Cricket: Gloveman Ronchi stakes his claim

By David Leggat

Former Australian international determined to play his way into New Zealand side now that he is eligible.

Luke Ronchi has taken his first-class average for this season past 65. Photo / Getty Images
Luke Ronchi has taken his first-class average for this season past 65. Photo / Getty Images

If you believed some of the more breathless comments from the lower North Island at the time, Luke Ronchi's phone would have been ringing on January 13.

"Luke, Mike here," would have been the opening line in a conversation between the newly New Zealand-eligible Wellington wicketkeeper-batsman and the New Zealand coach.

Ronchi, born in Dannevirke 31 years ago and seven times an Australian representative in ODI and T20 cricket, knows it doesn't work that way.

"To expect a call straight away would be pretty naive on my part," he said yesterday.

"It's no one's right just to expect. You've got to perform, do the right thing and I'm still just trying to press my claims to get a chance. Every game I play I want to perform."

There was a time Ronchi, who moved to Perth with his family aged 7, would have been entitled to ponder a lengthy career in the baggy green.

The Western Australian gloveman got his chance in 2008 courtesy of a Brad Haddin broken finger. In his second innings at St Kitts, Ronchi blazed 64 in 28 balls, still the equal third-fastest ODI half century by an Australian, off 22 deliveries.

His hitting feats are well documented. His last international appearance was a T20 against South Africa in January 2009, and that was that. Others came in and Ronchi, seeing the list of those rated above him, took his chance to return to New Zealand.

He banged a rapid 111 in his first game for Wellington last March against Central Districts and his 95 off 99 balls in the Plunket Shield game against Canterbury at the weekend took his first-class average for this season past 65.

The problem is forcing his way into the New Zealand team.

Captain Brendon McCullum will keep in the ANZ international series T20s, starting at Eden Park on Saturday; BJ Watling is the test encumbent. But if you dig about it is not hard to find the opinion that Ronchi is the best pure gloveman around.

In the last two and a half years, New Zealand have been through seven wicketkeepers across the three forms - McCullum, Peter McGlashan, Gareth Hopkins, Reece Young, Tom Latham, Kruger van Wyk and now Watling. It has been an unsettled position.

Still, Ronchi will keep knocking, hoping he can show his undoubted talents against England in Whangarei today and on Wednesday.

There have been no conversations with coach Mike Hesson but the challenge is something Ronchi is relishing.

"The reason you play cricket is to play at the highest level you possibly can. That challenge is always there."

- NZ Herald

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