Jesse Ryder's cricket return stays on hold

AARON LAWTON
Last updated 23:52 05/07/2012
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Peter Meecham/fairfax NZ Zoom
Shane Cameron celebrates after knocking out Monte Barrett.
Jesse Ryder
Peter Meecham/fairfax NZ
KING HIT: Jesse Ryder lands a punch during his fight against Mark Watson.

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Black Caps batsman Jesse Ryder has put his return to cricket on hold, revealing after his first foray into boxing that he has turned down an approach to play in the Sri Lankan Premier League.

Ryder, who bashed broadcaster Mark Watson on his way to a first round victory on the undercard of Shane Cameron's fight with Monte Barrett at the Sky City Convention Centre, has never been in better shape.

But while he has had plenty of opportunities to return to cricket, he says his focus for the time being is on staying healthy, achieving goals and "staying off the booze".

The long-time "wild child" of New Zealand Cricket has been sober for "109 days" and has no plans to hit the bottle any time soon.

But nor, for that matter, does he have any plans to hit the cricket field either.

In late-May, he opted to make himself unavailable for a New Zealand Cricket contract, choosing instead to take some time away from the game.

He also turned down an opportunity to play county cricket in England after returning to New Zealand from the Indian Premier League but it was thought he was considering taking part in Sri Lanka's inaugural tournament in August.

But with other things on his mind, Ryder wasn't lured by the prospect of pocketing an amount believed to be upwards of $35,000 for several weeks' work.

"I had an offer for a contract to play in Sri Lanka but I gave it away because I want to focus on getting fit and doing a few other goals that I've got," he said.

After watching him comprehensively overcoming Watson in Auckland last night, the crowd cheered loudly for the Black Caps hero, most notably when the ring announcer, during a post-fight interview, asked him when he would be returning to cricket.

That is unlikely to be before the New Zealand summer.

Of his first boxing victory, a pleased Ryder said he had loved the experience.

"It's awesome. I've still got full respect for Mark too," he said.

"A few of the boys have told me that it takes a crazy man to get in the ring and you can see it.

"You get in there and, man, what a rush it is.

"I was lucky enough to come out with the win tonight.

"It's good for my cricket career from a fitness point of view and also attitude-wise.

"All of this has helped me on my road to stay off the booze, get fit and have a lot of motivation leading up to summer when I want to get back into cricket."

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