New Zealand wicketkeeper BJ Watling has announced he will retire from all cricket following next month’s World Test Championship final against India in England.

The 35-year-old will call time on a career spanning 73 Tests and 28 One-day Internationals following a two-match Test series against England and he inaugural WTC final at Hampshire’s Southampton headquarters.

“It’s the right time,” said Watling, who has recently become a father for the second time, in a New Zealand Cricket statement.

“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.”

Watling has been a stalwart of the Test side since debuting in 2009 as an opener, going on to establish himself as a world-class keeper-batsman and claiming numerous records. The Northern Districts gloveman had been pondering his options for a while.

The announcement of Watling’s retirement was also expedited by his expected omission from the player contracts list, to be released on Friday.

South Africa-born Watling, who moved to New Zealand as a 10-year-old, has taken 259 catches and completed eight stumpings in Tests, as well as being an effective batsman with 3,773 runs at an average of over 38, including eight hundreds, in the five-day game.

Watling holds the New Zealand Test dismissals record with 249 catches (excluding 10 as a fielder) and eight stumpings - the best numbers of any current Test keepers. His bowler-keeper catching combinations with Tim Southee (73), Trent Boult (55) and Neil Wagner (53) occupy the top three spots on the New Zealand record list.

Watling’s batting statistics are equally eye-catching.

He has eight Test centuries to his name and New Zealand records for the fourth and fifth highest partnerships – 362 with Brendon McCullum against India at the Basin Reserve in 2014, and 365* with current captain Kane Williamson against Sri Lanka at the same ground a year later. In all, he has 3773 runs in 73 Tests, averaging a little over 38.

He is just the ninth Test keeper to score a double hundred and was the first to do so against England, when his player of the match performance helped win a dramatic Test against England at Bay Oval in November 2019.

He also featured in another New Zealand record-partnership in that match as he and Mitchell Santner put on 261 for the seventh wicket.

Black Caps coach Gary Stead lauded the side’s Mr Dependable behind the stumps.

“The records speak for themselves and he’s been such a crucial cog in the Test team’s rise over the past decade,” he said.

“He is without a doubt one of our best ever wicket-keeper batsmen.”

NZC chief executive David White said Watling would be remembered for the tremendous courage and determination he brought to the game, and especially when the chips were down.

“BJ turned games around. 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 said.

If Watling plays all three Tests on the upcoming tour, two against England (June 2-6 and 10-14) and the ICC World Test Championship Final against India, he will surpass Adam Parore’s record of most Tests as a New Zealand keeper at 67.

Watling, looking ahead to the Blackcaps trip to Britain, said: “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.”

With PTI and AFP Inputs