January 24, 2014

To hell and back

Jesse Ryder has always been a gifted athlete but it's only now that he seems to have let go of the unimportant stuff and begun to believe
38

For Jesse, the penny has dropped. Since his troubled teenage years, he has been on a famously wicked rollercoaster. He has been trapped in a mind and body that has struggled to find peace, flow and consistency, and fluency of self-acceptance and public admiration. Jesse is a gifted athlete, but it appears that only now can he can truly look in the mirror and nod, "Yep, I am ready." For life, that is.

Without question, he looks the fittest we have ever seen him. Trimmed down, mature in uniform, calm in appearance, he finally looks at some ease. He looks pleased, too, to be here. No doubt. Yet there will be some doubt lurking and Jesse will feel the old demon trying to gatecrash this new party. That dark imposter will come knocking, but Jesse looks ready to rescind the intrusion. This new Jesse; I like what I see.

Jesse the batsman has always been appealing. Old-fashioned in stance, late in stroke, he looks a player who bats in his sleep. He dismisses bowlers nonchalantly. He eases the ball out of the ground. He oozes power and touch in the same breath. He can really bat. Except, up until this summer, he has always found trouble in his path. Often, he would promise and then somehow he would stuff up. He brought much of it upon himself. And then recently he didn't. Some dumb idiots turned on him.

Jesse, who last year lay in a coma after a sickening assault and came close to a shocking death, is a man who has been given a second chance. He has done enough soul-searching, and so it's his time. He has felt enough pain. It's time for some pleasure. It's time for revenge on a few bowlers.

Against West Indies recently, in his first two one-day knocks back in the New Zealand uniform, he scored a duck and a 46-ball ton. Yet as he walked off both times, you wouldn't have known which was which. There was a self-acceptance across his face. He went with the flow of life, a life that was starting to give him a break. In the past, his walk off the field was an ugly affair, an uncomfortable ride for all watching and no doubt for the man himself. (Mind you, my walk-off could be tumultuous too). Now, Jesse walks off a freer man.

Notably, his language has matured and is thoughtful, wiser. He is enjoying his cricket, as he says himself, no matter what happens. He is, in sport-psyche terms, "grounded" and "positively aroused". It's a massive shift, a penny-dropping moment. In that coma, perhaps, deep in his subconscious, something clicked. When he came through it, he knew nothing could be as bad again. And he started to let go of the unimportant stuff, and he started to believe. Letting go of that false image is the beginning of true redemption.

Jesse is best, at present, playing the short forms of the game only. To express himself at the top of the order, with a license to enjoy and enthral, is the best single purpose and uncomplicated role you could give him. He should stay focused in this mode right through to the World Cup, only 12 months away. This will be a significant stage for him to explore within, express himself, and explode in front of the world. Over the next year, at the top of the order, let Jesse flow, I say, let him flow.

Only he knows his dreams and goals, yet if I possessed such prodigious skill, I would aim for a century every five Test matches and every 15 one-dayers

As he showed in the opening match against India in Napier, his game is still too one-dimensional. Footwork to an immaculate length on or outside off stump remains a work in progress. This is due to playing at a lower level for a long period, so over this year we will see him tighten his defence where needed, while his shots all around the wicket will continue to intimidate bowlers who stray from the corridor of uncertainty.

After a stint raising his game in the shorter forms, he will be ready to regain his Test place. It could be that Brendon McCullum may then be ready to just focus on the short forms himself, given his ageing and sore body. A rest from the demands of more travel and long days in the field during Tests may be a smart move. Jesse would easily step into that No. 5 slot with aplomb. By then Kane Williamson will be ready to be Test captain, and McCullum could extend his run to the end, wheeling in fast food feats to further his "brand". It could work as easily as that after the World Cup.

Over the next year Jesse only needs to maintain speed, a steady flow of positive thought, and that inner calm that he has finally found. He needs to maintain that discipline he has discovered and is enjoying. He will maintain that speed if he can expand his life to include other interests so that batting is only part of his new make-up, as his overall fix on life as a 30-year-old evolves.

