Police hunting who attacked Jesse Ryder outside a Christchurch bar say they don't yet know who is behind the vicious assault but are working along "positive lines of inquiry''.
The cricketer is in an induced coma in Christchurch Hospital with critical injuries - including a fractured skull and a punctured lung - after an "unprovoked'' bar attack.
The incident happened at Aikman's Bar in the Christchurch suburb of Merivale after a fight broke out on the pavement in front of the bar early today.
Detective Senior Sergeant Brian Archer told a packed media conference at Christchurch central police station this afternoon that they've been working throughout the day to "put a picture together of what happened and the people involved''.
He confirmed Ryder was at Aikman's with Wellington Firebirds teammates until about 12.30am.
An altercation took place outside on the footpath with a group of "at least two other males.''
Ryder then walked across the road towards McDonald's. He was followed by two others and a male assaulted him again.
Ryder suffered serious head injuries.
The hospital advised police that Ryder was in an induced coma and was assessed for a number of injuries which police would not prepared to discuss further.
Police said they had completed a full scene examination
"We believe at least 10 more people have witnessed events, and have spoken to witnesses through day,'' Mr Archer said.
They were now reviewing CCTV footage.
They had not identified the people involved but did have positive lines of inquiry.
Although Wellington players had been at the licensed premises, there was no indication alcohol was a factor.
Mr Archer wasn't sure if Ryder had been drinking.
Peter Clinton of Cricket Wellington said Ryder had been a "big part of the team and organisation for a long time now''.
"So we're very concerned for his welfare,'' he said.
They were working closely with family, team management, hospital staff, and police.
He acknowledged all Ryder's wellwishers.
Heath Mills of New Zealand Cricket Players Association said he was aware that Ryder had drunk alcohol in recent weeks and was working with him.
He confirmed that Ryder had been having "a few drinks with his teammates at conclusion of season''.
But he stressed the assault was "not an alcohol fuelled incident''.
AN 'UNPROVOKED' ATTACK
Witnesses to the beating outside Aikmans Bar in Merivale reportedly said Ryder was attacked by four men, with one describing it as an "unprovoked'' attack.
A witness, who only wanted to be known as Adam, told Stuff.co.nz that Ryder had his shirt ripped off his back and was on the ground as several men kicked and punched him outside the bar.
Ryder was lying in a bush "shaking, vomiting and covered in blood'' in the carpark of McDonald's, which was across the road from the bar.
Merivale McDonald's owner Murray Traill said he was investigating the incident and going through security footage.
The restaurant was closed at the time and only the drive-through was operating.
Adam, who was drinking at the bar, told Stuff the brawl broke out behind him.
"From what I could tell it looked pretty unprovoked,'' he said. "Four dudes were just laying into him and absolutely smashing him on the ground. His shirt was ripped off and they were kicking him and punching him while he was down.''
Aikmans Bar general manager Steve Holmes confirmed Ryder had been at the bar with Wellington Firebirds teammates last night.
He said the incident started outside the bar.
He had reviewed security camera footage and had given it to police but would not say what it showed.
Nor would he say if Ryder had been drinking alcohol in the bar.
He did reveal that the mother of one of the men who attacked Ryder was there when it happened.
Mr Holmes said the attackers tried to get back into the bar after the assault but were blocked by bar staff.
The mother of one of the men then began arguing for them to be allowed back in before they all left.
Mr Holmes wished Ryder all the best and hoped police would quickly track down his attackers.
It was a typical, quiet Wednesday night and no bouncers were on the door.
Blood could be seen on the footpath directly outside the entrance to the bar and a long trail led to a Mcdonald's carpark.
"WE'RE ALL JUST HOPING FOR THE BEST.''
Speaking at nearby St Andrews College today, Prime Minister John Key talked about the incident, Newstalk ZB reported.
"It sort of looked as if it was somewhat unprovoked, so there must be something behind that and the assault seems extremely vicious. Obviously we wish him a speedy recovery. I'm sure the police will be working to try and get to the bottom of it,'' he said.
Wellington Firebirds players were in a sombre mood at Christchurch International Airport as they flew home this morning.
Blackcap and senior squad member Grant Elliott said they were all waiting for some good news.
"It's not great, is it?'' he said.
"But we don't know how serious it is. We're not too sure what's happening - it's all pretty confidential at the hospital. We're all just hoping for the best.''
Elliott would not say who was out with Ryder or comment any further.
Ryder's family and cricket officials are flying to Christchurch to support him this morning.
They include White, Peter Clinton from Cricket Wellington, Heath Mills from the New Zealand Cricket Players' Association and Ryder's manager Aaron Klee.
Ally Green was drinking at Aikmans Bar from 6pm to 11.30pm yesterday.
She said a group of six or seven young guys were in the bar wearing Wellington colours.
They were all drinking but they were quiet, and did not seem drunk.
"Everyone was in a good mood,'' Ms Green said.
"No one seemed out of control. It was that group and us, the rest were all older.''
She left in a taxi about 11.30pm and there was nothing out of the ordinary.
"I kinda wish I stayed now.''
Klee wrote on Twitter: "Thanks for the calls and msgs of support for Jesse. Just heading to Chch to see him.''
Crusaders player Zac Guildford tweeted: "Thoughts and prayers with @DijaRyder much love''.
Monty Betham, whose gym Ryder trained in, tweeted: "Come on @DijaRyder show the fight you have within thinking of you brother.''
Ryder was in Christchurch playing for Wellington in the major preliminary final against Canterbury at Hagley Oval yesterday, which Wellington lost by 61 runs. Ryder was dismissed for a golden duck during Wellington's unsuccessful run chase.
He had been due to depart New Zealand this week to join the Delhi Daredevils for this year's edition of the Indian Premier League where he was bought by the franchise for $USD260,000 (NZD310,577) in February's player auction.
- nzherald.co.nz with APNZ and Newstalk ZB