience were evident early on. Whether it was adjusting to different batting positions or taking on the responsibilities of wicket-keeping, he always rose to the challenge.

In the subsequent years, Watling solidified his place in the Northern Districts team, showcasing his skills both as a batsman and a wicket-keeper. His consistent performances at the domestic level caught the attention of the national selectors, setting the stage for his entry into the international arena.

Rise to International Fame

BJ Watling's ascent to international prominence was a testament to his unwavering dedication and consistent performances at the domestic level. After making significant contributions for Northern Districts, Watling's big break came when he was selected for the New Zealand one-day squad for the ODIs in the UAE against Pakistan. This was a culmination of his exceptional form during the one-day State Shield competition in 2008-09, where he amassed 509 runs at an impressive average of 63.62.

In 2010, a pivotal moment in Watling's career arrived. Brendon McCullum, New Zealand's swashbuckling batsman, decided to don the wicket-keeping gloves only in ODIs. This decision opened the doors for Watling to stake his claim as New Zealand's primary wicket-keeper in Test matches. While there were other contenders like Gareth Hopkins, Reece Young, and Kruger van Wyk, Watling's prowess both behind the stumps and with the bat made him the frontrunner.

Between 2009 and 2012, Watling played eight Test matches, with the initial six as a specialist batsman. However, by 2013, he had firmly established himself as New Zealand's full-time wicketkeeper for the longer format. His batting, too, began to shine on the international stage. A testament to this was his monumental partnership with Brendon McCullum against India in February 2014. The duo stitched together a record sixth-wicket stand of 352 runs in Wellington, with Watling contributing a gritty 124 – his maiden century against a top-eight cricketing nation.

His performances were not just limited to the subcontinent. On the Caribbean tour, Watling played a crucial knock of 66 against the West Indies in Port-of-Spain. His 99-run partnership with Mark Craig was instrumental in delaying a West Indies victory. Such innings underscored Watling's ability to thrive under pressure and earned him accolades from teammates and opponents alike. Brendon McCullum, the then New Zealand captain, even went on to say that Watling was fast becoming one of his favourite cricketers.

Key Achievements and Records

Throughout his illustrious career, BJ Watling set and broke numerous records, etching his name in the annals of cricket history. Some of his notable achievements include:

Most Dismissals in an Innings: Watling's skills behind the stumps were unparalleled. He holds the record for the most dismissals in a Test innings, showcasing his impeccable wicket-keeping skills.

Most Runs in an Innings by a Wicketkeeper: Watling's prowess with the bat was equally commendable. He holds the record for the most runs scored in an innings by a wicketkeeper, a testament to his batting capabilities.

Partnership Records: Watling was involved in several record-breaking partnerships throughout his career. His 352-run stand with Brendon McCullum against India remains one of the highlights of his batting career.

Consistent Test Performer: Over his Test career, Watling played 75 matches, scoring 3790 runs at an average of 37.52. He notched up 8 centuries and 19 half-centuries, with a highest score of 205.

Impressive Fielding Stats: In the Test arena, Watling made 573 catches and 96 stumpings, further solidifying his reputation as one of the best wicket-keepers of his generation.

BJ Watling's journey from a young boy in Durban to one of New Zealand's cricketing legends is a tale of perseverance, dedication, and sheer talent. His records and achievements stand as a testament to his commitment to the game and his undying passion for representing his adopted nation at the highest level.

Memorable Innings and Partnerships

BJ Watling's cricketing journey is studded with numerous memorable innings and partnerships that not only showcased his individual brilliance but also his ability to forge strong alliances with his teammates.

352-run Partnership with Brendon McCullum: One of the most iconic partnerships in New Zealand's cricketing history was the 352-run stand between Watling and Brendon McCullum against India in Wellington in 2014. Watling's resilient 124 was the perfect foil to McCullum's aggressive 302. This partnership not only saved the match for New Zealand but also set the tone for their dominance in the longer format in the years to come.

99-run Stand with Mark Craig: In a challenging situation against the West Indies in Port-of-Spain, Watling's gritty 66, combined with Mark Craig's contribution, resulted in a 99-run partnership. This alliance was crucial in delaying a West Indies victory and showcased Watling's ability to anchor the innings under pressure.

205 against England: In November 2019, Watling played one of his most memorable innings, scoring a double century (205) against England in Mount Maunganui. This knock was a testament to his patience, technique, and determination, helping New Zealand post a formidable total.

Watling and Santner's Resistance: Against England in Hamilton in 2019, Watling (55) and Mitchell Santner (126) combined to put on a significant partnership, helping New Zealand secure a series win. Their alliance was a blend of aggression and defence, highlighting Watling's versatility as a batsman.

Partnership with Corey Anderson: In the 2014 Sharjah Test against Pakistan, Watling (out on 89) combined with Corey Anderson (who scored a century) to put on a significant partnership, helping New Zealand set a competitive total. Their stand was crucial in setting the stage for a historic New Zealand win in the subcontinent.

BJ Watling's illustrious career is a testament to his unwavering dedication, resilience, and passion for the game. From his early days in Durban to becoming one of New Zealand's cricketing legends, Watling's journey has been nothing short of inspirational. His ability to forge match-winning partnerships, his impeccable skills behind the stumps, and his gritty performances with the bat have left an indelible mark on the game. As he hangs up his boots, the cricketing world will remember BJ Watling not just for his records and achievements but for the spirit and determination he brought to the field. His legacy will continue to inspire budding cricketers and remind them of the virtues of perseverance, dedication, and team spirit.

When did BJ Watling make his Test debut for New Zealand?
Watling made his Test debut for New Zealand against Pakistan at Napier on December 11-15, 2009.
What is BJ Watling's highest score in Test cricket?
Watling's highest score in Test cricket is 205, which he achieved against England in Mount Maunganui in 2019.
How many Test centuries did BJ Watling score in his career?
Watling scored 8 Test centuries during his international career.
Which country was BJ Watling originally from?
BJ Watling was originally from Durban, South Africa, before moving to New Zealand at the age of ten.
Who was BJ Watling's most frequent batting partner in Test matches?
Brendon McCullum was one of Watling's most frequent and successful batting partners, with their 352-run stand against India being the most notable.