Napier: Brendon McCullum has said BJ Watling has got "natural ability" as a wicketkeeper, and has backed him to succeed in New Zealand's one-off Test against Zimbabwe in Napier.
McCullum kept wickets for New Zealand in 51 Tests but in 2010 he decided he wanted to play as a specialist batsman. Since then Gareth Hopkins and Reece Young have played in the role, but New Zealand are now looking for a new Test wicketkeeper. Watling, who played six Tests as a batsman, will have an opportunity to prove he can fill the position long term.
McCullum said the fact that Watling had only played two first-class games as a keeper was a concern but not a major one. "The only thing you worry about is if he [Watling] has got the volume under his belt. But none of that matters; if he gets a go we've got to get right behind him.
"I know he's got the skills to do it and I guess everyone will be taking a punt on the fact that he can handle the workload as well. He's certainly got some natural ability. It's just about him getting back to keeping for long periods. I'm sure he'll do well. It's not a bad deck to start on as well."
Ross Taylor, the New Zealand captain, said they had decided to pick Watling ahead of the other keeper in the squad, Kruger van Wyk, even before Watling scored 84 in the practice game against the Zimbabweans.
"I guess every time you select someone there's the hope they take the spot and can fill it for years to come," Taylor said. "I think BJ always had the inside running. The way he kept in Gisborne was promising and he had a good knock with the bat in the first innings. It was always going to be BJ but it was nice to see him score some runs and keep pretty well."
Taylor also said New Zealand would not relax after beating Australia for the first time in 26 years, in Hobart in December last year. "We've got to build on the momentum we've gained from the Hobart Test," he said. "We don't want to dine off that for years to come; we know we created history but we want to get consistent performances. What better place to start than our first home game of the season."
New Zealand will use the same combination in Napier as they did in Hobart, with Daniel Vettori at No. 6 and four quicks in the side. McCullum said that line-up suited New Zealand's style of play.
"I like that balance; it allows the batters to play with a bit more freedom knowing they've got an attack that can bowl a team out," McCullum said. "The formula for us winning Test matches consistently could well be similar to the formula we had over there [in Hobart]; play four seamers and have a little bit in the wicket.
"We probably will not have high-scoring 400-500 games, but games more along the lines of trying to eke out 280-300, or if you bat well you get 350-400."