India v New Zealand, 1st Test, Ahmedabad, 3rd day November 6, 2010

Ryder finds redemption

ESPNcricinfo staff
Jesse Ryder battled with himself at the start of his innings, before going to complete an impressive century under pressure

Jesse Ryder is easy to like. Sportsmen with human traits - Ryder had weight and alcohol issues - generally are. His fans and managers in New Zealand cricket might have lost their patience with his frequent indiscretions but the neutrals didn't have to worry about the effect those flaws might have on the team. He clearly isn't an obnoxious character; he doesn't snarl and bite on the field, nor off it for that matter. Shorn of that "attitude", he seems docile, often spaced out in the middle with a gentle smile across his visage. Even his walk - a shuffling gait - is endearing.

Watching Ryder bat is a serene activity more in keeping with those traits than with the nature of his indiscretions. One would expect him to be a violent batsman, but while he can hit hard, he is usually soft, almost unobtrusive. He doesn't attack your senses; he flows by like a gentle river. The back-lift is minimal, the foot movement is limited but very precise, and you can sense that he is extremely aware of his game.

He started very scratchily on Saturday. It wasn't the attack, it wasn't the pitch; it felt more like an inner battle. He hadn't played much competitive cricket for a while - his last Test was in August 2009. In August 2010, he feared for his career after yet another indiscretion. He knew this was his last chance; the administration might loosen their grip on the rope, he might fall back into the whirlpool. It has happened before to other sportsmen .

And so the pressure must have been intense. India can be a difficult place for such men to save their careers. Indian pitches require patience. There was a fear that Ryder might try to force the pace and push hard at deliveries early on. Luckily for him, this pitch wasn't a spinning track. The balls weren't turning and leaping. Still, during the initial nervy moments Ryder pushed and stabbed at deliveries. A couple of times he edged his defensive pokes to untenanted areas. One bounded off his pad wide of short-leg and another went dangerously close past the same fielder. Ryder walked towards square-leg with his head bowed. At other times, when he top-edged his sweeps, he kicked his bat or stamped the ground.

It was Ryder v Ryder, a riveting battle. There was more nervy action: when he was on 11, Sreesanth hurled a full-length delivery slightly outside the off stump. It seemed like a trap. Ryder saw width and freed his arms. The ball flew off the edge to right of Rahul Dravid, statistically the safest pair of hands in Test cricket. The ball went into the palms and spilled out. That was the moment that turned things around. India further helped his cause by introducing part-time bowlers at this stage. Virender Sehwag and Suresh Raina helped Ryder to find his rhythm and start moving his feet. His game changed. The worst was over.

Fast forward now to the moment when he was one short of a hundred. The same bait was laid: it was another full-length delivery outside the off stump from Sreesanth. Blink. The ball was thrown back from the cover boundary. Ryder pumped his fist and turned towards the dressing room. The plump face tightened, the right hand tapped his chest. It could be his defining image of this series. The camera swung to catch his happy team-mates.

"We saw the passion when he scored his hundred and when he got out as well," Brendon McCullum later said. "He knows he has made some mistakes in the past that he is not proud of. He is not happy that he let down his team-mates in the past. But all that is in the past. We have tried to move on. Every member in the dressing room is confident and backing him up when he walks out to bat. As you saw today, he is an incredible talent."

It's difficult to isolate and focus only on Jesse Ryder the batsman. Often he has been the cause of his problems, as he himself has admitted. "I have brought it upon myself by the way I have behaved," he said before this Test. Hopefully, now, that's all in the past and the time for Ryder the batsman has truly come. It's up to Ryder. As he said the other day, it was always up to him.

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on November 7, 2010, 5:07 GMT

    Flawed, fallible .. a touch errant, checkered past and through it all talent - oodles of it. Jesse Ryder makes you believe that the game yet has room for people whose thoughts haven't been schooled, words weighed for microphones, bodies toned by gym or actions aimed at newsprint/ camera. For all his extra bulk, he remains a good fielder and a pretty good batsman - good on him, good on cricket!

  • Dummy4 on November 7, 2010, 4:27 GMT

    Ryder seemed very cool to me and hopefully will continue to perform. Though I am an Indian and as partisan as they come, I really wished for NZ to do well, especially Taylor and Ryder. They do play for Bangalore in the IPL!

    I like the fact that NZ showed they are no pushover. The way they fought back after the Dravid and Sehwag run feast was no mean feat. Then the way their middle order overcame potential collapses is also an indication of their fighting spirit. See how Kane Williamson played. He showed resoluteness in addition to talent. Now let's see how India show their mettle in the rest of this Test.

  • Simon on November 7, 2010, 3:27 GMT

    Its good to see in this day and age of super athletic cricketers coming off the production line that there is still a place for the slightly rotund, battling belter of a batsman like Jesse Ryder. It makes the game that much more interesting and enjoyable.

  • Tony on November 7, 2010, 1:57 GMT

    Indeed, well done Ryder, especially for getting more than Tendulkar, Laxman, Dhoni, and Raina's scores combined "against the weakest bowling attack n at flat pitch".

  • Dummy4 on November 7, 2010, 0:35 GMT

    I think the makeup of the NZ team is off. Watling is the weak link.

    Tests - McCullum, McIntosh, Taylor, Ryder, Williamson, Franklin, Hopkins (+), Vettori, Tuffey/Arnel, McKay, Bennett

    Drop Martin, only play Patel on turning pitches.

    ODIs - McCullum (+), Guptill, Taylor, Ryder, Williamson, Franklin, Elliott, Vettori, Oram, McKay, Bennett

    Drop McIntosh, Tuffey/Arnel and Hopkins for the more aggressive Guptill, Oram and Elliott.

    Franklin can be the seam-bowling allrounder in both teams, Williamson can be the spin-bowling allrounder. Vettori adds batting down the order, and Elliott adds his all-sorts style in the limited overs arena. Oram's pinch-hitting abilities are also useful down the order in limited overs, and his bowling is restrictive and solid.

  • Steve on November 6, 2010, 20:23 GMT

    I like Jesse Ryder. He's flawed and I'm sure he will make more mistakes in the future. But he's a very good cricketer and he is worth persevering with, and I like watching him play.

  • khurram on November 6, 2010, 20:13 GMT

    well done ryder. u r really true star. though ur ton was against the weakest bowling attack n at flat pitch still u deserve appreciation

  • No featured comments at the moment.