On Saturday, BJ Watling of New Zealand scored another brilliant, fighting hundred to take his team out of trouble in the first Test against England, being played at Mount Maunganui. The right-handed keeper-batsman has been a regular member of the Kiwi Test team for many years now and has played a key role in its emergence as one of the better teams in the world.
But unfortunately, he doesn't get the attention and recognition he deserves. So, how does one express the value of BJ Watling in Test cricket so that people fully realise how good he is? What if we were to compare him to one of the most celebrated wicketkeeper-batsmen in world cricket over the last couple of decades?
Many people will laugh at the idea but the fact is BJ Watling is, quite frankly, a better wicket-keeper batsman than Mahendra Singh Dhoni was! Don't believe us? Well, let's give you the reasons why you should.
First, let's look at the records of these two batsmen. The New Zealander has played 63 Tests and scored 3,279 runs at an average of 38.57 with seven centuries. MSD, on the other hand, played 90 Tests and scored 4876 runs at an average of 38.1 with six hundreds.
On paper, the two men seem very close to each other with Watling having his nose in front. But cricket is a game where numbers don't tell you everything. To know the brilliance of Watling, one has to look at the circumstances in which he has scored his runs.
Unlike Dhoni who was a hard-hitting stroke-maker, Watling is a no-frills, steady batsman who likes to grind for his runs. Players such as these often get overlooked. But Test cricket requires grinding and fighting hard. This is where BJ has been an excellent member of the Kiwi side. He has often batted tenaciously in tough situations and helped his team fight off major challenges.
In 2014, in a Test match played at Wellington, New Zealand were 5-down and needed around 150 more runs to avoid an innings defeat against India. Watling then had a monumental partnership with his then captain Brendon McCullum – who got New Zealand's first Test triple hundred – to not only get his team out of trouble but give them a chance of winning.
His 124 off 367 balls was a study in concentration and grittiness. But that wasn't the only innings of this sort. In January next year, his team was again in trouble against Sri Lanka at a Test match on the same ground.
They were leading by just 24 runs in their second innings and had lost five wickets. This time, it was with Kane Williamson that Watling combined and put up an unbeaten partnership worth 365 to get his team into a winning position, and win they did.
These are just two biggest examples of how great Watling has been over the years. Having played since 2009, he has only got better. His solid defence and measured stroke-play make him a hard player to get out.
If anyone thought his good performances are limited to home conditions, earlier this year, he played a typically gutsy innings in Sri Lanka, at Colombo to help his team earn a series-levelling win.
MS Dhoni, for all his stardom, was never as dependable in Test cricket as in limited-overs version. His best innings was probably the double hundred scored at Chennai in 2013 against Australia but apart from that, one can't recall too many hard-fought knocks like the ones Watling has produced.
Hence, it's time for the cricket world to acknowledge Watling as one of the, if not the best keeper-batsman in the world.