If he does stay grounded, there is a good chance he will bat on for New Zealand for another six or so years. To do so his body will need constant attention. His nutrition will need to be fine-tuned and his training will have to increase in intensity. It's all about intention. Only he knows his dreams and goals, yet if I possessed such prodigious skill, I would aim for a century every five Test matches and one every 15 one-dayers. It's possible if he wants it. The work has only just started. And it must continue, to maximise this god-given talent and this second chance in life, and especially his love for batting.

Finally, let me say that Jesse has not been someone I have admired or focused on that much. Indeed, I have only met him fleetingly. He seemed, back then, to be tortured, disengaged. And yes our tortured paths passed by each other for a few seconds with no real recognition either way. However, this last fortnight, he has turned my head. I am liking all I see and hear. I am happy for him. He has gone through hell and he has returned a richer man.

Martin Crowe, one of the leading batsmen of the late '80s and early '90s, played 77 Tests for New Zealand

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • on January 30, 2014, 18:35 GMT

    Jesse should play in the test, I think he is a better play in the test format compared to ODI or T20. Jesse and Hamish to open with No 3 Kane and no 4 Ross (Unless kid is born).

  • dhillonnz on January 30, 2014, 9:52 GMT

    Nice article, was big fan of Martin Crowe until I saw or shall call it experienced his rude attitude towards cricket fan asking for autograph

  • silentassassin_88 on January 26, 2014, 15:31 GMT

    Happy for this man, who has made a remarkable comeback both in cricket and in his life. This guy is really talented but some unfortunate incidents led him to be forced out of the team. But the 'new' Jesse looks more mature, wise and hungry to perform. This guy should be playing against India in tests too.

  • on January 26, 2014, 14:41 GMT

    This New Zealand team can win World Cup . I think they have the talent some great bowlers and good bats. Jessi can add oomph in the top. Best of luck

  • on January 26, 2014, 11:39 GMT

    glad to have you back JR...

  • on January 26, 2014, 2:17 GMT

    Through all the trials and tribulations, Jesse Ryder remains a great role model for any young Maori who wants to play cricket for New Zealand. Lets be honest, there are not many Maori who play cricket in this country. I can literally count on my hand the number of Maori who have played for New Zealand. Sad statistic when you look at the numbers of Maori playing other sports.

    Jesse Ryder will slot in nicely at 5 for the Test Team.

  • krik8crazy on January 25, 2014, 2:44 GMT

    I love watching Jesse bat - even if he is scoring heavily against India :) I am so happy to see him back and doing well as a cricketer. Just a few months ago he was in bad shape and battling for life in an ICU.

  • pb1961 on January 25, 2014, 2:07 GMT

    I really enjoyed reading this and appreciate that it is written from someone that has had similar experience. I totally agree with all the comments. Jesse overcame so much then he got king hit. Then after all that, he was suspended and most significantly his reaction was to just take it on the chin. Ryder has come through it all as a different person. In Australia, they talk about Warners great comeback but he paid the price for being stupid. Jesse's comeback is a phenomenal achievement and I hope he is a star at the IPL this year.

  • Alexk400 on January 25, 2014, 0:58 GMT

    For nz to win. They have ryder , kane , taylor , corey are good. Nz bowling is good. Only problem for nz is opening and one more all rounder who can bat well against real fast bowlers and scored. Because once corey out , nz struggled to score even 5 run per over in final overs. It does not look good. NZ need 1. Aggressive Opener who can take pressure of ryder. 2. Replace luke ronchi 3. Replace nathan mccullum with batsman who can bat well against good fast bowlers. Need one more power hitter down after corey. Bowling looks ok.

  • on January 25, 2014, 0:10 GMT

    @alex are you serious? I know 6 people born on the same day as me and know of us have a similar nature. Kane Williamson has been groomed for captaincy since he made the Black Caps.

