Jesse Ryder speaks of night he was attacked

JESSE RYDER: "We've all heard the stories of guys hitting their heads and dying after being punched and falling to the ground. I look back and think I am lucky not to be dead."
JESSE RYDER: "We've all heard the stories of guys hitting their heads and dying after being punched and falling to the ground. I look back and think I am lucky not to be dead."

As the blackness receded and Jesse Ryder regained consciousness after 56 hours in an induced coma, one of his first thoughts was, ''Oh, God, not another issue!''

Controversy and Ryder have gone hand-in-hand since the burly batsman burst onto the New Zealand cricket scene in 2008.

Late-night drinking, a hand slashed when he stuck it through a toilet window, more late-night drinking, verbally abusing team manager Dave Currie - no wonder he thought he was in trouble again.

But this time the next ''issue'' - inadvertently taking a banned drug - was still some time away. Before that, he had a bigger struggle on his hands, namely fighting for his life.

In late March, Ryder was rushed to intensive care with a suspected fractured skull and a serious lung injury after being attacked in the early hours of the morning outside a Christchurch bar.

He spent 56 hours in an induced coma while fans, friends and strangers held candlelight vigils as word spread that one of the country's most talented and polarising sportsmen was in a precarious state.

Ryder, seven months on and by his own admission not a ''deep and meaningful'' person, realises how lucky he is to be alive.

''After being told what happened, you start thinking a bit. I mean, we've all heard the stories of guys hitting their heads and dying after being punched and falling to the ground,'' he said.

''I look back and think I am lucky not to be dead.''

The 29-year-old still has no recollection of what went on that night in Christchurch.

His last memory is of going to a bar with his Wellington team-mates; the rest he's pieced together based on eyewitness accounts.

''It was just black. I just woke up all of a sudden after 56 hours or so, I think it was, just bang, like that,'' Ryder said of regaining consciousness.

''I remember waking up and trying to pull the tube out of my throat and then someone had to stop me from doing that.

''But, yeah, I couldn't really believe it. I didn't know where I was, what had happened. Someone told me I'd been jumped, hit from behind and had whacked my head.''

Ryder's long-time manager and close friend Aaron Klee was one of the first to reach his hospital bedside and initially feared the worst.

''I didn't know what I was going to find so that was pretty scary,'' Klee said.

''I've joked with Jesse since then that the 56 hours he was in a coma was the easiest 56 hours I've had managing him because he didn't argue or make my job difficult!

''Thankfully we can joke about it now given how well he recovered.

''Fronting the media on day two was one of the hardest things I've ever done.

''The emotions were still pretty raw and I did the interview at the police station.

''We still didn't know what his condition was, so it was really hard to say whether he was going to be OK or not.''

While Ryder was in intensive care, messages of support came flooding in from everywhere, including Prime Minister John Key.

For someone accustomed to being a public villain, Ryder still can't believe the concern so many people showed for him.

''The support was amazing. It was ridiculous, really. I was still getting letters and stuff months after I returned home,'' he said.

''I would love to actually take this opportunity to thank all the people who supported me through that time. It was overwhelming.''

That support would prove crucial for Ryder who was about to embark on one of the toughest periods of his life.

After spending six days in Christchurch Hospital, he was discharged and returned to his home in Wellington under the cover of darkness, helped by a commercial airline that allowed him to bypass the usual terminal process for checking in. The next morning, his doorbell started ringing and members of the media camped outside his house hoping for a picture.

At one point he remembers ''losing it'' after being followed by a particularly persistent photographer through Lower Hutt.

But behind closed doors, he was struggling too.

''At first, I just couldn't walk properly. My balance was just so off and I was struggling to walk and the weakness was crazy,'' Ryder said.

''Just walking to the bathroom and back, I'd be breathless, you know, taking in big, deep breaths.

''It took ages to get back to normal.''

And in the middle of that rehabilitation he was told he'd failed a drug test.

After taking a pill to help with weight loss during the previous season, one of Ryder's urine samples revealed traces of banned stimulants 1-Phenylbutan-2-amine (PBA) and alpha-diethyl-benzeethanamine (DEBEA).

He was contacted about the failed test in early April - days after returning home to Wellington - and the only saving grace was that the news didn't break until August, by which point he'd served the bulk of a six-month ban.  

Ryder said he took a supplement, Gaspari Detonate, ''maybe five times and the last of those times was maybe a week out from a competition game''.

Sunday Star Times