Nine months after he was beaten so badly outside a Christchurch bar that he was placed in an induced coma for three days, Jesse Ryder is set to step back into international cricket.
The 29-year-old is expected to be included in the 13-man ODI squad named by national selection manager Bruce Edgar at the tea break in the third Test in Hamilton on Thursday.
His inclusion will end a 22-month self-imposed exile from the world stage after he took time out from the game to see to personal issues.
During that time, aside from the fractured skull suffered in the assault, he’s copped a six-month ban for testing positive to a performance-enhancing stimulant – weight-loss pills – and moved south to join Otago.
He’s hit two centuries and is averaging a shade under 65 for his new province in the Plunket Shield.
He’s likely to make his international return in the Boxing Day one-dayer at Eden Park and New Zealand Cricket is hoping the cult-hero, ranked fourth in trending New Zealanders on Google in 2013, will see fans stream through the turnstiles.
Captain Brendon McCullum says if Ryder gets the call-up it will have been warranted.
“I’m obviously a big fan of Jesse. His move to Otago was the right move at the right time and he’s doing a great job scoring runs which is the only currency we deal in.
“If he finds himself back in the environment then we know he will have earned it,” he said.
Martin Guptill is likely to join Ryder at the top of the order after being sidelined for surgery on his right ankle and by a fractured finger.
The squad will be selected for the first two one-dayers, in Auckland and Napier, and it is set to include the in-form Trent Boult who last played an ODI in February against England.
Luke Ronchi is primed to take over the wicketkeeping gloves from McCullum who remains hopeful of playing a big part in the five ODIs and two T20s despite an ongoing back injury.
“It’s one game at a time. We’ll deal with the one-dayers when they roll around,” he said of the third Test.
If he does take some time off it is likely that Kane Williamson, who was set to deputise in Sri Lanka before fracturing a thumb, will take over the captaincy.
Jimmy Neesham may win a place ahead of fellow allrounder Corey Anderson to allow the latter to fully recover from a shin complaint that put him under an injury cloud for Hamilton while Tom Latham is set to provide cover at the top of the order.
New Zealand squad (likely): Brendon McCullum (capt), Jesse Ryder, Martin Guptill, Kane Williamson, Ross Taylor, Tom Latham, Corey Anderson/Jimmy Neesham, Luke Ronchi, Nathan McCullum, Kyle Mills, Tim Southee, Trent Boult, Mitchell McClenaghan.