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Ronchi could replace Guptill in Test XI

Wisden India logo Wisden India 12-09-2016 Wisden India staff

Luke Ronchi could replace Martin Guptill © Getty Images Luke Ronchi could replace Martin Guptill

Even though the selectors have stuck with him, Martin Guptill's prolonged slump in Tests might cost him his spot as an opener during New Zealand's tour of India, with Mike Hesson, the New Zealand coach, saying that Luke Ronchi could be in the running to replace Guptill.

Ronchi, who played seven One-Day Internationals for Australia before moving back to his country of birth, made his Test debut as a wicketkeeper-batsman for New Zealand at the age of 35 against England in 2015. That’s the only Test he has played to date, with the selectors preferring BJ Watling for the longest format. But Ronchi did score a half-century and 119 runs overall in that game. In limited-overs cricket, meanwhile, he is a regular, having turned out in 63 ODIs and 29 Twenty20 Internationals so far.

Talking to the media before New Zealand left for India for the three-Test series, Hesson said that given Ronchi's skills in spin-friendly conditions, he could make the cut. “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,” said Hesson on Sunday (September 11). “It does (bring Ronchi into the fray). Luke's there as a backup batsman as well as a backup keeper. His ability against spin certainly makes him an option.”

Hesson made it clear that Guptill, who is a force to reckon with in limited-overs cricket but didn't make it to double digits in three innings away in South Africa last month, has to up his game in the longest format to survive – he averages 29.59 from 44 Tests.

“That message has been out there a long time,” said Hesson. “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, New Zealand are likely to stick to the ploy that served them well during the World T20 2016 in India where they used spinners to good effect in reaching the semifinal of the tournament.

“They're a young spin bowling group,” said Hesson of Mitchell Santner, Ish Sodhi and Mark Craig. “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.”

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