New Zealand’s World Test Championship winner Neil Wagner retires from international cricket

A poignant atmosphere enveloped the Basin Reserve in Wellington on Tuesday, February 27, as Neil Wagner, one of New Zealand’s most tenacious pacers, emotionally declared the end of his international cricket journey. Wagner, who has been a cornerstone of the New Zealand bowling attack, took part in 64 Test matches, including the triumphant World Test Championship (WTC) finale against India in 2021. Throughout his distinguished career, he claimed 260 wickets and stood as a model of relentless endeavour and commitment to his team.

As Wagner spoke at the press conference, alongside head coach Gary Stead, his voice cracked with the weight of the decision to retire. “It’s been an emotional week,” the left-armer admitted, emphasizing the difficulty in stepping away from a game that has been both his passion and his life. Wagner expressed immense pride in his contributions to New Zealand cricket and hoped his legacy would inspire future generations of cricketers.

Wagner’s career conclusion comes ahead of the first Test against Australia in Wellington, set to begin on February 29, where he will not be featured in the playing XI. This decision follows an ESPNCricinfo report that revealed Wagner was not considered part of New Zealand’s primary selection for the series. Coach Stead, who had the challenging task of breaking this news to Wagner, praised the 37-year-old bowler’s impact, highlighting his relentless spirit and the indelible mark he has left on the team.

Perfectly capturing the essence of Wagner’s career, Stead lauded his ability to stand up in challenging situations and conjure up key wickets when they were most needed. His precision, execution, and resilience have played vital roles in many of New Zealand’s most significant Test victories.

Beyond the figures and the cricketing records, Wagner’s fervent celebration and uncompromising approach have endeared him to fans and teammates alike. In one memorable instance, he batted valiantly to secure a Test draw for his team, and on another occasion, he bowled with two swollen fingers demonstrating the epitome of a ‘never-say-die’ attitude. Although he will not receive a farewell Test, his career path reflects the character of a man who has always put the team ahead of personal accolades.

In a heartfelt farewell, Wagner, who last represented the Black Caps in a Test against South Africa in Hamilton, will be honoured at the Basin Reserve at the commencement of the opening Test against Australia. Additionally, his immense contribution to New Zealand cricket will be celebrated at the NZC awards on March 13.

Leaving a lasting legacy, Wagner finishes his international career as New Zealand’s fifth-highest wicket-taker in men’s Tests—a testament to his skill, determination, and the passion with which he played every game. While he may no longer wear the iconic Black Cap, the spirit with which Neil Wagner played will continue to inspire and resonate with cricket lovers and future aspirants of the sport for many years to come.

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