Essex have signed the New Zealand batsman Jesse Ryder as their overseas player for the 2014 season. Ryder, who recently returned to international cricket after suffering a fractured skull last year, will be available to play in all formats, subject to visa approval, from early May.

Ryder's big hitting could see him make a significant impact, particularly in the NatWest Blast T20 competition, while his colourful history also makes him a draw. Ryder is currently not being considered for selection by New Zealand after staying out late at a bar before the Wellington Test against India in February and he has been suspended on previous occasions for drink-related misdemeanours.

Essex's coach, Paul Grayson, said last week that the club were weighing up their options for an overseas signing. They will not see much of England captain Alastair Cook after the first month of the season and could also lose Ravi Bopara for significant periods. Ryder will provide a proven international replacement at the top of the order and follows fellow New Zealanders Hamish Rutherford, James Franklin, Scott Styris and Tim Southee in heading to Chelmsford over recent years.

"I'm thrilled to have been given the opportunity to represent Essex," Ryder said. "This couldn't have come at a better time as I want to get as much cricket as possible over the New Zealand winter. It's an added bonus that there are a few of the guys who I have played with before, the side looks very strong and they have got off to a good start for the season."

Ryder's availability stems in part from missing out on an IPL contract during the auction in February. This will be his first spell in county cricket and gives him another chance to remind the New Zealand selectors of his positive qualities.

Having suffered life-threatening injuries on a night out in Christchurch in March 2013, Ryder recovered to take a full part in the 2013-14 Plunket Shield with a new team, Otago, for whom he scored 776 runs, with four centuries. His form for Otago led to a New Zealand recall, almost two years after being dropped for disciplinary reasons, and he was part of the team for limited-overs series against West Indies and India before another late night cost him a Test recall and removed him from contention for the World T20.