THE big names might be back when the Big Bash cricket tournament lights up Perth this summer, but don't be surprised if it’s diminutive Luke Ronchi who steals the show.
Ronchi is the wicketkeeper and dashing batsman for Perth's franchise in the new Twenty-20 league, and the 30-year-old has plenty of T20 experience to draw on, having exploded on to the scene in the first T20 clash in Australia back in 2005 before locking into the lucrative Indian Premier League for three seasons.
The Big Bash League (BBL) is Australia's attempt at something similar, with players able to break their state allegiances and sign for any of eight franchises based in cities around the country.
Perth's side is known as the Scorchers and will play three home games at the WACA Ground, starting against Hobart Hurricanes this Sunday.
The quick-match format and short, month-long tournament has drawn stars from overseas or out of retirement and the hype has Cricket Australia excited that thousands of fans will flock to the grounds this summer to see its latest offering.
Former Australian greats Shane Warne, Matt Hayden and Stuart MacGill will join internationals such as West Indian blaster Chris Gayle, Pakistani thrasher Shahid Afridi and New Zealand's best player Daniel Vettori.
While those players might be crowd attractions, T20 cricket is the perfect version for a player of Ronchi's talents and current form.
He smashed 67 from only 24 balls in the first ever T20 match played in Australia and he also holds the record for the fastest century in Australian limited overs history – 56 deliveries against NSW at the WACA in 2007.
Having just fought his way back into WA's four-day team, he showed form in the limited overs format on Saturday with a century against SA and then top-scored twice in two Twenty20 games for club side Perth yesterday.
“I've been feeling comfortable with my batting and making some runs when I've needed to, so hopefully it keeps going," Ronchi said.
“Twenty20 is a format where anything can happen – an older guy can whack them around and bowl you out or a young guy can.
“We've got quite a few batsmen so I'm assuming my role will be to go in towards the end and try to hit a few.
“That's the way I've always played my cricket. I enjoy playing shots.”
Ronchi is a West Australian regular but he'll have a few non-familiar teammates calling the WACA Ground home, such as former England captain Paul Collingwood and South African batsman Herschelle Gibbs.
The Scorchers have also lured spinner Brad Hogg from retirement and signed the best local talent, including Mike Hussey, Shaun and Mitch Marsh, WA captain Marcus North and the in-form Liam Davis.
Another drawcard will be former Test opener Simon Katich, who Ronchi hopes will be welcomed back to his “home” by cricket purists.
Katich quit WA 10 years ago after a fallout with WA Cricket management and then forged an outstanding career opening for Australia and captaining NSW.
“It will be good to see him back, hopefully he does well and we get a few of the old supporters come down to watch him play,” Ronchi said.
Ronchi is looking forward to taking on WA teammates such as Adam Voges, Travis Birt and Michael Hogan and he won’t have to wait long to run into Birt and Hogan, who are playing for Hobart.
“The feeling you’ll have when they come out to bat or you’re facing them when they’re bowling, that will be something a bit funny to get used to,” Ronchi said.
“Hopefully we get some big crowds in.
“Selling out the WACA would be really good. I played the very first Twenty-20 game here against the Victorians and there was almost 21,000 people, so if we can get close to that it would be fantastic.”
Left-armer Ryan Duffield and young Redbacks bowler Joe Mennie have joined the Scorchers as injury replacement players.