Watling keeps Ronchi on his toes
BJ Watling will be able to put pressure on Luke Ronchi for New Zealand's one-day wicketkeeping slot if he can increase his strike-rate. That was the strong indication given by Bruce Edgar, the national selection, after he named the one-day squad to face West Indies where Ronchi will be given a chance to cement the keeper's role in the middle order but faces competition.
Watling is secure in the Test position having enjoyed a productive 2013 where he has scored, as of the start of the Hamilton Test, 576 runs at 41.14 and performed tidily with the gloves. However, now that Brendon McCullum's career behind the stumps is over there is potentially more fluidity in the one-day position and although Ronchi has the frontrunner's position there are others in the frame.
Ronchi's and Watling's one-day statistics make for an interesting comparison. In List A cricket, Watling averages 39.03 but his strike-rate is a steady 69.24 whereas Ronchi's lower average of 28 comes with the eye-catching strike-rate of 105.12. At the moment it's the scoring rate which is swaying the selectors.
"He gives us firepower and naturally scores quickly," Edgar said. "He's got a strike-rate of around 120. BJ is also pushing the door, he's close but he doesn't quite give us that firepower. We know he's working hard on it and he wants to challenge that spot."
Ronchi is already on his second chance having initially been dropped after a tough return to international cricket, following his previous stint for Australia, on the England tour and subsequent Champions Trophy earlier this year.
He made 47 runs in six innings and was not in the squad to tour Bangladesh and Sri Lanka until Kane Williamson broke his thumb and McCullum was forced out with his back injury. He produced some solid displays in Sri Lanka and will now be the man with the gloves, and at No. 7, for the series against West Indies.
New Zealand's one-day squad was a statement of wanting to play aggressive cricket. Alongside the recall for Jesse Ryder, Edgar has also told Adam Milne, the Central Districts quick bowler, to let the handbrake go against West Indies. Milne, who went wicketless during the series in Sri Lanka, has the most to gain from Tim Southee missing the opening two matches due to needing minor toe surgery.
"Adam did the hard yards on some pretty slow wickets and we want to give him the opportunity in the West Indies ODIs and give him a chance on our tracks which are hopefully quicker and bit bouncier and he can demonstrate how quick he is."
He also gave support to Mitchell McClenaghan to continue in his role as strike-bowler after he found life tougher in the subcontinent. Overall, McCleanghan has an impressive return of 35 wickets in 14 matches at 20.08.
"His economy rate…was a factor of learning to bowl the right lengths on those pitches which is quite difficult. Prior to that his strike rate was very good and economy rate very good. He's a hustler and tries to get wickets. By all accounts in the most recent Plunket Shield match he was giving guys a good hurry up. He wants to get wickets and knock the top off."
Fellow left-arm Trent Boult, who took 10 for 80 in the Wellington Test against West Indies, has been given hope of feature at the 2015 World Cup despite being overlooked for this squad. Boult has not played an ODI since February, against England in Napier, and is viewed as a red-ball specialist at the moment.
"Trent has aspirations to play one-day cricket, we've had that discussion with him," Edgar said. "He's very keen to develop his white ball game and perhaps is less confident with the white ball over the red. He wants to do more work and become more confident and comfortable in that space.
"We see him as part of our 2015 planning and it's just a case of how he's moving along. There may be an opportunity for him to come and play but we just want to see where he sits and how he's going."
Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo