Saying that Brendon McCullum inspired and injected confidence in New Zealand cricket would be an understatement. He led the team from the front and wreaked havoc with the bat at the top. New Zealand were a force to reckon in his command and almost dominated the world in 2015 ICC World Cup but, lost the battle to Australia in the final. New Zealand have had a poor run in One-Day Internationals (ODIs) since is retirement and have looked bereft of oomph on numerous occasions. Most importantly, they have’t found an apt replacement for McCullum as an opener and struggled at the top.
McCullum’s shoes are undoubtedly too big to fill; he not only scored runs at a brisk pace but dominated the best of the bowling attack. His presence at the crease gave the other batsman enough breathing space to settle down and get his eyes in and his early kill was no less than a boon to the opposition, such was the impact of McCullum. New Zealand are certainly not one of the strongest contenders in the tournament and need to bring their best game out in this tournament. They punched above their weight in their opening game against Australia but the incessant rain didn’t let them achieve fruitful dividends.
— Brendon McCullum (@Bazmccullum) June 2, 2017
New Zealand came out fighting with the bat and persisted with Luke Ronchi at the top, which has worked wonders for them so far. Ronchi didn’t enjoy a great run in the recently concluded Tri-Nation Series in Ireland, where he was asked to open the batting. But New Zealand didn’t give up and invested in the 36-year-old wicketkeeper-batsman. Not many teams persist with players even after constant failures but New Zealand showed faith and eventually did.
Ronchi played with immense confidence in the warm-up game against India, where he garnered a brisk 66 with the help of six boundaries and couple of maximums. In fact, he was surprised when asked to open the batting after an ordinary run in Ireland. Ronchi was quoted in a report from ESPNCricinfo saying, “I was a bit surprised when I first found out the opportunity was going to be there but it’s been pretty good. Feeling comfortable with the way things have worked. It’s been nice to make a few runs and obviously, you’d liked to kick in. Helping the team to get off to a bit of a start makes a difference.
Ronchi didn’t fare well in the tri-series in Ireland and had a tough challenge against the formidable bowling attack of Australia. New Zealand won the toss and elected to bat first against a bowling attack, which hailed of Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood, Pat Cummins and John Hastings. They lost Martin Guptill early after a good start and needed a big score on the board considering the nature of the pitch. Luke Ronchi got the ball rolling from the outset and played some attacking cricket.
Batting against the new ball is no rocket science; some right technique is enough to score runs. Ronchi’s style of play can be effective at the top; he likes to clear the infield and manipulates it well. With just two fielders being allowed to field outside the 30-yard circle, Ronchi can garner quick runs at the top. In his 43-ball 65 runs knock against Australia, Ronchi looked astute in his approach and took some calculated risks. He played to his instincts and played some good cricket shots along with piercing the gaps to perfection. Ronchi’s innings contained nine boundaries and three sixes; his quick run also gave Kane Williamson enough breathing space to settle down in the start. Williamson also capitalised on it and went on to score his maiden ton against Australia.
— ICC (@ICC) June 3, 2017
The way Ronchi plays, there can be either frustration or jubilation. He is the kind of a batsman, who can steer his side to a commanding position if manages to bat for 15 or 20 overs. Though his numbers at the top may not be awe-inspiring but can turn out to be productive if given an elongated run. He has got a couple of good starts and gained confidence with two big innings at the top, this will only help him flourish in the rest of the tournament. Although this may be at the expense of Tom Latham, as long as Ronchi is yielding fruitful results it will only do good for New Zealand. Also, New Zealand have an aura of power-hitters in the lower middle-order with the presence of Jimmy Neesham, Corey Anderson and Mitchell Santner. With Ronchi keeping wickets it won’t be very productive to make him bat in the middle-order.
With New Zealand’s first game ending in no result, the margin for error has become extremely minimal. The competition was already tough and has gotten tougher for Australia, New Zealand and England. Only two teams will make it to the semi-final and with England having a win under their belt have an upper-hand. New Zealand play their next two games against England and Bangladesh, and one can say that both the teams have a less threatening bowling attack when compared to Australia. With matches being played on flat tracks, a lot of New Zealand’s success in the next two games will highly depend on how Ronchi fares. Martin Guptill failed in the first game but will look to get his team off to a start in the next two. New Zealand will certainly find themselves in the driver’s seat if both, Guptill and Ronchi click at the top.