We know about the stars: Kohli, Dhoni and Amla; Dale, Mitch, and Jimmy all enter the World Cup as known quantities. But which lesser light will shine? My money is on Luke Ronchi, New Zealand’s wicketkeeper and hard-hitting batsman.
Born in New Zealand, Ronchi moved to Australia at the age of seven and enjoys the unique status of having played for both nations. That nobody else has done so before is somewhat surprising. Clarrie Grimmett, Brendon Julian, Matt Sinclair, and Scott Styris were all born on one side of the Tasman Sea but played on the other side of it, yet only Ronchi has represented both.
Ronchi debuted for Western Australia in 2002, at the age of 21, but first came to wider prominence in 2007 when he broke the record for the fastest Australian one-day domestic century by reaching three figures in 56 deliveries. That same season he beat an England XI into submission with 89 runs from 49 balls, and also scored a 51-ball century in the Sheffield Shield, in which the second fifty came from 11 deliveries. These quick hitting feats, allied with reliable glovesmanship, established Ronchi as Brad Haddin’s understudy at the national level. An Australian debut soon followed when the main man was injured on a tour of the West Indies.
Although he performed creditably in the green and gold, Ronchi’s form nosedived the following season and he soon found himself without even a domestic contract. After a frustrating couple of years in which he was in and out of the Western Australian side, his homeland beckoned.
“I feel that I still have a lot to offer at the very highest level”, Ronchi said about his Kiwi prospects, and it turned out to be very true. His timing was certainly fortunate. New Zealand was going through an experimental phase with their keepers: Brendon McCullum wanted to focus on his batting so Kruger van Wyk, Gareth Hopkins, Reece Young, BJ Watling, Peter McGlashan and Tom Latham were all tried behind the stumps. It was not too surprising, then, that some solid performances for Wellington won Ronchi international recognition for the second time. After a sticky first tour to England - where he scored 47 runs in six matches - he gradually established himself as the first choice keeper in both limited overs formats.
Last month Ronchi hit his maiden international hundred in typically brisk fashion against Sri Lanka. Entering at 93 for 5, Ronchi immediately hit his way out of trouble. Admittedly the ground was small and the bowling full of half-trackers and full tosses, but 99 deliveries brought 23 boundaries and 170 runs. It was the highest one-day international innings from seventh in the batting order, and along with Grant Elliott, he beat the record for the highest sixth wicket stand. Ronchi simply described it as “a lot of fun” and “a lot of joy.”
Ronchi is not the only man at this World Cup who has represented two nations. Ed Joyce started off his career at Ireland, briefly moved over to England, and is now back with his homeland. Eoin Morgan made the transition from Emerald Isle to Jam and Jerusalem more successfully, and finds himself captaining his adopted nation. But Ronchi alone will have represented two full member nations.
In a parallel world he might be keeping for Australia; both his one-day-international average and strike-rate are considerably superior to Haddin’s. As it is he will be an integral part of a New Zealand team that is well positioned to go far. Haddin, MS Dhoni, and Kumar Sangakkara are all bigger names, but there is every chance that Ronchi will end up stealing their thunder.