  • on January 30, 2014, 18:35 GMT

    Jesse should play in the test, I think he is a better play in the test format compared to ODI or T20. Jesse and Hamish to open with No 3 Kane and no 4 Ross (Unless kid is born).

  • dhillonnz on January 30, 2014, 9:52 GMT

    Nice article, was big fan of Martin Crowe until I saw or shall call it experienced his rude attitude towards cricket fan asking for autograph

  • silentassassin_88 on January 26, 2014, 15:31 GMT

    Happy for this man, who has made a remarkable comeback both in cricket and in his life. This guy is really talented but some unfortunate incidents led him to be forced out of the team. But the 'new' Jesse looks more mature, wise and hungry to perform. This guy should be playing against India in tests too.

  • on January 26, 2014, 14:41 GMT

    This New Zealand team can win World Cup . I think they have the talent some great bowlers and good bats. Jessi can add oomph in the top. Best of luck

  • on January 26, 2014, 11:39 GMT

    glad to have you back JR...

  • on January 26, 2014, 2:17 GMT

    Through all the trials and tribulations, Jesse Ryder remains a great role model for any young Maori who wants to play cricket for New Zealand. Lets be honest, there are not many Maori who play cricket in this country. I can literally count on my hand the number of Maori who have played for New Zealand. Sad statistic when you look at the numbers of Maori playing other sports.

    Jesse Ryder will slot in nicely at 5 for the Test Team.

  • krik8crazy on January 25, 2014, 2:44 GMT

    I love watching Jesse bat - even if he is scoring heavily against India :) I am so happy to see him back and doing well as a cricketer. Just a few months ago he was in bad shape and battling for life in an ICU.

  • pb1961 on January 25, 2014, 2:07 GMT

    I really enjoyed reading this and appreciate that it is written from someone that has had similar experience. I totally agree with all the comments. Jesse overcame so much then he got king hit. Then after all that, he was suspended and most significantly his reaction was to just take it on the chin. Ryder has come through it all as a different person. In Australia, they talk about Warners great comeback but he paid the price for being stupid. Jesse's comeback is a phenomenal achievement and I hope he is a star at the IPL this year.

  • Alexk400 on January 25, 2014, 0:58 GMT

    For nz to win. They have ryder , kane , taylor , corey are good. Nz bowling is good. Only problem for nz is opening and one more all rounder who can bat well against real fast bowlers and scored. Because once corey out , nz struggled to score even 5 run per over in final overs. It does not look good. NZ need 1. Aggressive Opener who can take pressure of ryder. 2. Replace luke ronchi 3. Replace nathan mccullum with batsman who can bat well against good fast bowlers. Need one more power hitter down after corey. Bowling looks ok.

  • on January 25, 2014, 0:10 GMT

    @alex are you serious? I know 6 people born on the same day as me and know of us have a similar nature. Kane Williamson has been groomed for captaincy since he made the Black Caps.

  • sheru-sher on January 24, 2014, 23:54 GMT

    Jesse Ryder could be another Mark Greatbatch who did so well in the NZ ODI team during the first World Cup held in NZ/Aus.

  • andyd72 on January 24, 2014, 23:52 GMT

    I think Jesse needs to be playing all formats. With his gift he can only get better the more he plays. NZ cricket team needs him. A fit, healthy, happy Jesse is what this team needs to move into the future...

  • marts30 on January 24, 2014, 23:30 GMT

    @Alexk400: Stop talking rubbish. Kane has always been captain of his teams, was headboy at high-school, he is used to leading and is the current vice-captain. He has led NZ a few times already and definitely reads the game better than most. Saying Jesse would be a better captain is totally unfounded.

  • Jordanious77 on January 24, 2014, 23:28 GMT

    @alek that is illogical.. Just speaking from experience at when i was in school... There would be great captains in my year, some people are made for it and some people arent. You cant just group millions of people together just because of their age and say theyre all the exact same...

