Cricket: BJ Watling's head turned by second ODI life

By David Leggat in Sydney

BJ Watling of New Zealand. Photo / Getty.
BJ Watling of New Zealand. Photo / Getty.

BJ Watling sounded almost goggle-eyed schoolkid yesterday as he talked through his first day at the iconic Sydney Cricket Ground.

Only five New Zealand players have played an ODI against Australia on their turf - captain Kane Williamson, Martin Guptill, Tim Southee, Trent Boult and Matt Henry.

Watling is back in the ODI side after almost four years absence.

Before returning for the last two ODIs in India recently, Watling had been missing since February 2013. He lost his place to Luke Ronchi but the Wellington man's ordinary form over an extended period has cost him.

Watling has long had the test keeper's job locked down and his ODI numbers in 24 matches, averaging 27.1 with five half centuries, are tidy.

Now he gets a second life in coloured clothing, and the SCG was a head-turning experience for the 31-year-old.

''Driving to training today was pretty cool, getting to see the ground. It's quite iconic and, yeah, pretty cool to get an opportunity out here. I know the camp are excited," he said.

The transition from tests to ODIs used to be regarded as a tricky step. Not any more.

''I don't think so. The game's obviously grown and the likes of Kane and Guppy transition pretty well. You make slight adjustments to your game. Training was good today, we brushed out a few cobwebs and the bowlers worked on a few slower ball variations."

Sometimes it's easy to forget when you're on the Australian side of the ditch that New Zealand actually hold the Chappell Hadlee Trophy. Watling reckons that has real relevance for his team. He doesn't treat this series as a completely separate entity

''We've got the trophy so it's up to them to win it off us.

''I used to watch a lot of Chappell Hadlee (games) when I was growing up and these sort of clashes are pretty special for us. The boys are pretty fired up to keep the trophy until they come over to play us in January."

Watling admits his big focus in recent years has been test cricket. He had been trying to force an argument to get back in the ODI side but it's taken a while.

''Now it's very pleasing to get the opportunity to give it a crack."

His batting role will depend on circumstances. He can knuckle down if there's trouble brewing or hustle fast runs or, as he put it, if there's been a strong start ''put the icing on the cake".

Watling could have a busy summer, what with a plethora of ODIs coming up against Australia, Bangladesh and South Africa, plus five more tests against the latter two.

He's not the first visiting cricketer to have his head turned by the SCG. A win tomorrow would ice that particular cake too.

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