Opinion: New Zealand can't afford to snub Ryder

Blog Opinion

Bimal Mirwani firmly believes Jesse Ryder must represent New Zealand in all three formats despite a slew of off-field indiscretions.

Jesse Ryder has constantly been in the media spotlight for his off-field issues, whether it be getting into heated confrontations with team officials, fighting team-mates in a bar or severing a tendon in his hand while trying to break a toilet.

However, despite the many controversies he has been a part of, I firmly believe Ryder needs to represent New Zealand in all three formats of the game.

Ryder has not had it easy over the past year as he was assaulted by four men in Christchurch, which resulted in him sustaining a fractured skull and a collapsed lung. In fact, his injuries were so severe that doctors had to put him in a medically induced coma. At that point in time, I truly thought Ryder's cricketing career was all but over.

Many people have also said that Ryder is not fit enough to play cricket. One person who was especially critical of Ryder's stocky frame was former New Zealand wicketkeeper Adam Parore, who said that Ryder was "too fat" and "in no fit state to play for New Zealand".

However, just because Ryder is more on the larger side doesn't mean he cannot be an asset to the Black Caps. Just look at the impact Inzamam-ul-Haq had with Pakistan and Arjuna Ranatunga with Sri Lanka. Both players are now legends of the game and there is no reason why Ryder cannot go on to achieve the same amount of success ul-Haq and Ranatunga experienced.

In fact, after being criticised about his weight, Ryder went on a diet and fitness programme, which led to him becoming more slim and trim. His newfound attitude drew a lot of praise from Wellington coach Jamie Siddons and New Zealand spinner Jeetan Patel.

Ryder last played for New Zealand during their home series against India in January. In the five ODIs he played, Ryder failed to find any form with the bat and it subsequently led to him scoring 94 runs at a dismal average of 18.80. Ryder was primed to make his Test comeback as well, but that didn't happen since he was drinking at a bar into the early hours of the morning on the day that the first Test was set to begin.

After being dropped, Ryder decided to sign with Essex in a bid to regain his touch with the bat. As of right now, he has played six County Championship matches and is averaging a respectable 31.66. Strangely, though, he has been struggling to score runs in the ongoing T20 Blast and is thus averaging a shade above 21.

This is rather odd for a man who amassed 776 runs, which included four centuries and two half-centuries, at an average of 59.69 in eight matches for Otago during the 2013-14 Plunket Shield season. In addition to this, Ryder accumulated 436 runs at an incredible average of 72.66 and a strike-rate of 124.92 during the 2013-14 Ford Trophy season.

If this side of Ryder resurfaces once again, then I truly believe that he could go on to replace Hamish Rutherford or Peter Fulton as one of New Zealand's opening batsmen. Ryder has a very unique quality, which revolves around him having a talent for striking the ball miles into the stands or playing classy strokes with ease and grace. Currently, Tom Latham is fast establishing himself as one half of New Zelaand's opening duo, and I believe if Ryder were to join him, he would be the perfect foil to Latham's more defensive and methodical approach. Futhermore, if Ryder manages to average what he did during the 2013-14 domestic season in New Zealand, it will be hard for the national selectors to keep ignoring him.

With all this said, I think that New Zealand will be making a grave mistake if they continue to snub Ryder. Yes, he has had his off-field issues, but one only has to look at the amount of trouble former England all-rounder Andrew Flintoff got himself into at times during his illustrious career.

Despite all that, England still continued to invest their faith in him, which is why he flourished and became one of their most beloved players. New Zealand have to let bygones be bygones and wake up to the reality that Ryder is a dominant force that is here to stay and prove a point: That he truly does deserve to don the New Zealand shirt and the honoured silver fern across his heart.

<b>Bimal Mirwani</b>