The Heavyweight Champ

Jesse Ryder celebrates after his maiden double century

Jesse Ryder celebrates after his maiden double century

Pretty good week for New Zealand sports fans huh? First The Warriors hold their nerve against the reigning premiers, then Alison Shanks wins gold in the individual pursuit… Now we’ve got the somewhat improbable spectre of India three down for 79 (no 23/3, but still…) with the small matter of 340 more runs between them and the follow on.

I don’t think any of us scripted a day like this against anyone this summer, let alone India, but this topsy turvy tour continues to delight in the endless surprises it throws up. Jesse Ryder is looking awfully like the kind of batsman oppositions grit their teeth and plan around at the start of a series. You know when you line up Australia and have to pencil 100 runs a test next to Ponting’s name – same goes for Pietersen, Chanderpaul, Smith and a few other batsmen round the world. Ryder’s now scored 768 runs in eight test matches, and looked extremely solid doing it, and maybe we’ve found the rock around which can anchor our batting. Even when Richardson was at his stolid best, or Fleming and Astle their most fluent, none ever strode to the crease with as much assuredness and force as Ryder is at the moment.

Not since Crowe have we had a bastman the opposition have to fear, to assume the worst about. We’ve got plenty of quality batsmen who can chip in from time to time, but Ryder’s something different again. It’s a little dissappointing that cricket doesn’t have an equivalent to baseball’s batting average (itself devised by a cricket statistician), arrived at by dividing runs scored by times at bat. If cricket gave you stats for combined 50s/100s divided by total innings you’d get a sense of how frequently a player hit a score of consequence. I get the feeling the most acclaimed batsmen of our time (amongst them more than a few of this current Indian side) would move even further ahead of much of our team. Maybe I’ll try and do a few this weekend.

In any case, the point is that a team with a player like that to anchor innings is infinitely better able to mount useful test match totals than one without. Almost every team in world cricket has one (though prior to Pieterson’s arrival England had gone a while without one, reflected in their miserable form through much of the ’90s and early 2000s), and in some ways our test performances throughout the past 20 years are more impressive given the lack of a batsman able to average over 50 and make regular, significant contributions.

Obviously it’s very early days – Ryder doesn’t have a statistically significant career yet, and has demons which may not always be as quiet as they’ve been this last couple of months. But the signs are fantastic, and a halcyon day like today, beautifully paced and displaying impressive concentration, should be appreciated as much for its potential implications as what was achieved.

– Duncan

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7 Comments

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7 responses to “The Heavyweight Champ

  1. Fantastic, couldn’t be happier for Ryder, bloody brilliant to see him apply himeslef so well. Still only 24, have to keep working though but today is all about his progress as a test player and his application for the team. Top knock

  2. Its seems such a trap to get too carried away cos this one could easily all go wrong but wouldn’t it be great to have a batsman in the worlds top 10 – there or thereabouts for 5-10 years or so? It all appears so easy for him and in the way that he has so much time he reminds me a little of Crowe. Also loved his reaction at getting out yesterday. Go. go ‘Easy Ryder.’

  3. Duncan

    I know. New Zealand’s cricket history is littered with false dawns and might-have-beens, but Ryder feels different. Something about the guy, the way he’s already overcome so much just to be here means that international cricket is relaxing, pressure free compared to what life has already thrown at him. I just hope our threadbare attack can back up his deeds in the field today. First session is crucial.

  4. Bloody hell- they bloody well have! Next thing you know the Highlanders will be beating the Bulls.

    If fortune is with us tomorrow we could actually do this. At NAPIER ONE OF THE BEST BATTING TRACKS IN THE COUNTRY????????????? What is going on?

  5. Duncan

    Turns out fortune wasn’t with us. Five sessions. Three wickets. Can the ICL finish its meltdown and give us back Tuffey and Bond already?
    ALSO – Am I mental for thinking there’s a weird smidgen of hope for a result left in this game with 16 wickets left to fall and 1 session to play? Surely Sehwag’s not crazy enough to issue a sporting declaration? Yet still I wonder if we send out our ODI openers… Sheesh.

  6. Yes you are mental.

  7. Duncan

    Defo mental – sporting declarations are for Saffas, maybe Englishmen, ockers backed into a corner… Indians one up in a series? nope. But the way they were thrashing about had me shook.

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