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Cricket's 'bad boy' Ryder admits hitting rock bottom before making turnaround

July 1, 2012 - Wellington

International cricket's "Bad Boy", Jesse Ryder, appears to be sorting out his booze-related problems, which resulted in him losing out on a New Zealand Cricket central contract for the 2012-13 season.

In an interview with Fairfax Sports, Ryder revealed that he still retains the desire to be recognized as "one of the best batsmen that New Zealand has seen."

Admitting that he had hit "rock bottom" earlier this year during the series against the South Africans and the domestic cricket bash-up incident at a Napier hotel, Ryder said that at point of time he felt he wanted to quit cricket and jumped on a plane to go home.

Back in Wellington, he said that initially he felt sorry for himself, and found solace where it could always be found - the bottle, and embarked on a path towards self destruction.

He said that friends tried to intervene, but he wasn't interested.

He wanted out. Out of cricket, out of the public scrutiny. He wanted to be normal.

Speaking for the first time about last summer's dramatic fall from grace, Ryder said: "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."

That was almost four months ago. But for Ryder it feels more like a lifetime.

Now, he hasn't touched a drop of alcohol in more than 100 days. He's looking slim, hasn't picked up a cricket bat in ages and on Thursday will step into a boxing ring in Auckland to fight radio host Mark Watson.

Now, he genuinely looks like a lean, mean fighting machine.

As if that transformation wasn't unsettling enough, he also appears to have embraced the boxing business in its entirety.

"I just sent a tweet out today about the fact that the KFC Godfather of Fight Nights is ...," he says, unable to finish the sentence after cracking himself up.

"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 says.

"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.

"Look, I know I've had the drinking problem. But that's it and it's sorting itself as we go on a day-by-day basis. I'm all good," he says, adding that, actually, he has never been happier.

That partly stems from the fact that, for the first time in years, he doesn't have to answer to the powers that be at New Zealand Cricket.

In late May, he signalled to them that he didn't want a national contract, turning his back on a retainer of more than 150,000 dollars a year in the process.

But at the same time, he also discovered a new lease of life.

"I'm definitely not missing cricket at all. 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," he says.

"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," Ryder says.

Ryder has fallen out of love with cricket and doesn't yet know when the love affair will be rekindled.

What he is sure of, though, is that he will be back.


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