Jesse Ryder, the New Zealand batsman, has said he felt like he was "hung out to dry" in the aftermath of the incident at the Napier hotel during the ODIs against South Africa earlier this year. Ryder said he had not done anything wrong and the whole episode, which in his opinion was blown out of proportion, diminished his love for cricket.
"I think what happened in that South African series really did burn me out - the whole going out and wrecking team protocol thing," Ryder told Fairfax NZ News. "In my opinion, I didn't do anything wrong whatsoever. I wasn't even injured and it all just escalated into something that it shouldn't have. I felt like I was hung out to dry. I knew I was going to take the full force of it too because that's just the way it goes really."
Following the defeat in the Napier ODI in February, Ryder and Doug Bracewell went out to a hotel and were subsequently involved in an argument with a patron. New Zealand Cricket said the players had broken team protocol and compromised their preparation for the third one-dayer. They were dropped from the squad.
"Other guys would argue that I shouldn't have put myself in that position but I didn't see anything wrong with what I was doing," Ryder said. "I didn't go out and get drunk. The only reason it escalated was because two guys at the pub were giving us s*** and I told them to f*** off. All of a sudden, New Zealand Cricket was getting calls to say that we were in a fight and that was just bollocks."
Ryder revealed that he went on an alcohol binge after he left the team and returned to Wellington. "I think throughout that last month after I left the Black Caps [New Zealand team], the drinking got real bad and I would start getting on the p*** on a Friday night and I'd still be going on Sunday. I was just hammering it and it did get to a point where I think I needed to hit rock bottom to see how bad things actually were."
Since then, Ryder said he was taking an indefinite break from cricket but played the IPL with a support structure in place. He and the New Zealand board agreed he wouldn't get a central contract as well until he was ready.
"After that low period, I finally managed to really pull my head in and get my s*** together, and I'm 102 or 103 days sober now," Ryder said. "I'm also probably in the best head-space I've been in for a long time. In the end, everything's probably going to work out for the best. I think I'm a completely different person now than I was six months ago. I'm sharper, fitter and on to it."
Ryder said getting through the IPL without an incident was a challenge he was pleased to have overcome. And though he has been sober previously and then fallen off the wagon, he said this time was different. "I think the whole reason for that is, for the first time, this is my call to stop the drinking. This time it's not about having everyone else push me into it. In the past, I've just been frustrated the whole time, you know? But this time, it was my call. It's all on me. I want to do this for myself."
With Ryder not being considered for selection by New Zealand for the moment, he has got involved in other activities, boxing for instance. On July 5, Ryder will fight New Zealand radio host Mark Watson. He isn't missing cricket yet.
"I've had a whole lot of other things to focus on and, if anything, it's probably been a real breath of fresh air," Ryder said. "I'm so excited about this winter. I'm going to be able to go snowboarding for the first time. It's something I've always wanted to do but because I've always been contracted I haven't been allowed to go out and do that sort of stuff. I've got a lot of fitness goals and stuff away from cricket that I want to achieve too."
While he does not have a timeframe for a possible return to competitive cricket for or in New Zealand, Ryder said he still had goals in the game that he wanted to achieve. "I'll definitely love cricket again. I think this little break will do me wonders. If I continue the way I'm going, I'll come back as a better player and a better person. I want to be one of the best batsmen that New Zealand has seen, really.
"A whole lot of stuff that I'm doing now is basically done with the intention of proving a point to a lot of people who have bagged me or said I couldn't do something. I want to get in there and shut them all up."