|Jesse Ryder weighed |
down by demons
He is such a liability for New Zealand cricket. There is no doubting his natural ability to strike a cricket ball sweetly, making him a potential game breaker in any form, from shortest to longest but his potential comes at a cost. He's a big man and on the field, when not tuned in, there is no hiding his mental waywardness. Off the field, he is a disaster looking for a bar. This latest indiscretion is only the most recent of a series of similar events, almost all related to drinking. Many of the senior players have had enough, especially as this latest escapade dragged a previously squeaky clean Bracewell into the frame for punishment. Both players were dropped from the final ODI at Auckland. Harmony and team morale, already stretched by the build up of losses, deepened with the news of the latest incident.
Whilst comparisons with Australia most recent "wild child" Andrew Symonds are inviting, there are key differences, mostly importantly that Symonds was a far better player. It was his success which made Australian authorities slow to respond in the early stages of Symonds "spirited" behaviour and in the end, that cost the player and his country dearly. There is no question mark over the need for standards. These guys are professional sportsmen and if they can't accept the responsibilities which are part of the contract, then move over, because there is another kid who wants your spot.
The deeper, more concerning problem is that most, if not all of these troubled cricketers have underlying mental health issues which drive their behaviour. Alcoholism is often mentioned. Years ago, Ricky Ponting supposedly "went dry" after a series of alcohol fuelled night club incidents ended with his nose bent, his eye black and his dignity in a King Cross gutter outside the Bourbon and Beefsteak Bar. Drinking to excess is a symptom, not the problem. Failure to recognise the need for mental health intervention or hiding from the fact it takes place, does nothing to help the players involved. Many of the games greatest performers have been bipolar, for instance. They are capable of the most remarkable feats but can also sink to dreadful, self-destructive lows. Some players, including England's Marcus Trescothic, have been courageous in their frankness about the problems depressive cycles cause sportsmen who have so much more expected of them than taking wickets or scoring runs.
Rather than cut Ryder loose, some healing and clever management might give him a better sense of worth and deliver a potent weapon for NZ cricket.
None of which works in the short term and Ryder won't appear at Dunedin.
|Ross Taylor - 122 in his last Test dig|
Chris Martin will lead the Kiwi attack and has already been talking up the series as a battle of the seamers. In his mind, the clash for wickets between he and Dale Steyn will decide the series. Well, at least he isn't talking up his batting! Bracewell will play, as he is New Zealand's best bowler, which leaves two other seamers to pick. Like their counterparts across the Tasman, the Kiwi selectors will fancy left arm pace against the Graeme Smith's batting line up, so the youngster Tim Boult will earn a spot partially through physiology but in fairness, he hasn't done anything wrong in his only Tests against the Aussies in Hobart or Zimbabwe at Bulawayo. That leaves the last spot between the old man Brent Arnel (33) who is not even on contract with New Zealand anymore, Andrew Ellis, who would add starch to number 8 but would be a liability against this opposition with the ball, or Tim Southee. Southee is the most experienced of the trio and is likely to get the spot. Maybe its his age (23) but he just hasn't learned how to bowl on the tight lengths and lines required in Test cricket and any weakness will be confronted with extreme prejudice.
thecricketragics will look at South Africa in detail tomorrow but suffice to say, its looking awfully like a South African whitewash. Martin may be right. The wet summer and the sporting wickets may lead to many wickets tumbling but in those circumstances, you'd fancy the opposition's top six over the home side.