Jesse Ryder was on the verge of completing a remarkable return to international cricket Sunday when he was named on the fringe of the New Zealand squad for next month's two Tests against India.
New Zealand have kept the same 12 players who won the second and third Tests against the West Indies last month with Ryder added as cover for Ross Taylor whose wife is expecting their second child.
The 29-year-old Ryder's first step back into the international arena after a turbulent two years on the sidelines came last month when he was named in the New Zealand one-day international side.
Although loathe to tinker with a winning Test unit, chief selector Bruce Edgar said Ryder was one of a number of players in the ODI squad -- including Martin Guptill, Hamish Bennett and Jimmy Neesham -- pushing for Test selection.
While New Zealand have kept the same frontline 12 Test players as a reward for how they have played, coach Mike Hesson said they realised India posed a much tougher prospect than an under-strength West Indies.
"We were thrilled the way we played to beat the West Indies 2-0, but realise we?ll have to step it up another gear when playing India. It?s an exciting challenge," he said.
Ryder, a self-confessed "bad boy" who is regarded by many in New Zealand as a cult hero, went into a self-imposed exile 22 months ago to sort out personal issues following several alcohol-related incidents.
In March last year, he suffered a fractured skull and was placed in an induced coma in hospital after being beaten up outside a bar.
He also received a six-month ban last year after testing positive to a performance-enhancing drug found in weight-loss pills he was taking.
The burly left-hander is a prodigiously talented batsman, averaging 40.93 from 33 Test innings and 34.00 in ODIs, from 40 innings.
New Zealand: Brendon McCullum (captain), Corey Anderson, Trent Boult, Doug Bracewell, Peter Fulton, Hamish Rutherford, Jesse Ryder, Ish Sodhi, Tim Southee, Ross Taylor, Neil Wagner, BJ Watling, Kane Williamson.
Test openers Fulton and Rutherford will also play in the New Zealand XI side in a two day warm-up match against India beginning on February 2.
The first Test starts in Auckland on February 6 and the second is in Wellington starting on February 14.