  • Snowbadger15 on January 24, 2014, 22:45 GMT

    This is yet another superb article from martin crowe. Jesse is a fantastic batsmen to watch and has tremendous power which has been overshadowed by Corey Anderson's big hits. He looked like he was seeing the ball very well in the second odi and has overcome serious challenges such as fitness and the vicious assault in Christchurch this year. It is great seeing Jesse working hard to overcome these challenges as he is a treat to watch when he is in form. I look forward to seeing his return in the test arena as he has plenty of success in the longest format and all of his tons have been against India. The blackcaps are a better side with Jesse in their side in all forms of the game.

  • on January 24, 2014, 22:02 GMT

    Good luck to you Jesse. Hope you play VERY LONG for NZ.

  • Alexk400 on January 24, 2014, 19:42 GMT

    Well , Time will show the truth. I am not saying Kane williamson do not want to captain but he will not enjoy man management. Its not his nature. Ofcourse i do not know personally but i know his birth year. Its futile. Its like sehwag trying to captain , he was as bad captain as we have seen. Anyone born in this years 1993 ,1989 ,1988 will be ideal captain. Jesse ryder (1984) can be decent captain with lots of highs and many lows. its chinese astrology. It works. Its not prediction business but its more of nature of people born in this year. It almost like gravity of solar system affect people on the earth differently for different year. Almost like they got some resonant frequency set when they are born. :)

  • DJRNZ on January 24, 2014, 19:08 GMT

    @Alexk400, do you know Kane Williamson and Jesse persoanlly mate? Are you part of the Black Caps unit? if so, well you'd be able to make such comments. If not, don't be silly and make those calls.

  • DJRNZ on January 24, 2014, 18:59 GMT

    Whenever there is a write up about Jesse there is always someone that finds a way to be critical... Nice one Paul. When I one-day look back on his career my main disappointment will be he has missed so many games for NZ. For me this guy is absolutely brilliant and I really do believe he has turned a corner. People forget he had a very tough start in life and has made his own way - This guy is so exciting to watch and I bet a great bloke to have a laugh with. He key part to a ever improving NZ team!

  • on January 24, 2014, 18:38 GMT

    @paul... I think he natural means hand eye coordination and strength. Not cardio.

  • Rj_Kiwi on January 24, 2014, 18:37 GMT

    @Paul Rone-Clarke you've found a way to hate. I live in Auckland and friends of mine staying at hotels keep spotting Jessie Ryder at hotel gyms working up an absolute storm. He's damn fit. I don't know if he can one day build the 'athletes body' that would then meet your approval, but I would give him another 12 months and I think he may be that much fitter again. As far s calling him Merv Hughes, Jessies not trying to be a fast bowler he got away with it as a batter, but he's taken responsibility so stop dragging down.

  • on January 24, 2014, 18:01 GMT

    "Gifted Athlete" That reminds me of Billy Birmingham as Bill Lawrie talking about Merv Hughes as a "Tremendous Athlete" on one of the 12th man tapes. Jesse might be a good batter - but a gifted ATHLETE? Oh come on.

  • on January 24, 2014, 14:31 GMT

    One of the finest contributions a retired captain could make to his team. Martin and Jesse both have a lot to offer to the game.

  • on January 24, 2014, 14:26 GMT

    Speaking of Mccullum I think he should retire from tests and a player like Jeet Raval or Tom Latham should be given a chance, I'd say Raval because Watling seems to be well settled and as for Ryder with all due respect I think he is getting undue favours from NZC, he is so inconsistent scores a rapid fire 50 in one match and then is dismissed cheaply for the next 10 games, his place should be under scrutiny now...

