Neil Wagner's incredible welcome home after reaching "pinnacle" of cricket

Publish Date
Sunday, 27 June 2021, 10:33AM
Getty Images

Getty Images

Pace bowling warhorse Neil Wagner says the world test title is the pinnacle of his career.

And the World Test Championship final win over India has inspired the 35-year-old to play even longer and reach more peaks.

Wagner's dream of playing white ball cricket for New Zealand and competing in the World Cup is long since gone leaving test cricket as his only international stage.

That meant until the World Test Championship came along, appearing in a big final would elude him.

"Thinking about the white-ball World Cup…that was sort of a dream and a ship that had sailed to be fair," Wagner said.

"So when the Test Championship came around and it was explained to us a couple of years ago, I got quite excited by the idea.

"I thought it was quite special and something that that's going to make test cricket the way it is right now - exciting and a bit more perspective to it.

"To get to the final, and still play our brand of cricket and be positive, I can't speak for everyone but this is the ultimate.

'It's definitely the pinnacle of the game for me. And to win it against a quality team like India and then to see what it has meant to everyone…the support back home and the support that was around there.

"The text messages keep flowing in, the phone keeps buzzing and to see what it has meant for Kiwi supporters and family and friends, it means a lot to us too."

Wagner said the Covid-affected reception in New Zealand was still memorable, despite the team's need to isolate from fans.

"I don't think I have ever walked into customs and got greeted the way we did," he said.

"Everyone was like 'Where's the mace?'.

"Even police officers stopped and wanted to have a photo from a distance with it.

"It's a pity that it's Covid times and you can't hug around these guys and pose for a photo. But it was nice to see a smile on everyone's faces and how jubilant they were."

New Zealand has put together its greatest pace attack, with Wagner, the 32-year-old Tim Southee and 31-year-old Trent Boult joined by instant international star Kyle Jamieson.

And Wagner, who has worked hard in recent times to bring more variation to his famous short-pitched attack, indicated he was in no hurry to bring that to an end.

"I've got plenty left in the tank - age is just a number," he said.

"I haven't got the five-wicket bags or performances behind my name that I want but still feel I'm playing my role for the team.

"I still feel pretty young and the body feels really good. As long as that motivation and desire is there to keep going to do the hard work at training, the rest is easy.

"I remember as a kid watching other teams lifting the mace after finishing a test cycle, being No. 1 in the world and what it meant to them.

"To win it in a one-off test is pretty special and we could see what it meant to other people once we got home.

"If anything, this has just urged me on to work harder on my game and fitness levels. Mentally I still feel fresh."

This article was first published on nzherald.co.nz and is republished here with permission