Kane Williamson has quashed rumours of Neil Wagner being forced to retire.

Subscribe to the Wisden Cricket YouTube channel for post-match analysis, player interviews, and much more.

Neil Wagner announced retirement a few days before the start of the Test series against Australia after he was told that he wouldn’t be considered in the first-choice XI for the series.

New Zealand lost the first Test by a huge margin in Wellington as Cameron Green and Josh Hazlewood stitched a century partnership for the tenth wicket in the first innings for Australia to take the game away early on.

Speaking on ESPN’s Around The Wicket podcast, former New Zealand stalwart Ross Taylor had said that Wagner’s absence hurt New Zealand a lot and that he might have been forced to retire.

“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 was retiring, but it was after this last Test match. So he did make himself available,” Taylor had said in the podcast.

However, speaking to reporters today (March 6), Williamson quashed those claims and said that Wagner had a “fantastic last week”, where he ran the drinks and came on as a sub-fielder at times during the first Test against Australia.

“I do not think anybody is forced to retire,” Williamson said. “I think last week, he had a fantastic week and it was reflecting on what was an incredible career. We had some amazing moments in the dressing room.

“It did not go perfectly. Obviously, an on-field performance would have helped but it was so much more than that. He has just done such incredible things for this team. And we have seen the skill that he has and the numbers that everybody sees but the heart and soul and effort that he has brought to the side and largely led through that for so long has been incredible.

“It was quite a special week for that reason and I think he had a really amazing time sharing that with the side.”

In the last Test that Wagner played, against South Africa in Hamilton, he was caught flipping the finger at someone, presumably from his own camp, giving rise to speculations that all might not be well in the New Zealand dressing room. Williamson shed light on the issue and explained that it was harmless, funny banter among teammates, and nothing else.

“Those guys [Tim Southee and Wagner] are great mates and have been and will continue to be. That was banter in the dressing room with Waggy [Wagner] and his fielding so he ended up putting him down at fine leg.

“So to get a catch was quite amusing. So Waggy took his opportunity [to flip the finger]. I think that obviously out of context it does not look great, but it was a little bit humorous at the time and all the players understood the context.”

[breakout id=”0″][/breakout]

Aaron Finch joked in the Around The Wicket podcast that he was happy to see some “unrest in the Kiwi camp”, but Williamson cleared the air around it as well and said that the team environment is “quite good”.

“Yeah, quite good [the team’s environment]. Something that we are always trying to improve and evolve as a team. And it is something we have tried to do for years. You always have different transitions and players come and go, support staff come and go.

“[Taylor] might know more than me, I am not sure. But I see guys that are giving everything, trying to get better as a team, trying to move the team forward and that is really a focus for us.”

The second Test, which will also be the 100th Test for both Williamson and Southee, starts on March 8.