Wellington: Troubled New Zealand batting star Jesse Ryder was handed a World Cup lifeline Friday when selectors included him in the New Zealand A squad to tour the United Arab Emirates next month.
Ryder has had numerous off-field issues involving alcohol and has not played for the Black Caps since February, when he went on a late-night drinking session in Auckland before the start of a Test series against India.
His chances of representing New Zealand at the World Cup looked bleak but he has hit a rich vein of form just as New Zealand are struggling to find an opening batsman in the 50-over format.
He averaged 37.08 with the bat and 18.09 with the ball during a recent stint with English county side Essex, and earlier this month smashed 136 from 57 balls playing for Otago against Ireland in a one-dayer on New Zealand’s South Island.
New Zealand Cricket national selection general manager Bruce Edgar said the Dubai tour was a chance to assess Ryder and other players on the fringe of selection for the World Cup, which New Zealand will co-host with Australia early next year.
“At this point, Jesse has been selected for NZ A — nothing more, nothing less,” Edgar said. “It’s an important step for Jesse but it is only a first step and we’re anxious not to get ahead of ourselves.
“Like everyone else in the squad, his future prospects will depend on his performance, on and off the field in Dubai.”
Edgar said Ryder was keen to play for New Zealand at the tournament but needed to prove himself.
New Zealand’s lack of depth in opening batsmen was exposed in the recent 2-0 series loss to South Africa, when Kane Williamson was injured and replacement Jimmy Neesham failed to fire after being moved up the order to partner an out-of-form Martin Guptill.
Ryder offers a potential solution, although he runs hot-and-cold at the top level, averaging 33.21 runs in his 42 ODI innings.
The 30-year-old is a polarising figure for New Zealand’s cricketing public, with some viewing him as a saviour and others fearing his antics could disrupt team harmony in a tight-knit unit that has made steady progress under coach Mike Hesson.
New Zealand A will play two one-dayers against Ireland and one each against the UAE and Afghanistan in Dubai. – AFP