Anendra Singh: Ryder is good but no need to rush

By Anendra Singh

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He may come across as someone who is petulant, if not downright egotistical when you watch him on the field.

Someone who had quite a bit to do with Jesse Ryder as a youngster in Hawke's Bay remarked: "He looks likes he's got a bit of a chip on his shoulder."

The Wellington Firebirds cricketer, who finished playing in the opening four-day Plunket Shield match on Wednesday in Napier, may well project a condescending demeanour but in the same breath the person qualified: "That's Jesse, he's always had that."

Perhaps some people are misinterpreting Ryder's on-field conduct. Maybe that's his game face and who will argue after he amassed close to 300 runs from two innings for the Firebirds, including two centuries, at Nelson Park this week in the opening first-class match against the Devon Hotel Central Districts Stags for a five-wicket victory.

Flawless his innings weren't. CD dropped him once at third slip in the first innings when he was in the twenties.

In the second innings, more butter fingers as the Stags gave him two other lives at slips and mid-on on 13 and 30, respectively, both times off Black Caps bowler Doug Bracewell's deliveries.

While it was always CD's game to lose, Ryder's knock wasn't ever going to be a yardstick of his infallibility with the bat.

While he has, on the advice of manager Aaron Klee, opted for a vow of silence in the monastery of the gentlemen's game, it was ironic he showed the country on his return to Napier that he's on the path of "normalcy" according to New Zealand Cricket.

His self-imposed hiatus from all cricket since falling from grace after imbibing while recovering from an injury in Napier following an ODI against South Africa on February 29 didn't sit well with NZ Cricket, which read him the riot act.

It wasn't the first time Ryder had transgressed but, fingers crossed, it'll be his last in the tour of duty.

That Wellington coach Jamie Siddons took down a tray of burgers with some fizzy drinks is heartening for the Firebirds who broke out into a foot-stomping celebratory song at the Nelson Park pavilion changing rooms on Wednesday.

Just as the former Complete Flooring Napier Technical Old Boys cricketer had shown maturity and restraint in the first innings in picking out gaps rather than trying to deposit the ball over the boundary rope, the 28-year-old former Black Cap now has to show his turbulent times as the "night Ryder" are well and truly behind him.

With a dozen first-class tons under his belt, no one has ever doubted the prowess of a man who has played 18 test, 34 ODIs and 20 Twenty/20 internationals for his country.

"He doesn't want to play for New Zealand," someone in the know said to me on Wednesday.

That's fair enough although one would like to think it's more because he wants to get himself in the "right head space" rather than brooding because NZ Cricket has reprimanded him.

Needless to say, he and Klee will be mindful Ryder or any other player will ever be bigger than the sport.

Another mate of the former Napier Boys' High School pupil says the left-hander needed the break.

"Jesse told me he was carrying an injury for four years and the break has been good for the healing process," says the mate of Ryder who has also battled his weight demons but looks relatively trimmer now.

No doubt, New Zealand Cricket convener of selectors Kim Littlejohn, in his floppy hat, had spent the best part of three days at Nelson Park this week taking stock of not only Ryder but other players in the mix.

It is hard to believe Ryder will ever lose the desire to slip on the gloves and batting pads for the Black Caps, something he always dreamt of and spoke about from the time he could bludgeon balls with a bat.

It appears the joys of the game had deserted a player who lives for the summer code.

"He wasn't enjoying it so he decided to just have some time off," an acquaintance reveals.

Another suggestion is there were moves to lure him back to the CD fold but the friend says that won't happen.

The Firebirds and coaching staff have persevered with Ryder and are making inroads in bringing the best out of him once more in a culture and environment that obviously work for the allrounder.

It must disappoint the media and fans that he isn't saying anything.

Nevertheless, while that expectation is understandable it is also unrealistic for people to expect him to step up into the international arena to solve New Zealand's batting woes.

While Siddons had spiced up the opening match in Napier by declaring Ryder was out to secure his Black Caps berth again - and why shouldn't he be as that's the ultimate motivation for any player in any country to aspire to - it also probably goes a long way to explaining why the Australia coach refrained from talking about his marquee player soon after he carved up his maiden domestic century this summer.

Just as he was adept at lifting the tempo in the second innings to spearhead victory with another century and a half, Ryder should have no qualms about rising to the occasion to meet the demands of international cricket.

- HAWKES BAY TODAY

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