Andrew Alderson

Andrew Alderson is a sport writer for the Herald on Sunday.

Cricket: Ryder's NZ return still months away

Jesse Ryder averaged 58.4 for Wellington in the HRV Cup. Photo / Getty Images
Jesse Ryder averaged 58.4 for Wellington in the HRV Cup. Photo / Getty Images

Jesse Ryder looks set to refuse all overtures to rejoin the New Zealand team for England's tour next month, but he will play in the Indian Premier League should the opportunity arise.

Ryder will meet national coach Mike Hesson on Tuesday to begin mapping out his future. There is unlikely to be a quick international fix. It's understood the earliest he is likely to return is on the tour to England in May but that could be threatened by IPL commitments.

It is a blow to public sentiment. Before the one-day series victory over South Africa, a tide of opinion wanted Ryder back as quickly as possible. In the HRV Cup, it has been obvious local bowling attacks rarely challenge him. Ryder topped the tournament MVP table and Wellington made their first final since the T20 domestic league started in 2005-06. Ryder also topped Wellington's fielding count with seven catches and sometimes took crucial wickets.

Only twice did he make less than 30 in 12 innings. Ryder averaged 58.4, had a strike rate of 174 and made five half-centuries.

He scored 13 more fours and 22 more sixes than anyone else. Fans will find few batsmen in New Zealand's history who time the ball as sweetly.

However, Ryder hasn't embraced a return to the international fold. He will complete what his manager Aaron Klee says was the original plan to play a full season of domestic cricket: "Jesse has started to rediscover his enjoyment for the game and we want to make sure we do this just once. He can't keep stepping on and off the conveyor belt of international cricket."

After his well-publicised struggles with drink, some think Ryder may be unwilling to go back to a tempting environment where a cold beer may be taken after a hard day's cricket.

Klee doesn't buy that: "I don't think it needs to be a dry environment for him to survive. He got through the IPL [for Pune] last year with success and there were elements of risk there. We took a deep breath because we could have looked like idiots but Jesse resisted temptation and gained immense strength from it.

"Drink is always a factor with Jesse but he's made some good decisions the last 11 months and we want to give him the latitude to do that. He's also been enjoying the Wellington environment this year but, when they have a beer after the game, Jesse has a Coke."

NZC's marketing department has recently signed a deal with Tui. The Tui website refers to them being "the official beer of New Zealand Cricket", "sharing a few refreshing 'oranges' at the end of play" and with NZC they're looking to "inject some extra hilarity into the cricket occasion".

Does that sound like the perfect platform from which to coax Ryder back into the international ranks? Yeah, right.

New Zealand Cricket Players Association boss Heath Mills says they want a solution where Ryder is in the team for the rest of his career.

"It's important we don't make the same mistakes before he steps back on the international rollercoaster. At the moment, he is not ready. There are no expectations from this meeting. It's simply a chance for him to sit down with the new coach and plan out the next three to four months."

Klee says they might look to ease his client back into the New Zealand team environment but he won't play: "Jesse does have the desire [to play for New Zealand]. Part of the next phase is for him to stay close to the team over the coming months."

Ryder's status as a non-NZC contracted player means he is open to returning to the IPL if selected at this year's auction on February 3. He played the last two years for the Pune Warriors on a US$150,000 salary but the franchise decided not to take up an option for a third year.

Ryder has turned down offers to play in the T20 domestic leagues of England, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Australia in the past year. Klee says Ryder would prefer to be with Wellington: "He turned down a [Australian] Big Bash League contract and was approached again, late in the piece, for a semifinal, but it didn't fit with his Wellington commitments. If this was about money, he wouldn't be playing in New Zealand this summer."

- Herald on Sunday

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