Luke Ronchi became the first cricketer after Kepler Wessels to play for two full ICC member nations when he decided to leave Australia, where he had moved with his family at the age of seven, to New Zealand, the place of his birth, in 2011. Ronchi, then 31, realised that he was far below in the pecking order of wicketkeepers who had a chance to represent Australia at the highest level and going to his country of birth was the only option available if he wanted to harbour hopes of playing international cricket again. It has been two years since he took that step and the former Western Australia batsman, while talking to Cricketnext, says the decision to switch base to New Zealand has been very rewarding.
"I am extremely satisfied [about my decision]. I just want to play international cricket. I wanted to have a chance to play and I think in New Zealand that opportunity was there more than what it was in Australia," said Ronchi who is part of the New Zealand A squad touring India presently. "I thought I should just try and you never know. It's been going quite well so far. I think it's been a very good move."
After representing Australia in four ODIs and two Twenty20s in the West Indies in 2008, Ronchi had to wait for five years to get another go at the international level, playing for New Zealand in an ODI at Lord's against England in May this year. But his comeback didn't go according to plan as he could not convert the form he showed in first-class cricket in New Zealand, where he scored a century in his very first match for Wellington in March 2012 and then added 807 runs in nine matches in the next season.
Following a duck at Lord's, Ronchi made 2 and 22 in his next two outings at Southampton and Nottingham. His bad form continued at the following ICC Champions Trophy where he could only manage 7, 14 and 2 against Sri Lanka, Australia and England. Ronchi said he was nervous in his comeback and tried a little too hard. "It was just nerves and thinking outside my game plan. Obviously I wanted to make the most of the opportunity and I was trying a little too hard. I wasn't in the right frame of mind to perform in the manner I wanted to," said Ronchi, who smashed a 22-ball fifty at St Kitts in 2008 which still remains the fourth-fastest half-century by an Australian in ODIs.
Playing their first three-day game at Vizag, New Zealand A were tottering at 55 for 4 when Ronchi took the attack to the Indian bowlers, playing a typical Ronchi-like innings, smashing 125 off just 110 balls that took his side to a respectable 310.
Talking about that particular innings and his experience of facing young Indian spinners, Ronchi said: "It was good to make runs and facing young Indian spinners. Although I didn't face that many balls but I guess the time I spent in the middle was very crucial. Todd Astle [who scored 63 in that innings] too played very well. It was good experience of facing some good bowlers under tough conditions. I was really pleased to put up that performance on the board."
Although he is regarded as a limited-overs specialist, Ronchi feels he can be equally effective in longer-formats as well. "I think I am equally effective in longer formats as well. My records are better in the longer formats. I think in ODIs and T20s I go too hard sometimes but longer formats I don't have to worry about scoring quickly. I think I have a lot to offer in the longer format," said Ronchi who has scored close to 4000 runs in 73 first-class matches.
After a good couple of domestic seasons in New Zealand, Ronchi is looking forward to continue that, hoping selectors will take notice of that. "I want to be in the mix that plays both the formats. Put runs on the board, keep well and do the right things in domestic cricket and New Zealand A cricket and hopefully the selectors and coaching staff will take notice of that. That's how cricket works. You need to perform to get a chance and I hope I do enough of that," he said.