Luke Ronchi flies in for CD shield clash

HAMISH BIDWELL
Last updated 05:00 17/03/2012
Luke Ronchi
CRAIG SIMCOX/Fairfax NZ
FIREBIRD: New Firebird Luke Ronchi.

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Fancy seeing Luke Ronchi at Karori Park yesterday.

The former Australian wicketkeeper is likely to be contracted by Cricket Wellington for the 2012-2013 season but word emerged from the Firebirds' camp on Thursday that the 30-year-old might yet don their colours this summer – though not in time for the Plunket Shield clash with Central Districts, which starts tomorrow.

So imagine the surprise when CW chief executive Peter Clinton rang yesterday to say that Ronchi had just arrived from Perth and was training with his new team-mates.

Come next January, it will be four years since Ronchi played the last of his seven limited-overs' matches for Australia. And, by virtue of being Dannevirke-born, he will then become eligible to represent New Zealand.

So when his Western Australian state side finished two points shy of qualifying for the Sheffield Shield final, which began in Brisbane yesterday, Ronchi and CW decided they might as well make each other's acquaintance now.

"I think this was the best way to go about it," Ronchi said of arriving now, rather than in a few months.

It took some fairly prompt action, though.

When Clinton called Ronchi on Wednesday, he was out having a few end-of-season beers.

But by 6pm (Perth time) the next day, he was on a flight to Auckland and eventually made it to Wellington yesterday morning. Despite being understandably jaded, Ronchi hit the ball beautifully in the nets yesterday and looked every inch a man who has come off scores of 71 and 64 in his last two games for the WA Warriors.

"I'm feeling good. I was feeling good at home and, hopefully I can take some of that out into the middle on Sunday," Ronchi said.

"It'd be nice to get some runs, rather than a pair [of ducks] or something."

The CD game will be a one-off appearance, with Ronchi not available for Wellington's final Plunket Shield match against Otago.

Having dreamed of returning to New Zealand and fighting for a spot in the Black Caps, he said the reality of that made him slightly nervous.

"Definitely. New team and new expectations that have been put on me by other people. Just a whole different scenario of cricket," he said.

For instance, having spent the bulk of his career keeping to bowlers on the quick WACA wicket, Ronchi said simple things like knowing how far back to stand to the Wellington medium-pacers would take time to work out.

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With the bat, he is likely to slot in at six or seven in a Firebirds team which contains a few changes from the one which drew against Northern Districts. With Mark Gillespie on international duty for the Black Caps, previous 12th man Scott Kuggeleijn will open the bowling with Andy McKay.

Luke Woodcock returns to join Ronchi in the middle order, with Craig Cachopa dropping out. Batsman Michael Pollard will probably carry the drinks.

Wellington: Josh Brodie, Michael Papps, Stephen Murdoch, James Franklin, Grant Elliott (c), Luke Ronchi, Luke Woodcock, Harry Boam, Jeetan Patel, Scott Kuggeleijn, Andy McKay, Michael Pollar.

Central Districts: Jamie How (c), Dean Robinson, Carl Cachopa, Mathew Sinclair, Kieran Noema-Barnett, William Young, Dane Cleaver, Tarun Nethula, Roald Badenhorst.

- The Dominion Post

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