Return of Ryder to top level at his pace'

By ANENDRA SINGH sports editor

While Jesse Ryder is showing he hasn't lost his touch it's possible the former Black Caps batsman may choose to not play any international cricket this summer.

That's the verdict of New Zealand Cricket convenor of selectors Kim Littlejohn, who spent a good part of three days watching the opening four-day Plunket Shield match between the Devon Hotel Central Districts Stags and the Wellington Firebirds in Napier this week.

"We've not set any time for him to return ... he may choose not to play all summer," Littlejohn said of the Firebirds cricketer after the former Hawke's Bay allrounder took a self-imposed break from all cricket at the end of last summer.

The six-month hiatus came on the heels of a reprimand from NZ Cricket after the left-hander broke team protocol following a one-day international match against South Africa at McLean Park, Napier, on February 29.

Befittingly, the 28-year-old returned to Nelson Park this week to revive his love for a game he has always been confident of playing at the Black Caps level while growing up here as a youngster.

With two centuries to start the season, Ryder spearheaded Wellington to a five-wicket victory although the Stags let him off the hook on three occasions through dropped catches.

His manager, Aaron Klee, has stated Ryder simply wants to "keep his head down".

The former Complete Flooring Napier Technical Old Boys cricketer was off-limits to the media this week with Firebirds skipper Stephen Murdoch filing glowing reports on his achievements.

Littlejohn says it vital to back off Ryder and not place any undue pressure on him.

"He's made a decision not to play international cricket so it came down to him.

"He's had some major health issues," says the Australian, adding the former CD player is hugely talented but needs to deal with things at his own pace.

Medium pace bowler Ryder's versatility extends to all three formats of the game with the bat.

He has averaged 40.93 in his 18 tests - the only Black Cap squad player above that strike rate is captain and Stag Ross Taylor on 42.60 - and has displayed the adroitness of a batsman who can switch from finding gaps to tease singles to adopting an explosive approach as a match winner.

The Pune Warriors player in the Indian Premier League this year did not seek a renewal of his contract with NZ Cricket but is on the Firebirds' payroll as he tackles personal and fitness issues.

Littlejohn urges patience from Kiwi fans, saying there's no quick solution to the Black Caps' woes.

"One thing I found out in the year I've been in the role here is the big gap between international and domestic cricket," he says.

While first-class players were amassing runs and bowlers were snaring wickets, the step up to the Black Caps level often exposed deficiencies in their skills.

The medium-term solution, he reckons, is in establishing a New Zealand A programme "from scratch", whereby that gulf could be closed with domestic cricket.

Plans include taking the NZ A side for a tour to India.

The Firebirds have signed two Australians, speedster Shaun Tait and allrounder Cameron Borgas, for their opening two matches in the HRV Cup Twenty20 cricket competition, according to APNZ.

Tait, a short-form cricket specialist these days and a highly experienced Twenty20 bowler, is one of the quickest bowlers in world cricket, having bowled the second fastest delivery ever recorded - a 161.1km/h thunderbolt against England at Lord's in 2010.

He retired from international cricket after the 2011 World Cup but has been a regular Twenty20 player in various teams and competitions around the world.

He signed to play for Canterbury in 2010 but didn't appear because of an elbow injury that has given him some problems in the past couple of years.

Borgas is an experienced first-class cricketer from South Australia who has signed with the Sydney Thunder for this season's Big Bash League.

Both will play in Wellington's season opener against Canterbury on November 9 and Auckland a week later.

England all-rounder Chris Woakes will take over from Tait for the eight remaining matches in the HRV Cup and Bangladesh opener Tamim Iqbal will also play for Wellington later in the competition.

Cricket Wellington chief executive Peter Clinton said the Firebirds now had "nothing short of an All Stars look about it" with the signings.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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