When you think of Jesse Ryder, a cricketer who has plenty of international experience under his belt, you wouldn’t usually associate him with the Haka.
Especially as we regularly see the dominant All Blacks perform the traditional war cry and dance before every rugby match in what is one of sport’s greatest and most spectacular sights.
But it’s something that Ryder had to get to grips with after being named in the 12-man New Zealand squad for the recently concluded Indoor Cricket World Cup at Dubai’s InSportz Club.
The fact that the all-rounder, who once represented the Black Caps in all formats on the international stage, made the final cut took most people by surprise when the squads were announced in August – let alone those who witnessed his New Zealand side performing the Haka.
Even more so considering that just three weeks before the global tournament began on September 16, Ryder was on the books of St Lucia Stars and shared the same dressing room with the likes of former Australian all-rounder Shane Watson and World Twenty20- winning captain Darren Sammy at the Caribbean Premier League.
But indoor cricket is something that he has had a close association with from a young age. It was more than 20 years ago since he was first introduced to the game and despite establishing himself in the outdoor version, he still continues to be involved in the indoor scene for the fun of it.
“I started when I was 14 or even younger,” he told Sport360. “I played quite a bit and enjoyed it. If I wasn’t enjoying it, I wouldn’t be playing it. “I had the whole winter off (in New Zealand) and I found that I wasn’t doing much at that time. So I just started playing indoors with my mates and in the end, I ended up playing in the domestic tournaments in New Zealand.
“I think it’s more to do about the social kinds of things. For me, it’s a whole new competition for me and it’s something that I hadn’t played for seven years. It’s been really enjoyable and I love getting back into it.”
Anyone who follows the format will notice that indoor cricket is a completely different ball game to what we see from the elite international cricketers on television.
Played inside nets, matches consist of 16 overs with batsmen batting as pairs for four overs each with different methods of scoring. It requires players to be alert because for each wicket that falls, the team is deducted five runs from their total. Yet, Ryder has shown that he’s more than capable of testing himself in what is a fast-paced game even at the age of 33.
The opportunity of playing in his first Indoor Cricket World Cup (ICWC) in Dubai also whetted his appetite to do something he had never done before with the Black Caps and win a global tournament.
“It’s the first winter I’ve taken it pretty seriously so I was pretty keen to get into the New Zealand squad for this World Cup and get things going,” he said. “When I found out I was selected it was an awesome feeling. It’s always awesome to represent your country. Even more so at an Indoor Cricket World Cup because it was my first time playing in this tournament.”
As much as he was excited to play in another World Cup, the dream of getting his hands on the trophy were dashed at the final hurdle.
The Kiwis went all the way to the championship showdown but for the seventh time in their history, came undone to their nearest neighbours and rivals Australia, losing 94-48 on Saturday.
“We had worked really hard for this and we just had to play our own game. I felt that we were good enough to go the whole way,” he said. Although the indoor version is widely popular among Test-playing nations, it is still played by amateurs, who juggle their passion with full-time jobs. Out of more than 400 players who took to the indoor pitches at InSportz Club over the seven days of the ICWC, Ryder was by far the most high-profile cricketer.
He is a person who has won more than 60 international caps for the Black Caps, and has also donned Royal Challengers Bangalore and Pune Warriors shirts in the most glamorous and extravagant Twenty20 competition in the world – the IPL. But despite making a name for himself, he still feels like a newbie when it comes to playing inside the nets.
“I think I learn off more of my indoor team-mates than anything,” he said. “A lot of them have been playing this game a lot more than what I’ve been playing. I had that seven years off and am still getting back in the shot of things. If people want my help, then I’m more than happy to give my advice.”
He will have to wait at least two more years before he gets another shot at world glory but in the meantime he will continue playing both formats. After all, each has its own benefits in helping raise his own game.
“It could even be the other way round,” replied Ryder on whether the indoor game’s skills helps him for outdoor cricket.
“You learn how to play the ball much later and fielding and reaction time and other things is interesting. It goes both ways but I find that the indoor game helps me with my outdoor game especially when playing with a swinging ball. Personally, it helps me with my outdoor game more than my outdoor game helps with my indoor game.”
It’s been more than three years since he last played for the Black Caps. As a veteran of 18 Tests, 48 ODIs and 22 T20Is, he admits the chances are unlikely he will be able to add to that tally but hinted there’s plenty left in the tank.
“It would be nice but it’s something that’s in the back of my mind,” he said. “I’m happy playing domestically and enjoying my cricket. “I still feel I have heaps of outdoor life in me but not much international, but I’ll still play for my domestic side and continue playing indoors throughout the winter.”
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