  • Alexk400 on January 24, 2014, 11:23 GMT

    NZ need to find a player who born in 1995 as opening batsman. This is key for NZ Ascendensy. Also i am not sure kane williamson is captain material. Let him be as good as batsman he can be. Just find people who are good at man management skill as captain. Ryder can be better captain than kane williamson any day. Its not kane williamson can not captain , its just that he won't enjoy managing people. Its not his cup of tea. Anyone born in 1988 and 1989 who can bat a bit. These two are your ideal captain. There are people with talent but there are people who may not have talent but they live in present , those are the players you need in a team who can fight tooth and nail. Its not mumbo jumbo. It works. :)

  • lebigfella on January 24, 2014, 10:40 GMT

    As always beautifully written, wise and a very interesting observation from a man who has also suffered demons over the years... I too hope Ryder does live up to his potential billing, he could even exceed your not unreasonable targets in all forms of the international game. The next year is the key to see if he can carry on for those six years more... just maybe those demons have been sufficiently exorcised. Good luck Jesse Ryder... And looking forward to your next piece Martin... thanks

  • IndianInnerEdge on January 24, 2014, 10:28 GMT

    nice take on jesse, always liked the bloke and i feel he always has oodles of talent....except he always takes it out on india....!.....i wish him best and hope he goes the distance and performs greater than his potential....now that would be some performance worth going to watch out for

  • on January 24, 2014, 9:13 GMT

    Jesse and Ross rediscovering their best touch, the maturing of Anderson as an international cricketer, and attacking fast bowlers. How suddenly New Zealand begin to look ominous just before a World Cup they will co-host. Can this side go one better than '92? Or Martin, your innovative captaincy will prove to be the difference?

  • on January 24, 2014, 7:44 GMT

    Nice piece, Martin! Also wish I'd watched your batting live, but you were done with the game by then.

  • on January 24, 2014, 6:54 GMT

    Hi Martin,

    I really appreciate your take on Jesse. He and Ross both have been my fav batsmen from NZ side. I though he would make a big impact in IPL on flat tracks but the result wasn't what i though. He always had potential of becoming a great All rounder just like his predecessor Nathan Astle or Craig McMillan. Of course he is a joy to watch and I like the way he dominates on the 22 yards but in recent past there have been troubles with him. I hope to Jesse is back in form and to teach the inexperienced Indian bowling attack apart.

  • akd_moves on January 24, 2014, 6:03 GMT

    Thanks Martin. A very well written piece. I was a great fan of your batting, but sadly witnessed only one great innings on television. I agree with you that sometimes talent alone cannot take anyone far. Some luck, and channeling of energies in the right direction is needed. Jesse Ryder seems to have turned a corner with his "rebirth". I am a big time Indian Cricket fan and follow the teams travails, yet I am great admirer of an entertaining innings or a very good spell of bowling, having played the game at the junior level - school and college levels!

  • on January 24, 2014, 6:00 GMT

    Beautifully well written peace, really brought out the character of Jesse Ryder and his many fascets in that piece. :)

  • class9ryan on January 24, 2014, 5:45 GMT

    Highly destructive batsman and the one New Zealand cricket needs to provide impetus into a innings which probably Guptill or others can't provide. He's reminds me of Warner a half-year ago, if he gets going he could end up being one of the best New Zealand has ever produced.

  • aks1987 on January 24, 2014, 5:20 GMT

    There is a reason we are attracted to such troubled cricketers. There is a reason .because they are talented. When I see Jesse Ryder the other player that comes to my mind is Shoaib Akhtar. In his whole career Akhtar was plagued with disciplinary problems along with other ones. But it was his comeback that I always looked forward to and never did he disappoint. Likewise Jesse is a player that has had some tumultous times and his comeback is what I had been looking forward to and he did stamp authority with that 46 ball 100. More to come from him.

  • kiwicricketnut on January 24, 2014, 4:45 GMT

    jesse has to play tests too, he is too good to leave out, i'd have him over fulton and rutherford any day, i don't think its rushed, he had a year or so off and like crowe said he looks a new man and to me he looks ready for test cricket, you can always drop an out of form player but to not pick an in form one is stupidity so get jesse in there.

