Luke Ronchi - Australia's prodigal son returns to face old team in World Cup final
When Australia and New Zealand take on each other in the World Cup final tomorrow, an interesting sub-plot will be that of the man behind the stumps for the Kiwis – Luke Ronchi – who will be facing the team which had rejected him and his cricketing career half-a-decade ago.
Born in rural settings of the northern islands of New Zealand, Ronchi had migrated to Australia with his family at the age of 7 in 1988, and was brought up in the Australian way of life. Around the time Adam Gilchrist was considering hanging up his gloves around 2004, the Western Australia keeper rising up the ranks of domestic cricket was being seen by many scouts as Gilly’s potential successor – like Gilchrist, Ronchi stood tallish at 1.80 metres behind the stumps and like Gilchrist, he was an innately aggressive batsman who held the ability to obliterate bowling attacks.
The seemingly unassuming wicket keeper’s dangerous reputation came to the fore when he destroyed Shane Warne during the first ever T20 match played in Australia in early 2005.
Ronchi got a maiden international call-up on a tour of the West Indies in place of the injured Brad Haddin in 2008. He impressed with with his work behind the stumps, and only in his 2nd ODI smashed a 22-ball 50 – the joint third-quickest ODI fifty scored by an Australia player.
Despite the glittering start to his international career, Ronchi’s form fell in subsequent domestic seasons, and fell behind the pecking order to Matthew Wade and Tim Paine. He lost his place in the Western Australia team as well, and looked set for a career spent in relative wilderness.
In February 2012, at 31 years of age, Ronchi announced his decision to try to rescue his international career in the colours of the country of his birth – securing a contract with Wellington. He scored a century on debut for the domestic side.
In May 2013, Ronchi received his maiden call-up to the New Zealand side against England at Lord’s – becoming the first man since Kepler Wessels nearly 20 years earlier to represent two full ICC member nations, and the first person ever to play for both Australia and New Zealand.
There has been no looking back for Ronchi since. He has been an integral part of the Kiwi side over the last 2 years, the highlight from the period being the 99-ball 170 he struck against Sri Lanka in January this year, which is the highest recorded score by a No.7 or lower batsman in ODI history.
Have played and grown up with the Australian guys: Ronchi
Ronchi said when asked if there will be any case of divided loyalties in the final, “When I was in Australia, I always wanted to play for Australia. That was always my dream and that's what I wanted to do.
“But there was still that Kiwi in me. Now it's flipped and now I can actually call myself a Kiwi."
Ronchi was part of an Australian dressing room which featured many of the players who will be taking centre stage on Sunday – Aaron Finch, with whom Ronchi used to share rooms, David Warner, Shane Watson, Michael Clarke, Mitchell Johnson, and of course, his one-time mentor and competitor – Brad Haddin.
Ronchi said, "The first time I played Australia over in England, that was the strangest feeling. Coming up against the old guys. I've roomed with these guys, I've played with these guys, I've grown up with these guys.
"And now you get to the biggest stage in the world, a World Cup final against them. It's all pretty cool.
“I'm really happy with my decision and the reason for moving. It's worked out pretty well.”