Ryder on a storm

Last updated 15:44 06/02/2008

ryder.jpgI was playing cricket a few years ago at Kelburn Park. The game hadn't quite started - kick off was about 11 am. I was playing with a Maori guy from Hawke's Bay and he turned up with one his mates - a bigger-framed bloke in his teens. He was drunk, or at least looked and acted drunk, and as play commenced he sat on the terraces and yelled unintelligible things every so often. It was Jesse Ryder.

He had already played for Central Districts, but was injured or suspended. He was either at the end of a very long night, or at the start of a long day. As we plodded around several strata below the level he played, my teammates discussed guys who had thrown their natural talent away - screw-ups in all sorts of different sports, and cricket players like Roy Gilchrist, David Murray, Jimmy Matthews, Aaqib Javed, and Carl Bulfin who didn't make the full use of their talent. Ryder seemed heading that way.

A move to Wellington improved Ryder's mental state - but last year there were intemperate comments about not being selected for the Black Caps, a toy-throwing about qualifying for England, and reports of ballooning weight and drinking.

When Ryder was selected a couple of weeks ago Adam Parore launched. Ryder had a bad attitude and was too fat. Parore invoked portly Jock Edwards and David Boon as examples of players who would not be selected in today's fitness-conscious environment.

On the bad-attitude charge it was surely a case of the pot dropping a line to the kettle to indicate the kettle was of darker hue. In the first few years of his international career Parore was a disaster zone in pads - the kind of player who should have klaxons sounding when he walked into a dressing room.

As for Ryder being too corpulent, I say if you're good enough you're thin enough. Parore after all played alongside Craig McMillan, a fairly large chap, for half his career, and played against the likes of Inzamam and Merv Hughes, neither of whom regularly ignored a pie-warmer. Shane Warne was never trim the entirety of his career, and is the greatest player of our generation. Parore, at his peak, had a wonderfully sculpted body - I know, I saw it when he took off his shirt in a bar in the West Indies trying to impress some American medical students. Chat-up lines clearly weren't his thing. But why come out swinging at Jesse Ryder? Why not let Ryder do the swinging?

Last night he made his debut. He is much bigger than he was five years ago but his weight didn't seem to affect his fielding - and he took a wicket with his Astle-esque dobblers. He also outscored the rest of the top order, including two monstrous hits - slaps that stayed slapped. He didn't just seem not over-awed, he seemed born to that arena.

I am not the Yoda of cricket, but someone who can time the ball like that is a once-in-a-decade find, and I have been supporting Ryder's selection since I began blogging in October. I would not have selected him in the test XI until Monday morning, however, when Scott Styris announced he was concentrating on the abbreviated game. That is a sad loss - Styris averages in the mid-thirties (and better than Chris Cairns, Bruce Edgar, Bevan Congdon and Walter Hadlee) and has five test centuries to his credit - but in Jesse Ryder we have a readymade, if slightly wider, replacement.

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Soulberry   #1   05:36 pm Feb 06 2008

You have fair points in favour of Ryder. He didn't quite come off as expected in the T20 but cricket is a long game and there will be better opportunities.

Mark Greatbach is an example of corpulence...as are David Boon and Ranatunga. Cricket has a lot to do with anticipation and judgement, and fielding and taking runs also need those more than just being quick.

A strong mind helps always.

Nick   #2   09:46 pm Feb 06 2008

He certainly does look like he belongs.

Get him on a treadmill and on a diet and he'll lose the extra weight. NZC must have a dietician on its books.

Now, if only A. Adams can come back from whatever planet he is on we'll have most of a cricket team.

Kumar   #3   11:43 pm Feb 06 2008

When former players need attention they say crap of other players...I do not know since when size matters...they are many players who we may say are overweight but they can carry their on the field. Just to name a few, Boon, Ranatunga, Ul-haq. Merv Hughes. I bet Merv hustled Parore when he bowled to him. Just leave the man alone and give him a chance...You Parore, as fit and lean as you are, Cricket took its toll on your so-called Fit lean body. Perhaps you didn't have the Guts for the game...he does and let him be.

Don   #4   02:25 am Feb 07 2008

Darren Lehmann was never what you might call "slim", yet he was easily the best first class batsman in the country (and a more then decent test player before that).

It is true that Ryder should lose quite a few pounds. He looks like he has a good pair of hands, and better fitness should allow him to hold his own as a fielder.

However - with NZ batting stocks at such a low, if he can bat to his potential, then NZ should just accept they may field just 10 players and let him remain fat.

I reckon that acceptance into the team may do wonders for his desire to trim down a little bit.

Alok   #5   03:46 am Feb 07 2008

Who says fat people shouldn't play cricket at the highest level? Fitness is one thing (I wouldn't know much about it since I am pretty fat myself), but an eagle eye and divine timing cannot be learned or practiced in the gym. Inzimam, Ranatunga, Craig McMillan, Dhoni (when he first came on the scene), among others have shown that size (horizontal) doesn't matter.

Really glad to know that Jesse Ryder came up better than the rest of the top order (though NZ didn't beat the Poms). Along with Romesh Powar (who tormented England in two one day series), Dwayne Leverock (who tormented England in the one match he played against them), I think Jesse Ryder has struck a blow (against England) for all portly cricketers everywhere.

Take that six-packs!

Gautham   #6   05:31 am Feb 07 2008

His batting was good, though brief. But his run-out threw up those regular concerns. When running between the wickets is key, especially with blokes like McCullum, I hope he can stay put.

Jamie Dowling   #7   07:05 am Feb 07 2008

Two words: Darren Lehmann.

ants   #8   07:28 am Feb 07 2008

While Ryder didn't bat the house down (he still looked better than 9 other guys out there did) - the amount he got involved in the field and the enthusiasm he showed was brilliant for a guy playing his first international game in a pressure cooker atmosphere like that.

It was brilliant to hear Martin Crowe taking the piss out of Adam Parore with the whole "I heard a rumour that Mike Pero Mortgages are donating $100 per run Ryder scores to a local charity..........".

If Martin Crowe rates Ryder (re the Cricket Company interview last weekend on him) then it says a lot more about him than someone who was as average as Parore was. Parore is nothing but a has-been, who all you can say is that he was better than Lee Germon.

Euan   #9   09:45 am Feb 07 2008

I am not so worried about Ryder's weight as his ability to construct an innings by pacing himself and his technique to bat against world class bowling.

He looks to have a wonderful eye and natural timing, but his footwork looks minimal and I think Sidebottom, Harmison & co won't be losing any sleep if he gets selected for the ODIs.

I am pleased to see Flynn selected for the 2nd 20/20. He looks like he could be a very good player for NZ.

Chris   #10   10:55 am Feb 07 2008

Meh... put him in close so he won't have to run in the field. Problem solved. Worked for David Boon.

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