Rough-edged Ryder a Kiwi diamond

LOGAN SAVORY
Last updated 11:02 02/02/2012

In about an hour and 20 minutes yesterday Jesse Ryder highlighted in neon lights just why New Zealand Cricket cannot afford to let this guy drift into the distance.

The much-talked-about batsman made a return to cricket, playing for Wellington in a domestic cricket match in Invercargill.

In 67 balls he smashed 96 runs and after a month when he hardly picked up a cricket bat he looked 10 times better than anything else on display.

Players with the ability of Ryder don't appear all that often; he times the ball as well as most who we have seen in New Zealand cricket when he is on song.

He simply has to be a starter in the top order against South Africa if New Zealand are to have the best possible chance of winning.

The challenge is going to be a difficult one and one that requires the best possible resources. Ryder is one of the resources.

Ryder is talked about so much because he doesn't fit the mould of your usual New Zealand cricketer.

He's a Maori lad who probably hasn't looked after himself as well as others have opted to.

He does not come from the middle-to-upper-class families that many of his team-mates probably have. In fact, he's had to fend for himself since he was 14 when his parents split and his father walked out on him.

He slouches when he walks around in the field and at times gives the impression he is uninterested.

Sport organisations in the current climate seem to be looking to roll robots off their production lines and Ryder doesn't fit that outlook.

The robots speak well and are well-educated individuals. They never step out of line and have a training ethic everyone from the outside can only marvel at. It's fairytale stuff.

Sometimes those robots have parts missing and do not fit the individual they want to roll off that production line. Yet they are still better than anything else going.

Yes, the key is to help get Ryder in a position where he isn't so injury prone and that more than likely comes through better conditioning. That does require a bit of hard work.

But don't expect him to transform into a choirboy inspired to take up marathon running.

Give him guidelines and expectations but don't stifle his free spirit, let him be.

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