'They grabbed our passports, asked where's the mace? Even police wanted to have photos': New Zealand's Neil Wagner
The New Zealand players received a grand welcome when they landed home with the ICC World Test Championship (WTC) mace. With an 8-wicket victory over India in the final at Southampton, New Zealand not only became the first side to lay their hands on a Test world tournament title but also ended their 21-year-long wait for an ICC trophy. Describing the scenes back home, fast bowler Neil Wagner said he never got greeted at the customs like they he was after returning as a WTC winner.
Wagner said people grabbed their passports and started enquiring about the WTC mace as soon as they landed.
"I don't think I've ever walked into customs and got greeted the way we did. Everyone was just straight away [saying] congratulations, pretty happy, grabbed our passports and all they wanted to ask was, Where's the mace, where's the mace? Seeing even police officers stopping wanting to have a photo from a distance with it... it was nice to see the smiles on everyone's faces," stuff.co.nz quoted Wagner as saying.
Describing the feelings of being crowned as the first-ever WTC winners, Wagner, who picked up three wickets – two in the first innings and one in the second – in the final against India, said it was surreal.
"It's still hard to put into words, to be fair. It still feels unreal. Everything is socially distanced, so you can't even really shake their hands, and we had the mace, everyone wanted to take a photo, you can't even do that, or we couldn't pass it on. It's a bit of a shame but it's part of the world we live in at the moment. It was quite nice to see some Kiwis walk past and see what it means to them, albeit in the distance waving away, and saying congratulations, it means a lot to all the boys," said Wagner.
The left-arm fast bowler also added that the New Zealand players handed over the mace to wicketkeeper-batsman BJ Watling for two weeks.
"We shared the mace around on the plane and throughout the whole night while celebrating, everybody had their turn to carry it around and make full use of that. And then on the plane, Ross Taylor got me to hand over the mace to BJ Watling, he's going to take care of it for the next two weeks in isolation.
"I think it's a fitting way for him to send his career off, it's been an amazing career for us, the role he's played for a number of years now, just the whole person he is and heart and soul of the team. He epitomises everything we are about as a team, the team-first attitude, being a guy that scraps and fights for everything, he's led that all the way from the start. He'll be sorely missed in this team," he added.
Watling retired from international cricket after playing the WTC final.