A challenge that fits Watling like a glove

BEN STANLEY
Last updated 05:00 09/12/2012
BJ Watling
Reuters
REINFORCEMENTS: BJ Watling will return to the Black Caps for the ODI series and is expected to open the batting.

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Most weeks the news that the Black Caps were changing their test wicketkeeper for the fourth time in the last two years would make the back page of newspapers with ease.

The last seven days have been anything but typical for New Zealand Cricket, however. After a breakdown in communication with his coach, the national captain has gone, and been replaced.

A raft of changes has taken place in the test and Twenty20 international teams - both of which now sit out of the top seven world rankings.

Newspaper column inches, and talkback radio responses have been filled with fallout from it all.

For Northern Districts wicketkeeper B J Watling, the week has represented a massive opportunity. With the dropping of Kruger van Wyk, who has failed to make his mark in the New Zealand test side despite nine matches, Watling will be given the gloves, again for the upcoming two-test series against South Africa.

Since new skipper Brendon McCullum last kept at the test level against Australia in Hamilton in March 2010, the Black Caps have seen Gareth Hopkins, Reece Young, Watling, and van Wyk all try their hand at the role.

Though it has been an unsettled role in the Black Caps, Watling performed when he got the chance - scoring 102 not out in his only test behind the stumps against Zimbabwe in Napier in January.

Starting in Cape Town on January 2, the 27-year-old South African-born keeper is aiming to cement his stake on the job against the world's No 1-ranked test side.

"I've obviously got to score runs in the middle order there, and play a big part in that sort of role," Watling told Sunday Star-Times.

"Obviously I have to be up to scratch with the gloves as well. You've got to take those chances when you've been out there for 130 overs. Those are the things that will cement my spot."

Watling's record with the test bat is decent, with a test average of 30.00, while he was mixed in his only first-class encounter of the summer thus far, scoring eight and an unbeaten 68 against Canterbury in Hamilton last week.

The former test opener is preparing to bat seventh in the Black Caps order, where he is hoping to add some late-innings steel.

"If you're five down early, you've got to get out there and try to rebuild a little bit," Watling said.

"There are times, as well, where you might need quicker runs or more ability at the back end of the innings to get the total that you're after. There are situations that you've got to adapt to, so you've got to keep an open mind."

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Attention on the upcoming tour will be huge, Watling conceded, given the past week's developments. Putting those distractions aside is key.

The new test keeper believes the team have a big chance to "prove a point" against the world's best.

"We've got to find a way to get some results on this tour, and look at moving forward," he said. "It's obviously not an ideal situation, but you've got to be tough enough to deal with these situations.

"It is a bit disappointing, but I've got a job to do with the gloves. That's my focus at the moment."

"[This tour] is a great challenge and a great chance to prove a point against the best players in the world," he added.

- Sunday Star Times

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