Try this for a telling statistic on test cricket's place in this country, officially anyway; BJ Watling has been missing from the New Zealand team for a year, but has missed just two tests.

The experienced wicketkeeper is relishing returning to the test game at Eden Park this week in New Zealand's inaugural home pink-ball match. He is over a niggling left hip injury which counted him out of the two tests against the West Indies in December and is ready for his 53rd test.

Tom Blundell made the most of his chance in Watling's absence, nailing a century on debut at the Basin Reserve. But once Watling declared he was ready, there would have been little selectorial debate. Blundell did well, but even he admitted last week he knew the score; Watling is the selectors' man in the test game.

Six test centuries and an average of 38 point to his value with the bat and he's a consistent presence with the gloves. Three men stand ahead of the 32-year-old for keeping dismissals but his average per innings - 2.012 - is superior to all of Adam Parore (201 dismissals in 78 tests), Brendon McCullum (179 from 101) and Ian Smith (176 from 63).


He has had limited leadup to the test since returning for Northern Districts, admitted he is focusing hard on his fitness routines, but confident he is over the latest setback.

"It's definitely something I'm monitoring," the 32-year-old said yesterday. "I'm working every day at the gym and making sure I do my rehab but I haven't felt anything [amiss] for about two months."

Four wicketkeepers have represented New Zealand this summer. Auckland's rising Glenn Phillips had five T20s; ND's Tim Seifert had four; Blundell had his two tests and three T20s; while Tom Latham seems the ODI fancy at present, having been keeper in all 13 home ODIs, tying in with dropping down to the middle order in that format.

Watling is aware there's a pack of eager, younger keepers queuing up behind him. Nothing like a spot of motivation.

"It definitely keeps you on your toes. We've got a good few young keepers coming through.

"Tom's a quality keeper and batter. Tim as well, and Glenn has played [for New Zealand] this summer as well. It's a good young crop."

Watling said it was best not to pre-judge what the pink ball might do on the drop-in pitch at Eden Park.

"The new pink ball obviously swings early but might flatten out, then it livens up again during that dusk period. It's just being aware of the situation, where the games's gone and that we use the right tactics."

New Zealand have added batsman Martin Guptill to fill out the test squad to the usual 13. Senior batsman Ross Taylor is making good progress from his quad injury and expected to train fully under lights tonight.