Former Australia One-Day International wicketkeeper Luke Ronchi is in line to return to New Zealand’s Test side to face India, with the Kiwis set to think outside the box in their bid to conquer the expected spin-friendly conditions.
New Zealand's squad flew out to India on Sunday ahead of their three-Test tour against the No.2 ranked Test side and Black Caps coach Mike Hesson suggested Ronchi could be employed as a specialist opener in the series.
With New Zealand’s last victory in India coming 28 years ago, Hesson admitted the need for players who can thrive in the likely spin-friendly conditions could pave the way for the ex-Western Australia gloveman.
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"It's not your traditional New Zealand opener that you require over there, you need guys who can score against spin, find ways to rotate the strike and keep the game moving," Hesson said.
"It does (bring Ronchi into the mix). Luke's there as a backup batsman as well as a backup keeper.
“His ability against spin certainly makes him an option."
Ronchi played the last of his seven limited-overs internationals for Australia in 2009, before crossing over to his country of birth and establishing himself as New Zealand’s first-choice one-day and T20 ‘keeper.
The 35-year-old made his Test debut against England last year, but BJ Watling remains the Black Caps’ preferred gloveman in the longest format of the game, meaning Ronchi’s most-likely route back into the Test side appears to be as a specialist batsman for now.
The position of incumbent opening batsman Martin Guptill has come under scrutiny after recent struggles against the red ball.
Guptill is one of the most devastating batsmen in limited-overs cricket in the world, but his Test average has now dipped below 30 after failing to reach double-figures in the recent series against South Africa.
Hesson wants the right-hander to bring the same aggressive approach he’s been so successful with in 50 and 20-over matches to the Test arena.
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"That message has been out there a long time,” Hesson said.
“It's important for Martin that we can see that out on the field and he can transfer what he's been training onto the park. I know he's working hard at it.”
On the bowling front, the Kiwis have included three spinners in their touring party – Mitch Santner, Ish Sodhi and Mark Craig – and Hesson admitted the trio all featuring in the same Test side is "definitely an option" against India.
It was a tactic that New Zealand used to good effect in this year’s World T20 in India, where tweakers Sodhi, Santner and Nathan McCullum were instrumental in taking them to a surprise semi-final berth.
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"They're a young spin bowling group,” Hesson said of the Test spinners. “Probably Ish and Mitch have found white ball cricket a little easier than test cricket. They're both evolving nicely and it's about giving them opportunity.
"I've been really pleased with the way Mark Craig has come back from last season. He's made a few changes technically and the ball seems to be coming out really nicely."
"(India) is a tough tour, we all acknowledge that. More so because the conditions are so foreign. This is trial by spin and also reverse swing so it's a distinctly different challenge."
New Zealand Test squad: Kane Williamson (captain), Tom Latham, Martin Guptill, Ross Taylor, Henry Nicholls, Jimmy Neesham, BJ Watling, Luke Ronchi, Mitchell Santner, Mark Craig, Ish Sodhi, Doug Bracewell, Tim Southee, Neil Wagner, Trent Boult.
Septemer 16-18: Tour match v Mumbai at Delhi
September 22-26: 1st Test at Kanpur
Sept 30-October 4: 2nd Test at Kolkata
Oct 8-12: 3rd Test at Indore
Oct 16: 1st ODI at Dharmasala
Oct 20: 2nd ODI at Delhi
Oct 23: 3rd ODI at Mohali
Oct 26: 4th ODI at Ranchi
Oct 29: 5th ODI at Visakhapatnam