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Wellington Firebirds appoint former Kiwis keeper BJ Watling as white-ball head coach

Wellington [New Zealand], June 9 (ANI): Former New Zealand wicketkeeper-batter BJ Watling has been appointed as the white-ball head coach of the first-class side Wellington Firebirds.

"BJ Watling, has been appointed white ball head coach of the Wellington Firebirds, alongside world-renowned batting coach Toby Radford who joins as specialist batting coach," said a statement from the team.

Watling is appointed to his first head coach role since retiring from a glittering playing career in which he represented the Blackcaps in all three formats and lifted the inaugural World Test Championship last year.

The 75-Test wicketkeeper-bat has been preparing for a coaching career throughout his playing days and, since retiring, has worked as Northern District's Network Coach in the Waikato and as Northern Districts A head coach.

"I am obviously pretty excited, this is a great opportunity for me and family. I have played against the Firebirds a fair bit in my time and, watching them over the past few seasons, I have certainly been impressed with the calibre of players they have and they are starting to produce Blackcaps regularly now which is exciting," said Watling.

"This is my first head coach role at this level, so there will be plenty of challenges which is good, and I am looking forward to working with a very talented group. I know Bruce (Edgar) well and he is great coach, with lots of experience and I will be leaning on him for support throughout the season, we have got a great support staff group so I am looking forward to working and learning from them," he added.

Watling will join Bruce Edgar as support coach for the Firebirds in red-ball cricket and will also offer specialist wicketkeeping coaching across the Firebirds, Blaze, and Cricket Wellington pathway teams.

Radford joins Cricket Wellington following completion of his role as Head of High Performance at Bangladesh Cricket.

The former Middlesex and Sussex County cricketer spent 10 years as batting coach and assistant coach of the West Indies men's team and was a part of the side that lifted the ICC T20 World Cup in 2012.

He has previously held head coach roles in England with Glamorgan and Middlesex, where he lifted the T20 Cup in 2008.

An expert in developing young players, Radford launched the Middlesex Cricket Academy in 2003 which the ECB subsequently used as their Academy blueprint.

He has also worked to set up academies in the West Indies and Bangladesh and has experience coaching England age-group teams supporting the England Young Lions as a batting coach at the 2022 U19 World Cup where they finished second.

"I am delighted to be joining Cricket Wellington and looking forward to working with all the staff and players. I have long admired the professionalism and quality of New Zealand cricket and cricketers and the opportunity for me to work with such a prestigious and successful side as the Wellington Firebirds excites me greatly," said Radford.

"I cannot wait to get out there to work with everyone in one of the best places around!," he added.

Cricket Wellington CEO Cam Mitchell said he was confident that the additions of Watling and Radford would help Cricket Wellington and the Firebirds continue their recent period of success.

"We are extremely delighted to welcome both BJ and Toby to Cricket Wellington. The addition of both coaches shows a commitment to our desire to provide our players with the best opportunity to achieve their potential and hopefully go on to compete on the international stage," said Mitchell.

"We have no doubt that BJ will be a successful elite coach, and we are pleased to be able to help support his career development. His work ethic, strong values and recent playing experience will be so valuable for our young playing group, and his strong track record of success as a player shows what we are trying to achieve,"The CEO said that Toby's experience as a coach is phenomenal and he will add huge value to the side's high-performance structure.

"He has been successful at the highest level all around the world and we know that our players will benefit greatly from working with Toby. This is a very exciting time for Cricket Wellington and the Firebirds, and we see both appointments, plus the addition of Bruce Edgar, as key components to build on our recent success," he added.

Cricket Wellington will confirm the appointment of a specialist bowling coach in the coming weeks. (ANI)