Neil Wagner announces retirement from international cricket

neil-wagner

Neil Wagner has announced his retirement from international cricket effective immediately after being informed by the New Zealand selectors that he would not be included in the squad for the upcoming two-Test series against Australia starting on Thursday.

The decision, made by the 37-year-old Wagner, came after a heartfelt discussion with coach Gary Stead last week, during which it was clarified that he would not be part of New Zealand’s best XI for the upcoming series against Australia. Wagner made his retirement announcement at a press conference alongside Stead at Basin Reserve in Wellington on Tuesday. He had been initially invited to be part of the squad for the first Test.

Wagner bows out after an illustrious career spanning 64 Tests for his adopted country, having originally moved from South Africa. He amassed 260 wickets at an average of 27.57 with an impressive strike rate of 52.7. Among New Zealand bowlers with over 100 wickets, only Sir Richard Hadlee boasts a better Test strike rate.

While Wagner plans to continue playing first-class cricket, he felt that the time was right to bid farewell to the Test arena.

“I sensed that the time was nearing,” Wagner expressed. “They say when you start contemplating retirement, it’s a sign. Reflecting on the future and the upcoming Test matches, I felt it was appropriate to step down and allow other players to carry on our collective efforts and further strengthen our bowling attack.

“It’s never an easy decision. It’s a journey filled with emotions and challenges. But I believe the time has come to pass on the baton and leave the Black Cap in a good position for others to carry it forward and build on our legacy.”

Wagner and Stead had a discussion after New Zealand’s Test series victory over South Africa in Hamilton – Wagner’s final Test – regarding his future role in the Test side. Initially not slated to be part of the preparations for the Australia series, Wagner was later invited by the team to be present for the first Test, even though he wouldn’t be playing.

“I wasn’t supposed to be here,” Wagner revealed. “The team’s gesture to invite me down here to celebrate and assist in their preparations against Australia was incredibly touching. It felt fitting to conclude my career by doing what I’ve always done – being with the team, supporting them with a smile, and offering my services. I’m immensely grateful for this opportunity and the kindness shown by everyone, including Gary.”

Stead admitted that informing Wagner of the decision was challenging.

“These were very tough conversations to have,” Stead acknowledged. “Neil understood the situation. His gratitude for his time with the Black Caps speaks volumes about his character. It took him some time to process what this meant for him, but he’s still available for domestic cricket. It’s not a retirement from everything, just from international cricket. Conversations like these are incredibly difficult, especially with someone of Neil’s caliber and his contributions to the team.”

In a statement issued by New Zealand Cricket, Test skipper Tim Southee hailed Neil Wagner as a stalwart team player, expressing admiration for his unwavering commitment to the team’s cause.

Southee remarked, “With Neil, you always knew what to expect: unwavering dedication to the team’s success. He epitomizes the spirit of selflessness and has garnered immense respect and admiration in the dressing room. Personally, my bond with Neil, both on and off the field, has been fantastic, and I’m certain our friendship will endure for years to come.”

“We’re thrilled to have him with us for the upcoming Test, and we eagerly anticipate honoring his remarkable career after the match,” Southee added.

Reflecting on his favorite moments in Test cricket, Wagner reminisced about the exhilarating triumphs, including the historic Test win over India in 2014, the breakthrough series victory against West Indies in the same year, the memorable series win over England in 2018, where he showcased resilience with the bat, the triumph in the World Test Championship against India, and the thrilling one-run victory over England last year.

“Particularly memorable was the partnership with Ish [Sodhi] during that draw at Hagley Park. Hearing about the decades-long drought since our last series win over England ignited a fire within me to contribute. That series was truly special,” Wagner recounted.

“Of course, the pinnacle was the World Test Championship final—a moment I’ll forever cherish. And that last Test against England last year will certainly remain etched in memory,” he added.

Expressing gratitude, Wagner became emotional as he thanked his family, friends, coaches, and mentors for their unwavering support throughout his journey. He hoped to be remembered by the New Zealand public as someone who wholeheartedly devoted himself to representing the Black Caps.

“I’ve always acknowledged that I may not have been the most naturally gifted player, but my love for the game and commitment to the team have been unwavering. I’ve poured my heart and soul into this endeavor, knowing that hard work and perseverance were my greatest assets,” Wagner concluded.