Since Brendon McCullum’s retirement, the fear was that New Zealand would miss the explosive bursts he provided in the top order.
On Friday, in their Champions Trophy game against Australia in Birmingham, Luke Ronchi showed he could be a good fit for the role played by the team’s former captain.
Ronchi, who smashed three sixes and nine fours in a 43-ball 65, accompanied Martin Guptill – who has strike-rates close to hundred since 2015 – in getting his team off to a flier.
The duo brought up the team fifty in 6.5 overs; and given how the pitches have behaved in England so far, a flying start is vital to teams putting up commanding totals.
“I’ve always been fairly aggressive as a batter without even trying to,” said Ronchi after the rain washed out the match with Australia on 53 for 3 chasing New Zealand’s 291.
“When I originally started playing for New Zealand, I was opening. I’ve been tasked with the same sort of role Brendon McCullum did towards the later part of his career, getting us off to fliers.”
Acknowledging the high risk strategy – he lived dangerously for his half-century – he said: “It worked out well today, next game I could be out first ball. That’s just the nature of it and people are prepared for that. When you have Kane (Williamson) at three, it obviously gives you more freedom. I have a good group of players around me which allows me to take risks.”
A disappointed Steven Smith, the Australian captain, had criticised his bowlers for giving away too much early on. Ronchi, for his part, put it down to the nature of the wicket.
“Their nature is to try and blast you out,” he said of the Australian pacers. “Of course (Josh) Hazlewood is more line, length and swing. But (Mitchell) Starc, (Pat) Cummins bowl hard and fast and try to intimidate you, so you play loose shots that way. I just think the wicket didn’t have the pace they would have liked and that made it harder for them. My approach, going hard at them and moving around the crease, also made it harder for them.”