Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Jesse Ryder is the antithesis of a box of chocolates; you always know what you are going to get with him.

Another tour, another injury and Groundhog Day is upon him. This time it’s a calf muscle he has strained. You know that thing; it’s on one’s leg, which is under the torso, along with the rest of the body. That’s a lot of weight to carry around. And not many cricketers carry as much around as Ryder does.

That he spends much time at the all day buffet is clearly beyond doubt. For president of the company he has become as he liked the product so much (apologies to the writer of the original line).

Why the big man doesn’t consider losing some of the excess baggage escapes this mind, and I suspect, many others, too. The biggest shame of all is that it appears to continuously pass by the attention of Ryder’s mind.

One would have thought that by now, after so many injuries, it would have occurred to him that the more weight on one’s frame the more the chance of getting injured. After all, it has got to putting excessive stress on his muscles and joints.

At the very least, you would think that those closest to Ryder might have got in his ear and offered some well chosen words of wisdom.

That is if he is of the mind to listen, of course. A suspicion remains, though, that the talented one does not care enough to take time out of his busy social schedule of drinking, eating and partying to heed the advice of others.

And therein lies the problem. As is often the case, those with less talent care more than the lucky few such as Ryder who possess abilities that the rest of us can only dream about.

Sad really, that with all that talent, he is content to amble his way through a career that could bring untold riches. But not just riches in the monetary sense. Of course, he will make plenty there. No, there are other aspects to a career that matter just as much. Things like scoring twenty test centuries instead of eight. Like finishing your career with an average of sixty instead of forty-five. And knowing at the end of it all, that there was no stone left unturned in the pursuit of excellence as every last little drop of ability was forced out of your being.

Oh, and there is that small matter of gaining the respect of one’s peers.

But, then, maybe he just doesn’t care about that. Or perhaps, he simply doesn’t get it.

Either way, the risk remains that a star that could burn brighter than Venus in the morning and evening put together, may end up flickering on and off intermittently over the next five or so years before giving up the ghost entirely with very little to show for itself.

Sure, Ryder’s bank balance won’t need too much in the way of sating by the end of it all. What with a tidy base salary from New Zealand Cricket, and an annual top up of US$500,000 – maybe more – from his endeavours in the IPL 20/20 circus, he’s got it made financially.

If that’s what does it for him, that’s okay, I suppose.

The IPL has a lot to answer for, though. It may be the future in the eyes of many, but what it has done is allow the likes of Ryder to earn big money, all the time knowing that he has an income to fall back on regardless of what happens in his Test career. In other words, the power has aligned itself on the side of the players, with the administrators left to look on helplessly as the likes of Ryder run roughshod over the needs of the Test team.

And so talented is he that no one dares to call him on his rather wayward attitude. Not even his peers. That is the most peculiar part of it all. They must know how crucial Ryder is to the team’s aspirations. And yet they stand idly by and tolerate Ryder’s laziness for fear of upsetting him. Maybe it is time for Captain, Ross Taylor, and other senior members of the Black Caps to read the riot act to Ryder. Forget the management team; Ryder will pay them no attention. But wait and see what happens when his teammates turn against him. They may find that deep down he wants to be liked as much as the next guy. And that being shunned by his peers may be the catalyst for a change of attitude.

Which brings us back to Ryder’s weight. If he is to fulfil his potential, a high level of fitness is key. This means losing some weight for starters. He needn’t take it to extremes. Now, he is never going to have the build of a stick, and nobody would seriously suggest that he should aspire to that.

Just take off ten kilos – even five would be a good start - through the novel approach of eating a bit less and exercising a bit more.

Just watch his performance go through the roof, then. For the fitter one is the better one can concentrate. And that means less chance of getting out through poor shot selection due to tiredness. That average of sixty beckons for Ryder.

In the end, it is about showing pride in oneself. Not of the narcissistic kind, of course, but in the sense of being the best that he can possibly be.

For no one has ever been vilified for trying and failing, only for failing to try.

Though, if he doesn’t be careful, his thirties will be on him before he realises it, and he will have wasted the opportunity to be remembered for a twenty test century career and as the greatest batsman in New Zealand Cricket history.

Alas, it's scary what Ryder could do, if only he could see just how good he could be.

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