  • Matt3030 on January 24, 2014, 3:57 GMT

    Jesse Ryder has the most amazing talent to be a destructive international batsman! He is a joy to watch, and I hope he continues to take responsibility for his future so I get to watch him dispatch bowlers at will for at least the next 5 years in all formats! Good luck to him!

  • on January 24, 2014, 3:24 GMT

    Well said as always Martin. I am surprised you don't think he should be back for the Indian tests. IMO we need our best players on the park if we are going to beat India. This might see Watling or McCullum move up to open with Fulton being dropped?

  • Greatest_Game on January 24, 2014, 3:16 GMT

    Nice. Really nice writing. Now I''m waiting fro Jesse to take India apart. Bring on the Jesse onslaught!

  • No featured comments at the moment.

  • Greatest_Game on January 24, 2014, 3:16 GMT

    Nice. Really nice writing. Now I''m waiting fro Jesse to take India apart. Bring on the Jesse onslaught!

  • on January 24, 2014, 3:24 GMT

    Well said as always Martin. I am surprised you don't think he should be back for the Indian tests. IMO we need our best players on the park if we are going to beat India. This might see Watling or McCullum move up to open with Fulton being dropped?

  • Matt3030 on January 24, 2014, 3:57 GMT

    Jesse Ryder has the most amazing talent to be a destructive international batsman! He is a joy to watch, and I hope he continues to take responsibility for his future so I get to watch him dispatch bowlers at will for at least the next 5 years in all formats! Good luck to him!

  • kiwicricketnut on January 24, 2014, 4:45 GMT

    jesse has to play tests too, he is too good to leave out, i'd have him over fulton and rutherford any day, i don't think its rushed, he had a year or so off and like crowe said he looks a new man and to me he looks ready for test cricket, you can always drop an out of form player but to not pick an in form one is stupidity so get jesse in there.

  • aks1987 on January 24, 2014, 5:20 GMT

    There is a reason we are attracted to such troubled cricketers. There is a reason .because they are talented. When I see Jesse Ryder the other player that comes to my mind is Shoaib Akhtar. In his whole career Akhtar was plagued with disciplinary problems along with other ones. But it was his comeback that I always looked forward to and never did he disappoint. Likewise Jesse is a player that has had some tumultous times and his comeback is what I had been looking forward to and he did stamp authority with that 46 ball 100. More to come from him.

  • class9ryan on January 24, 2014, 5:45 GMT

    Highly destructive batsman and the one New Zealand cricket needs to provide impetus into a innings which probably Guptill or others can't provide. He's reminds me of Warner a half-year ago, if he gets going he could end up being one of the best New Zealand has ever produced.

  • on January 24, 2014, 6:00 GMT

    Beautifully well written peace, really brought out the character of Jesse Ryder and his many fascets in that piece. :)

  • akd_moves on January 24, 2014, 6:03 GMT

    Thanks Martin. A very well written piece. I was a great fan of your batting, but sadly witnessed only one great innings on television. I agree with you that sometimes talent alone cannot take anyone far. Some luck, and channeling of energies in the right direction is needed. Jesse Ryder seems to have turned a corner with his "rebirth". I am a big time Indian Cricket fan and follow the teams travails, yet I am great admirer of an entertaining innings or a very good spell of bowling, having played the game at the junior level - school and college levels!

  • on January 24, 2014, 6:54 GMT

    Hi Martin,

    I really appreciate your take on Jesse. He and Ross both have been my fav batsmen from NZ side. I though he would make a big impact in IPL on flat tracks but the result wasn't what i though. He always had potential of becoming a great All rounder just like his predecessor Nathan Astle or Craig McMillan. Of course he is a joy to watch and I like the way he dominates on the 22 yards but in recent past there have been troubles with him. I hope to Jesse is back in form and to teach the inexperienced Indian bowling attack apart.

  • on January 24, 2014, 7:44 GMT

    Nice piece, Martin! Also wish I'd watched your batting live, but you were done with the game by then.