Sheffield Shield 2009-10 November 15, 2009

Ronchi still standing after awful time

The key to stopping Luke Ronchi's career going backwards was standing still. Ronchi's slide last season was severe as he careered from Australia's high-energy limited-overs wicketkeeper-batsman in the West Indies to being on the outer at Western Australia.

Unlike many sportsmen, Ronchi is blunt about his slump, calling it terrible and horrendous. This month the old Ronchi, the one who was a power-hitting gloveman to be compared with Adam Gilchrist, has reappeared and his 148 in the Sheffield Shield against New South Wales provided an example that he was not washed up at 28.

"After last year, just to make some runs was great," he said. "But mostly it was just batting the length of time that I did. It was only four hours - it's not that long, but it's just the way I bat. Compared to last year, it just wasn't a struggle."

It was his first hundred since 2007-08, when his second fifty came in 11 balls against Queensland. This one was more measured by his standards and he stayed for 154 deliveries, hitting 27 boundaries but no sixes. A half-century in the Warriors' one-day defeat to Victoria on Saturday showed his remodelled still stance, with his feet remaining grounded until the crucial moment.

At the start of last summer he was on a high after playing four ODIs in the West Indies and blasting 64 off 28 balls on the tiny ground at St Kitts, exploding like the sky on New Year's Eve. Instead of motoring on he became a mess and seven Sheffield Shield games later was dropped by Western Australia.

"I had a terrible year, technically and mentally, but through the off-season and pre-season I've been more relaxed," he said. "My technique is pretty simple and after working on it I have become more comfortable."

There was a big change and it appears to have erased all his batting doubts. "I have to be more still at the crease," he said. "I used to have a double movement and my head would be moving, so I've been working on stopping that. Just watch the ball and play the ball. It was horrendous last year, so it's been such a relief."

The timing of the downturn was also a disaster, with him giving up his spot as the national understudy when Brad Haddin's brittle bones were cracking. It was one of Haddin's broken digits that allowed Ronchi's passage to the West Indies, but by the time another one snapped during the Ashes Ronchi wasn't even a contender. A baggy green went to Graham Manou, the one-day engagements were taken by Tasmania's Tim Paine, and Manou stepped up when Paine was hurt in India.

Wicketkeepers often spend their careers wondering if a national gap will appear and when the latest one came Ronchi was in pre-season training, hoping for a state game. "The disappointing thing for me is that I was there last year and made the mistakes after getting the opportunity," he said. "It's a small chance lost. It was a big error to have such a bad season."

Throughout his batting haze he remained happy with his glovework and will build on both disciplines when Western Australia play Victoria at the MCG from Tuesday. The Warriors have two points after two games - Ronchi's hundred came in a rain-hit affair - and need a result.

When he walks out he will try to keep his mind uncluttered and deal with the funky thoughts whenever they pop in. "It's just the way I bat," he said, "so I just have to try to do stuff normally." For Ronchi that means keeping still before the ball takes off.

Peter English is the Australasia editor of Cricinfo

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