Jesse Ryder, Sunday Star Times (8 July, 2012)
|Courtesy of FairFax NZ|
Discussion on personalities holds as much appeal as South Africans enjoyed watching Daryll Cullinan take strike to Shane Warne, but the Jesse Ryder “story” is about more than simply cricket.
I could discuss at length Ryder’s various off field issues but anyone with even a passing interest in New Zealand cricket has heard about them ad nauseum – it makes little sense to dredge them up again.
Ryder was dropped for disciplinary reasons after breaking team protocols following an ODI loss to South Africa in Napier towards the end of New Zealand’s 2011/12 season – that was the last time he played for New Zealand. In time it led to him taking a break from the game, at international level at least – in the long term it could be one of the best “mistakes” Ryder ever made. Even the most tortured of individuals have to hit rock-bottom before they can rebuild their life and move forward – without knowing it, the grey cloud that lingered when Ryder was dropped from the side may yet show its silver lining.
After a self-imposed break from all cricket Ryder chose to honour his IPL contract with the Pune Warriors though he took his clinical psychologist, and manager Aaron Klee, with him to the subcontinent as support as he started to rebuild the broken pieces. As they so often have throughout Ryder’s career, many New Zealand journalists seemed to take delight in writing of his “error of judgement” with the air of someone who holds themselves on the purest of white pedestals.
Upon his return Ryder spent more of his time in Billy Graham’s Naenae boxing gym working on his fitness and developed self-discipline seldom seem by most of us in the public arena. He freely admits he’s made mistakes in his life, but he is making efforts to rectify them – that has to be applauded. To provide an edge to his training Ryder was given a spot on the undercard of the recent Shane Cameron versus Monte Barrett fight night. Craig MacMillan, a harsh critic of Ryder following his return to the Black Caps T20 side during the South African tour, turned down the chance of the dream grudge match. Mark Watson, Radio Sport’s “social commentator” and a critic of the Black Caps regardless of their results, accepted the challenge though he took more hits than a piñata in a first round technical knockout loss to Ryder on his boxing debut. For all his shortcomings, Watson deserves credit for providing Ryder with an opponent – he has a triathlon background, not anything physically combative, and freely admits that as an athlete he “trained like Tarzan and raced like Jane”. Boxing had helped Ryder start to get his edge back, losing six kilograms in the process and rebuilding his self-confidence.
Now more than 100 days sober, Ryder has made the decision to make himself available for Wellington, in all three formats, for the upcoming 2012/13 domestic season. It will give him the opportunity to play cricket on his terms having asked not to be considered for a New Zealand Cricket central contract, feeling he was better served getting his mind and body right in his own time. Likewise, he has taken the option not to make himself available for the Sri Lankan T20 Premier League for similar reasons. Whether he eventually makes a return to international cricket will most likely be up to the man himself - he is one of New Zealand’s most naturally talented batsmen and if fit and playing he would walk into any Black Caps’ side, though given recent comments he sees that as a way off – time will tell.
It is often said that through adversity comes strength – if Ryder can make a permanent change the difficult times will stand him in good stead. As New Zealand cricket fans we can only hope he has finally started to take the corner and isn’t simply going to make a U-turn and head back to a path trodden too often in the past – he may not be given another chance.
Jesse Ryder has the potential to play many more seasons for New Zealand, but for mine that is not the most important piece – I’d rather he got his life back to where he’s happy, even if that means he never plays international cricket again. It’s unlikely that’ll happen – I imagine Ryder can only live without the challenge of cricket’s ultimate test for so long.
Have the things Ryder’s done in the past harmed his side? Undoubtedly. But, there has to be a time when one starts to look at a player as a man, not just a cricketer, and to put yourself in his shoes, as much as one can. We should let time be the judge of Ryder’s turnaround, but it would be a harsh man who wouldn’t want to see him succeed.
Do you disagree with my rant from the soap box? I’d love to hear your thoughts – post a comment below or tweet me @aotearoaxi.
If you’ve enjoyed this piece have a read of Fans – critic or assassin? - a discussion on Ryder’s treatment following his return to the Black Caps during the South African series.