South Africa in New Zealand 2011-12 March 1, 2012

Ryder lets New Zealand down

Jesse Ryder's latest indiscretion might make it hard for New Zealand to pick him for the Test series against South Africa

Just as New Zealand were showing signs of turning a bedraggled few seasons around, momentum has been lost with news that Jesse Ryder and Doug Bracewell have been dropped for at least one match after a night out in Napier turned sour.

The New Zealand management reprimanded the pair after the second one-day international against South Africa in Napier for breaking team protocol (players rehabilitating from injury should not consume alcohol). Both went to a Napier hotel despite Bracewell receiving treatment for a tight hamstring and Ryder splitting the webbing on his hand. According to a statement from the team manager Mike Sandle, the pair responded to taunts from a member of the public. The players claim they were goaded and didn't allow the situation to escalate past a short exchange of words.

More facts will be needed before a balanced judgment can be made but there is no doubt such an incident can derail team spirit and the bond with fans which has built steadily since New Zealand's Test victory over Australia in Hobart.

Unfortunately for New Zealand, it also indicates that fragility and vulnerability are emerging against a South African team that is getting stronger as the length of matches increase.

However this incident is spun, it seems no coincidence that Ryder was at its heart. This could well be another Groundhog Day ending in a soft punishment but there is genuine concern in the squad about his vehement refusal to improve his behaviour. Ryder was once treated as a roguish anti-hero by sections of the public after the 'digits through the dunny window' episode in Christchurch four years ago. Further form on his rap sheet has turned patience to pity and sometimes anger. There is frustration at his refusal to acknowledge a wider problem; be it the makings of alcoholism or a penchant for binge drinking. As anecdotal evidence it is worth noting his excellent half-century - albeit with a stagger at the end - which took New Zealand close to victory in the final Twenty20 received a less than glowing reaction from some quarters of the crowd.

Ryder was going to be in consideration for the Test squad but this incident makes that prospect far-fetched, given his past indiscretions. He needs further help and that might start with more visits to boxing trainer Billy Graham's gym in the Wellington suburb of Naenae. With a Test series as important as South Africa starting next week it's hard to believe a character with such a renowned disruptive influence could be picked. New Zealand can't afford to condone the erratic behaviour of a rebel without a cause.

Given it is Bracewell's first official blemish in the New Zealand environment, he will likely get a reprieve but he needs to watch himself. No one is bigger than the game. His heroic acts with the ball in Tests in Zimbabwe and Australia have been tempered by seven limited-overs matches back home, where he has scored nine runs in four innings and taken four wickets at 60.50.

Writing about Ryder and Bracewell's indiscretions could be labelled hypocrisy for anyone who has endured experiences such as waking up beneath a shrub on a random street; or found a phantom 3am kebab shop receipt in a grease-stained pocket when stirring on a mate's couch. But there is a difference - they are public figures and national representatives. They don't have to be role models - and may well be victims of their own success - but that argument gets little sympathy from those who toil week-to-week on the nation's cricket fields for the love of the game and little representative or monetary reward.

Andrew Alderson is cricket writer at New Zealand's Herald on Sunday

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • dummy4fb on March 2, 2012, 10:45 GMT

    Julian, remind me when Gower and Botham got into newsworthy 'incidents' with members of the public I thought not. Different scenario altogether DS

  • Safferfan on March 2, 2012, 8:07 GMT

    The man needs to take a long hard look at himself. When picked to represent your country, it comes with certain obligations. Once chosen for your country you automatically become an ambassador for your country. Jaques Kallis, Ricky Ponting, Sachin Tendulkar, Brian Lara (when still playing) etc. are all players that have (had) been around forever and are much better cricketers than Ryder can ever hope (currently) to be, yet they do not have these 'issues." Let us hope (for NZ sake) that he takes this chance and makes it count.

  • dummy4fb on March 2, 2012, 7:18 GMT

    @Sammorama. I think we should care about whether he drinks to excess or not. Regardless of how good a player is and how much his team "needs" him, he cannot be treated any differently to the others. He must not be let of for unacceptable behaviour. These guys are role models and they don't have to play the game if they don't want to set a good example for youngsters etc in the way they conduct themselves. Punishing such players is necessary also for up and coming players to realise that they can expect similar consequences should they misbehave after coming into the team and that they can't get away with such behaviours no matter how talented they are.

  • Sammorama on March 1, 2012, 23:57 GMT

    Ryder needs to be playing - he is our best batsman and a cult hero.

    This is ridiculous - the Black Caps don't have the batting depth drop a guy like Jesse.

    drink or no drink, who cares - he has the ability to take apart any attack.

    Go JR!

  • Julian017 on March 1, 2012, 22:12 GMT

    Good thing Botham & Gower weren't around in this NZ set up. They would have been banned long ago.

  • dummy4fb on March 1, 2012, 20:43 GMT

    Ryder's case is difficult. In light of him only getting a one match ban, I am not sure if that is the right option, although it is probably good in the long run that he isn't playing in the test series. I wonder whether they would have been better off tearing up his contract for this season and saying to him, "go sort your life out and if you are good enough next season you will get picked." That way there is still scope to play for NZ, but he has to prove that he really wants to do so. In the past, his absences have mainly been injury related, I think, and then as soon as he's fit he comes into the team. He needs to be told, "we could pick you, but we are deciding not to," for an extended period. Then we can really see if he has a desire to play top-level cricket for the Black Caps (which, he is more than capable of).

  • dummy4fb on March 1, 2012, 19:30 GMT

    Nice piece. Totally agree.

  • dummy4fb on March 1, 2012, 15:45 GMT

    He's definitely New Zealand's Andrew Symonds, without the 'Gone Fishin'' attitude. More like the 'Gone drinkin'' attitude, if you ask me. Not good enough if you're going to represent your country, son. So, do them a favour: learn from Symonds and don't waste that talent you have for clean hitting by giving into temptation and a lack of self-control. I'm sure Buchanan won't hesitate to drop you from the team permanently if you don't clean up your act. Watch out.

  • cricfan22502668 on March 1, 2012, 15:43 GMT

    Ryder is a talented player. Sad to see him throw it way and become an Alcoholic

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