NZC hopeful Ryder returns for England series

SMASHING FORM: Jesse Ryder's form for Wellington has Black Caps selectors hoping he will be available for the England series.
SMASHING FORM: Jesse Ryder's form for Wellington has Black Caps selectors hoping he will be available for the England series.

New Zealand Cricket hasn't given up hope of Jesse Ryder making an earlier-than-expected return to the Black Caps to face England next month.

It is understood a meeting has been organised between Ryder, his representatives, NZC and Cricket Wellington to explore all avenues to hasten his return to the beleaguered national team to face England.

Coach Mike Hesson didn't rule out the possibility of Ryder, in dynamic form for Wellington this summer, breaking his self-imposed exile from the New Zealand side in the coming weeks.

"Those discussions are happening all the time and we'll continue to review that with Jesse and hopefully he's come to a point where he wants to be involved," Hesson said today.

"We will keep looking at that. We're hoping to be able to touch base when we're back in New Zealand and we'll see how that goes."

Asked if Ryder was definitely unavailable for the series against England, which starts with a Twenty20 international in Auckland on February 9, Hesson said: "I'm not able to comment on that at the moment because we've got to go through that process of hopefully touching base with Jesse and discussing that with him."

It is understood the main issue for Ryder is feeling comfortable in the New Zealand team environment again. He expressed outrage on Twitter last month over NZC's treatment of Ross Taylor during the captaincy saga. It's 11 months since his last international, after which he took an extended break to address personal issues, swore off alcohol and returned to first-class cricket in spectacular fashion in October.

The initial plan set out by Ryder and his manager Aaron Klee was to play a full season of domestic cricket before considering an international return. In a rare interview in December, Ryder said he wasn't ready to commit to the Black Caps but would re-assess it in the New Year.

"I'm still trying to be happy again and find a love for the game again and stay on that sort of path," he said at the time.

Ryder plundered 558 Plunket Shield runs at 69.75 before Christmas, and in the Twenty20 competition blasted 508 runs at 63 and a strike rate of 168, to lead Wellington into Friday's semi-final against Auckland.

He said last month that his secret was simple: "It's just the fact that I don't really care when I'm out there at the moment. I'm just going out there and playing my natural game and not afraid of getting out and it's paying off for me."

The potential returns of Ryder, Taylor and bowler Tim Southee are a high priority for NZC as they look to inject some much-needed star power into a side beaten and bashed by South Africa, 2-0 inside six days of actual playing time in the test series.

Hesson said he'd had communication with Taylor, who he removed as captain and who will return to Plunket Shield cricket next week with a view to playing in the England series.

"Hopefully he'll be firing by the time England arrive," Hesson said.

Southee, who missed the South African tour with a thumb ligament injury that required surgery, would be back bowling in a week's time, Hesson said. He wouldn't be considered for the T20 series and was hoped to return either for the ODIs or the tests in March.

"Tim will make a huge difference if he can overcome his injury," he said.

"He adds that bite with the new ball and leads the attack nicely, and gets the best out of the other boys."

Hesson debriefed the test series shocker at the team's Port Elizabeth hotel today with the 15-strong squad. Each had individual meetings with Hesson, and either batting coach Bob Carter or bowling coach Shane Bond to discuss their progress.

Six test players departed for home: Dean Brownlie, Doug Bracewell, Daniel Flynn, Jeetan Patel, Bruce Martin and Chris Martin. Their replacements for the ODIs arrived earlier this week: Grant Elliott, Kyle Mills, Jimmy Neesham, Nathan McCullum, Ronnie Hira and Rob Nicol.

"We've been beaten up for a couple of weeks and that takes its toll on everybody," Hesson said.

"We can't deny that. But these guys fronted up in a very hostile environment. They tried extremely hard and are trying to evolve their games. They're trying to narrow that gulf between world No 1 and world No 8."

The first of three ODIs is in Paarl, in wine country near Cape Town, on Saturday.