It’s hard not to think what Jesse Ryder might have achieved with a little more commitment and discipline. A player with extreme potential and talent had all the options to put a marker on New Zealand history and become one of the finest ever. But instead, it turned out to be a really sad tale in the annals of New Zealand cricket.
Trouble and Ryder were mates in hand, even before his Test career started, the stories of his troubles, especially his affair with alcohol, had become a piece of news for the media. However, the team knew that Ryder was a special talent and was ready to give him a chance at the international level.
He showed a glimpse of his talent against Michael Vaughan’s men in the summer of 2007-08. His hundred against India at Hamilton in March 2009 made evident that New Zealand had discovered something special. His double hundred at McLean Park in next Test took the rug out of India’s feet, as they were left stunned by his counter attack.
By the end of the summer of 2009, Ryder was at the top of his game.
While Ryder was flying high on the cricket pitch but his reputation off the field was taking a severe beating. His addiction and problem with alcohol were widely known. It’s bad when you drink. Even more so when you have issues with discipline.
Two vices that just don’t go with cricket. But what’s worse is when you do nothing to get rid of what you must shun.
Jesse Ryder didn’t.
While at times, he was breaking glasses and cutting his hands, on other occasions, he was featuring in verbal spats with the support staff of the team.
Not the way to go. Not the kind of example you want to set.
In spite of this, the team and selectors knew his worth and they continued to give him chances. In 2010, when New Zealand toured India, he again showed his potential. After missing out Test cricket for almost 15 months due to injury, he made a fantastic hundred at Motera; it was due to his innings that New Zealand was able to hold a comfortable draw against a strong Indian unit. He made further 171 runs in 4 more innings, showing he was back with a bang. The rise of Kane Williamson in the series meant New Zealand was in it with some promising batsmen like Ryder, Taylor, and Williamson.
However, a year later, Ryder played his last Test at Hobart, in upcoming months he lost his test spot not because of his poor form but because of his continued behavioral problem.
John Wright, who was then the coach, someone who respected discipline had had enough of Ryder. Jesse was dropped from the Test squad later that year and ruled out of the Indian and Sri Lankan tours due to injuries. In 2013 when Brendon McCullum became the captain, he wished that Ryder could be back soon, but in March 2013, he suffered a severe assault outside Christchurch bar, which put him to coma.
Needless to say, everyone feared for his life and wished him a safe return.
And he returned, winning over death, he promised to be a new changed man.
And Jesse Ryder was working hard in domestic games. In January 2014, he smashed a 46-ball 100 demolishing the West Indies attack.
Make a note.
It’s not Afridi or AB alone who’ve pulverized bowling attacks engaging in quick slaughter.
At the back of that feat, experts went gaga terming it the return of the prodigal son.
Though they realized little that unpredictability was always Jesse Ryder’s second nature.
Six days after his magnificent hundred, he again breached the team curfew, marking the full stop on his international career.
The selectors gave him another chance to make a comeback with New Zealand- A. But by then Ryder had had enough of all this; he pulled out from the touring party which ultimately was the final nail in the coffin of much-promised career.
Anyone who knows Jesse Ryder would have sympathy with the kind of childhood he spent; he had troubled early years with almost no one to take care of him. The marriage of his parents was a troublesome affair, ultimately ending in a split.
A young kid wanting guidance moved cities and finally settled with his father Peter in Napier.
At the tender age of 14, Jesse Ryder was fighting all the problems alone, this turned him into a rebel.
His troubled relationship with alcohol started here only and became one of the major reasons for his lack of focus on the cricket later on.
The troubled yet talented kid tried his best to float all these years but every time when it looked he has triumphed, there was another setback on the corner waiting for him and at the end; it was the story of what could have been.
Ultimately, Jesse Ryder’s tale also boils down to the importance of a guiding force and the role that a mentor can possibly play in neutralizing all the negatives we have by reinforcing something positive, which we all possess.
Did he lack a father figure? Was he really well looked after? Is this one of New Zealand cricket‘s polarising subjects that perhaps deserves much attention?
Here are some facts about the left-hander you cannot turn a blind eye to:
Jesse Ryder played 18 Tests and 48 ODI’s for New Zealand from 2008-2014
During October 2008-March 2020, New Zealand played 100 Tests and 224 One-day Internationals
Considering Ryder’s talent, had he been able to overcome drinking and fitness problems, he would be still playing at 36 and would have played 75% of those games.
Ryder would have played at least 75 tests and 168 one day internationals by now.
That would have meant Ryder would have scored around 6500-7000 Runs in ODI’s and 6000-7000 runs in Test Cricket.