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Cricket: Ronchi's rest also chance to review

Keeper’s limited-overs batting has slipped but selectors say break isn’t about form.

Luke Ronchi's rest from the next two one-day cricket internationals against Pakistan provides a chance to assess the 34-year-old's future in the national side.

Test wicketkeeper BJ Watling will play in Napier and Auckland, his first ODIs in almost three years.

Ronchi's slump in limited overs batting form is contrasted by accurate wicket-keeping, his core role in the team.

In 21 ODI innings since his 170 not out against Sri Lanka in Dunedin a year ago - still the world record for a No 7 - he has had 17 dismissed scores of 13 or less. He was caught on all but one of those occasions.

Some of his entrances require him to attack at the death, but not all.

Ronchi's averaged 13 with a strike rate of 107 since his century. In 19 of those 21 innings he came in with at least 30 balls remaining.

The selectors have said they will persevere with him, presumably until the World T20, but if Watling performed well in the next two matches the pressure would mount in the Chappell-Hadlee Trophy matches.

Or would it?

In contrast to his batting, Ronchi's glovework has been exemplary. He has faced 7537 legitimate deliveries during that period, taken 33 catches, made three stumpings and conceded 16 byes. That's one bye every 79 overs.

After 62 matches he also has the highest ODI dismissals per innings (1.383) for any New Zealander who has played five or more matches.

A similar effect applies in T20s.

Ronchi averaged 7.66, scoring at a run a ball, but failed to pass six in five of his six innings.

On each occasion he entered with between 2.1 and 10.5 overs left.

Yet his glovework again reads well. He kept to 1044 balls, took 11 catches and let through eight byes - less than one a game. Ronchi has the highest number of dismissals per innings from 21 T20Is (1.047) than any other New Zealand international.

Selector Gavin Larsen, speaking on the weekend, stressed Ronchi was being rested.

"This isn't about form. We [Mike Hesson and Larsen] have tried to rotate guys the whole season to keep them fresh over a long summer. This is a chance for him to have a week away and recharge the batteries.

"We still very much see him as our incumbent white-ball keeper but, in saying that, we're always trying to develop depth across all formats.

"We know B-J's pedigree in test matches, but want to expose him to white-ball cricket too."

Ronchi has previously benefited from Hesson's largesse. When he was struggling as an ODI opener, the coach put him into the middle order and the dividends were obvious.

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A similar exercise in patience is occurring because Ronchi is meeting half of the bargain through his wicketkeeping.

Ironically, if Ross Taylor's side strain fails to recover for the Australian test series, Ronchi will loom as a replacement batsman, probably at No 5.

Henry Nicholls would be favourite to take the role, but Ronchi's first-class experience might hold sway.

He has two Plunket Shield centuries from four innings this season, with one coming against a Northern Districts attack featuring Trent Boult and Tim Southee. He also made 88 off 70 balls in his solitary test at Headingley.

- NZ Herald

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