Dylan Cleaver on sport
Sport analysis and comment from Dylan Cleaver

Midweek fixture with Dylan Cleaver: Pick Jesse Ryder, what's the worst that could happen?

21 comments

We live in a country where even murderers get a second chance. Where burglars can put down their swag bags and jimmies and become contributing members of society; where AC/DC drummers can do as they please.

We live in a country where Rod Petricevic can destroy the retirements of thousands of hard-working Kiwis and restart his post-prison life in a $1.5 million townhouse.

I'm kind of okay with it, too. The ability to redeem oneself and to atone for one's mistakes is a central plank of a caring society.

Cripes, we even live in a country where it's now acceptable to coach a team to lose at a Rugby World Cup and keep your job.

And yet we also live in a country where it seems the majority of people want to lock the door and throw away the selection key on an outrageously talented, troubled 31-year-old who has had to deal with his addictions in public?

What gives?

Jesse Ryder, the burly left-hander with a sporting rap sheet the length of a two-ply toilet roll, wants back in the Black Caps, evidently, and Mike Hesson's response was described as lukewarm.

I'm not privy to any of the conversations, but I hope New Zealand Cricket are not playing a PR game here, waiting to see which way the public wind is blowing before offering Ryder any encouragement. They need to be better than that.

Two veterans of this industry weighed in on different sides of the debate. Wynne Gray argued the case for the Inclusion, placing playing ability at the front and centre, while Duncan Johnstone argued for the Exclusion, citing concerns over an erosion of team culture.

Both made valid arguments, but I would take it one step further. Ryder should be brought back into the fold because of playing ability AND team culture.

If this Black Caps' team culture is so robust - and Hesson, Mike Sandle and Brendon McCullum certainly appear to have everyone singing from the same hymn sheet, even in the wake of a 0-4 reverse against Australia this summer - then isn't it the best place for Ryder to be?

As for ability, it's not even a debate. Henry Nicholls might one day end up being a fine player, but at this point of his career, he's not a patch on Ryder, who can also bowl. If you're a selector casting around for a replacement for McCullum at No 5 and you're looking past Ryder, then you must have one of the elite players in world cricket at your fingertips.

My feelings about Ryder have changed with time. Where once I thought he was a spoiled brat and a selfish fool who used his troubled upbringing as an excuse for antisocial behaviour; now I just see a tortured soul with an addiction he didn't have the wherewithal to cope with. Not for the first 30 years of his life anyway.

Maybe he's unlocked the key to a happier, healthier life. You'd be right to be sceptical about that, but thousands of others around the country do it every year - the difference is they don't do it with such a high public profile.

Honestly, what's the worst that could happen? The allrounder comes back and makes a goose of himself and is cast out again. This fantastic team culture remains unharmed; you and I remain unharmed. The only people hurt are Ryder and those who care deeply for him.

If Ryder is to be brought back into the Black Caps loving embrace - and I really hope he is - then the rules of the game need to be changed. A man who spent a lot of time working with Jesse once told me that the issue was never the pressure of playing cricket, but it was the peripheral stuff that caused all the anxiety and which contributed to his downfall... sorry, downfalls.

So NZC should ban him from doing media. Any and all media. No blokey bonhomie with Tony Veitch, no awkward confessional with Sunday, no 'Bat Like Jesse' with the Cricket Show. Nothing. Even when he scores 150 on his comeback, NZC media man Callum Elder should come to the press conference with somebody else and a two-line statement from Ryder that says: "It's great to be back and I'm grateful for the opportunity. I'm now concentrating on the next game."

He should be banned from sponsors' functions, especially golf days, where mostly well-meaning people would try to make small talk with a man famously incapable of it without the help of a social lubricant.

Instead, Ryder would earn his corn by going to schools and talking to 1st XIs, telling them how much cricket means to him and how he almost lost the one thing he really loved. His would be a powerful message; worth more than a hundred net sessions.

His would be a message of redemption, and we should all love a good redemption song.

**

The best piece of news this week is that the godawful transtasman netball league might be scrapped.

I have no idea what Netball NZ are waiting for, or why they seem to be waiting for Netball Australia to dictate terms - just grasp the nettle and withdraw.

The ANZ Championship has been a disaster for netball here, an embarrassing, lopsided shemozzle where only the Magic can claim to have emerged with any credit.

New Zealand never needed it. Ignore the likes of the Counties Manukau Cometz (which NNZ did in 2003) and the Western Flyers and we had a decent franchise-based professional competition in place and, most importantly, a broadcaster that saw the value in the sport.

Australia have never had the latter. All that happened with a transtasman league was the divvying up of Sky's money took away the one competitive advantage New Zealand had over their rivals.

So let's get back to national competition and leave the Australians to it. Right now, NNZ should be touring the country, pitching to municipal authorities, making them want to be part of a six- or eight team, city-based franchise competition.

And you know what, all that broadcast money that Australia suddenly won't have, some of it could be used to lure some of their best players to OUR competition.

GIVE 'EM A TASTE OF KIWI ...

Blues v Crusaders on Friday night. Let's go back to those heady days when a dynasty was destroyed and another was born. Ah yes, 1998 and those great names of Crusaders rugby - Steve Surridge, Daryl Lilley, Aaron Flynn and, of course, James Kerr.

SPORTS SHAREMARKET

I'm buying... the New Zealand Conference
Looks like their will be some hellishly hard-fought derbies in this, the only interesting Super Rugby conference. The re-tooled Blues loom as a wildcard and while I'm unsure they have the depth of class to match the Chiefs and Highlanders over the course of a season, it will be fun watching them try. In short, the conference looks ultra-competitive, except maybe for the...

I'm selling... the Hurricanes
I'm not certain they're "fat and slow" as Phil Kearns unkindly pronounced them, but I am concerned they were so quick to roll over and have their tummy tickled by David Pocock et al. If I was analysing the tape this week looking for positives, I'm not certain where I'd start. We might start talking instead about the curse of the pre-season telly show.

I'M READING ...

This is a good cautionary tale about a cricketer who had nothing good to do once the music stopped.

MY LAST $10
Well, look at that. From the depths of despair I am now just 65c shy of parity (discounting this week's spend). With so many super-weak Super Rugby teams and a lot of hideous strength-sapping travel thrown into the mix, this tournament is ripe for the multi-plucking. A colleague of mine who goes by the pseudonym Hollow Steveaway hates multis, thinks they're a mug's game, but as long as you don't get greedy, I'm convinced there's some money to be made here.

Last week: The Brumbies and Waratahs to win at home; the Sharks to win away. Not a single game was ever in doubt. Collected $23.80.

This week: The Chiefs and Sharks at home, the Stormers away. I don't give the Lions, Jaguares and Cheetahs respectively much of a chance in any of these fixtures... so I'll have that $23.40 thanks.

Total spent: $50 Total collected: $39.35

Debate on this article is now closed.

- NZ Herald

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