Ross Taylor alleges forced retirement for New Zealand's Neil Wagner ahead of Australia Test series

New Delhi, March 5 (IANS) Former New Zealand cricketer Ross Taylor has stirred controversy by alleging that Neil Wagner’s retirement ahead of the Test series against Australia was a “forced one”. Wagner’s retirement announcement, made in an emotionally charged news conference before the first Test, has raised eyebrows, particularly given the circumstances surrounding his exclusion from the XI.

Neil Wagner, a stalwart of New Zealand cricket, bid farewell to the international stage after a distinguished career spanning 64 Tests and yielding 260 wickets. Taylor, speaking on ESPN’s Around the Wicket podcast, voiced his suspicions, pointing out the timing of Wagner’s retirement and his availability for selection.

“I think it all makes sense a little bit now. There’s no sugarcoating it. I think it’s a forced retirement. If you listen to Wagner’s press conference, he retired, but it was after this last Test match. So he did make himself available,” Taylor remarked.

Wagner’s absence from the playing XI against Australia, despite being named in the squad, has sparked speculation about the decision-making process within the team management. Taylor expressed his disbelief at Wagner’s exclusion, emphasising the veteran bowler’s prowess in crucial matches.

“And to see that he isn’t selected, I think I do like and you do need to plan for the future, but a one-off Test against Australia in a must-win situation, I wouldn’t be looking much further than Neil Wagner. And I’m sure the Australian batters are sleeping easy that he’s not in the side,” Taylor added.

Aaron Finch, also on the podcast, said Wagner would have likely stopped Australia from posting as big a total as they did in their first innings at the Basin Reserve, which laid down the platform for their 172-run win. “I couldn’t believe Neil Wagner wasn’t in the XI. I just genuinely thought that he must have been out through a niggle,” Finch said. “The success he’s had against Australia, particularly [against] Steven Smith over a period of time, you can guarantee that the last wicket partnership wouldn’t have happened if Wagner was there.

“Because he would have intimidated Josh Hazlewood at least. He might have stopped Cameron Green from scoring as well. I thought that was a really interesting decision,” Finch said.

Taylor’s assertion hints at underlying tensions within the team, exacerbated by Wagner’s unexpected exit from international cricket. “It’s not only his experience and the way he goes about it, but you know, the opposition, you heard [Pat] Cummins talking about the plans that they had for him,” Taylor said.

“Experience plays a lot, but no, I agree with Finchy. If he comes around the wicket to Hazlewood, he might have got him away for a couple of boundaries or even a six. But I think for the prolonged time he would have attacked him for, I don’t think they would have got a 100-run partnership.”



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