Black Caps cult hero Jesse Ryder has expressed a desire to open the batting for New Zealand in the upcoming one-day series against the West Indies and says he has had "a couple of chats" with coach Mike Hesson and national selection boss Bruce Edgar.
Ryder hasn't been seen in New Zealand colours since February last year and has only been back playing domestic cricket for two months after his six-month ban for inadvertently taking a banned stimulant ended in late October.
In four Plunket Shield games for Otago, he's scored 454 runs at an average of 64.85, prompting calls for his return to the international scene to get louder, and feels he's now finally ready to return to the New Zealand setup.
"That is the ultimate goal that I set at the start of the season. It would be nice to hopefully get picked in that series," Ryder said in a radio interview with LiveSPORT yesterday.
"I feel that I'm probably in the best form that I've been in for a long time. The confidence is there and it's just a matter of getting my chance back in that side."
For Ryder, the end of 2013 can't come soon enough.
Before his six-month ban for ingesting a weight loss supplement, he was hospitalised with serious injuries after an altercation outside a Christchurch bar in March.
After a long and tortuous recovery, he then parted ways with long-time province Wellington to join Otago, and believes the change of scenery in the deep south has helped him rediscover his passion for cricket.
"I think the change has been refreshing. It's sort of been a new start for me and I'm enjoying it down here," Ryder said.
"The team environment is awesome and it's helped me get back and enjoy the game, really."
This year alone, seven players - Martin Guptill, Rob Nicol, BJ Watling, Hamish Rutherford, Tom Latham, Anton Devcich and Luke Ronchi - have been tried at the top of the order for New Zealand in one-day cricket.
During the recent tours to Bangladesh and Sri Lanka and with first-choice opener Guptill ruled out through injury, Northern Districts' Devcich was given the nod and scored 93 runs at an average of 15.5.
Fellow opener Latham fared better with 162 runs at 40.5, while in two matches against Bangladesh in Dhaka, Rutherford was tried and failed with back-to-back scores of one.
With Guptill back playing cricket and performing for Auckland in the Plunket Shield, his selection would seem a certainty.
But that means, should the selectors opt for Ryder given his proven history for New Zealand, Latham, who performed in trying subcontinent conditions, may be the unlucky one to miss out.
"I'd probably open [that] would be good. I started opening and it would be nice to get back in to that opening spot," Ryder said.
"But first and foremost I have got to push for a place in that side. The boys are playing well and if I can keep scoring runs and push for a place then I'll be happy."
Ryder said watching the New Zealand team perform strongly in their test series against the West Indies had reminded him what he was missing out on.
Edgar and Hesson, he said, had expressed their satisfaction with his performances so far for Otago.
"I've had a couple of chats with them," he said.
"I'm not too sure what they are thinking but they are happy with the way I'm going so hopefully I can push for that West Indies one-day team."
Ryder also said he was capable of rolling his arm over in the one-day series against the West Indies should skipper Brendon McCullum require him.
"I'm good for a few overs. The bowling is coming along quite well and I'm happy with that as well," he said.
The New Zealand squad for the five-match one-day series which begins in Auckland on Boxing Day will be named tomorrow.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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