CRICKET: CONTROVERSIAL New Zealand batsman Jesse Ryder is set to sign for Essex as their overseas players for 2014.

The Kiwi was confirmed as the Eagles international star yesterday, but is still waiting on visa clearance before the deal is finalised.

The 29-year-old left hander has played 18 tests for his country with a top score of 201 and has a reputation of being a big hitter at the crease. But his career has been dogged with off the field problems which means he was forced into a two-year break from international cricket.

The most serious incident saw him taken into intensive care in Christchurch with a fractured skull after being attacked outside a bar last year.

Before then, in February 2008, Ryder cut a hand trying to break into a toilet in a Christchurch bar, an injury that required surgery and kept him out of the game for several months.

He was also reprimanded by New Zealand Cricket for turning up to training drunk.

After deciding to take an indefinite break from international cricket to resolve his injury and discipline problems, Ryder returned to the New Zealand team in style on New Year’s Day joining Corey Anderson at the crease against the West Indies to set a record for most team sixes in an ODI innings.

Anderson broke Shahid Afridi’s 17-year-old record of the fastest ODI hundred by one ball, scoring his in 36 balls, while Ryder scored the sixth fastest century with 104 from 46 balls.

Ryder will join a list of fellow New Zealand stars who have turned out for Essex in recent years including Tim Southee, Scott Styris, James Franklin and Hamish Rutherford. Pending visa approval, Ryder said he is thrilled to be coming to the Ford County Ground. He said: “This couldn’t have come at a better time as I want to get as much cricket as possible over the New Zealand winter. It’s an added bonus that there are a few of the guys who I have played with before, the side looks very strong and they have got off to a good start for the season.” Ryder is due to join up with the squad at the start of May.