TWO Rotorua businessmen are at the centre of the biggest story in sporting circles today - after getting involved in a heated argument with Black Caps stars Jesse Ryder and Doug Bracewell which led to the cricketers being dropped from this weekend's match.
Abracadabra Cafe & Bar owners Brendon Arkwright and Jason Mills went to watch the Black Caps play South Africa in the second one day international in Napier on Wednesday night.
The two men were at the Cri Cafe Bar & Grill at midnight after the match when they saw three Black Caps players - Jesse Ryder, Doug Bracewell and Tarun Nathula - at the bar.
Mr Arkwright claims Ryder and Bracewell were drinking shots with a group of patrons. He approached Ryder and asked him if it was a good idea to be drinking after not scoring any runs against South Africa.
He told The Daily Post yesterday that Ryder and a man with him verbally abused him in response.
"I was surprised by his reaction. There were other people coming up to him and saying exactly what I said, 'should you be drinking like you've won the game when you didn't score any runs'. He and one of his mates has taken offence to that and gone off on me."
Mr Mills said he told Mr Arkwright they should leave the bar because he felt it may turn physical.
The two men left the bar and were waiting for a taxi.
"We were outside then Dougie Bracewell left. Brendon said to him: 'Why didn't you make any runs today as well?'."
Mr Mills said Bracewell's friend had to hold him back, but then the cricketer walked away.
"Then we were catching a taxi when Mr Ryder and his group came around the corner and [Ryder] was asked again about scoring some runs - the next thing we know two of his mates tried to grab Brendon out of the taxi wanting to have a fight and saying 'come on let's rumble, let's rumble'.
"Ryder came rushing at us but we just yelled at the taxi driver to say 'let's go, let's go. We just left with Ryder yelling abuse at us and we just rode away."'
Mr Mills said Ryder shouldn't have reacted the way he did.
"If you are a sports star like that you should be used to getting some stick. It wasn't just us either [who made comments], it was just ridiculous."
The manager of Cri Cafe Bar & Gill, who didn't want to be named, said he wasn't working on the night but wasn't aware of any incidents in the bar. He confirmed a number of Black Caps had been in the bar after the match but didn't know which players they were.
"There is nothing in the incident book. If there is an incident then the duty manager makes a note in the incident book and the police are called."
The manager said they have had a number of top sports people come to the bar but hadn't had an incident where the sports people have had a hassle with patrons.
It's not the first alcohol-related incident to involve Ryder. In 2008, after the fifth one-dayer against England in Christchurch, the top order batsman punched through a bar's toilet window injuring his hand. It was later reported he also abused hospital staff. He apologised for the verbal abuse but claimed he didn't have a drinking problem. It was also reported that before the Christchurch incident Ryder was seen by cricket fans in Napier boozing in the early hours of the morning after the fourth one-dayer.
In 2009, Ryder indulged in a late-night drinking session after the third one-dayer against the West Indies.
Ryder missed a team meeting the following morning and was unable to train in the afternoon. He was subsequently dropped for the fourth ODI.
The dropping of the players from tomorrow's match has sparked heated speculation and discussion online and on talkback radio.
Views were mixed, with many saying Ryder's Black Caps contract should be torn up, while others say he should be given another chance.
When Black Caps manager Mike Sandle was contacted by The Daily Post yesterday, Sandle said he had no knowledge of the alleged incident and could not comment until he had talked to the players concerned.
It is understood a meeting was held yesterday between coach John Wright, Sandle and New Zealand cricket players' association boss Heath Mills at the team's motel in Auckland after arriving from Napier.
Last night Sandle told The Daily Post Ryder and Bracewell would not be part of the team for Saturday's third ODI against South Africa in Auckland.
He said the pair broke team protocols which state players recovering from injury should not consume alcohol.
Bracewell was receiving treatment for a tight hamstring and Ryder suffered split webbing in his hand during the match in Napier.
Sandle said while at the bar both players verbally reacted to taunts from a member of the public.
He was disappointed with the pair's behaviour and felt the breach was serious enough to issue the players with a reprimand while reminding them of their responsibilities to the team.
"We have high expectations for all of our players both on and off the field and everyone is aware of the conduct expected of them and how to best prepare for international cricket.
"Further to the issue of breaking team protocols related to their preparation we are disappointed they become involved in a verbal argument with a patron. Despite the fact that the players were goaded, and they didn't allow the situation to escalate past a short exchange of words, we expect players to walk away.
"Both players have apologised for their actions and said they fully understood the consequences. They know they have let down fans and teammates alike."
The test squad was set to be named in Auckland today.
Black Caps captain Brendon McCullum has commented on the incident involving Jesse Ryder and Doug Bracewell.
Talking on Radio Sport this morning McCullum said the team was disappointed by the players actions.
He said the team didn't need "these sorts of distractions".
"You've got a very disappointed bunch of players, and hopefully New Zealand Cricket will take that on board as well," McCullum said.
"There's obviously some contractual obligations which need to be met along the way, which Jesse isn't meeting at this stage, and I'm sure that there'll be some intense discussions between Jesse's people and New Zealand Cricket around that contractual stuff."
McCullum said management had handled the incident well.
"They've been very strong-handed with it, and I think that was what was required, and we can't have these sorts of disruptions in the team either. And Jesse's on the way home today."
Ryder will miss the upcoming first cricket test against South Africa but New Zealand team management say it is form-related and has nothing to do with his latest indiscretion.
Tarun Nethula was also drinking with the pair but was not on the injured list so did not breach team protocol.
It was not Ryder's first indiscretion with alcohol and former New Zealand Cricket chief executive Justin Vaughan had given him a final warning. Large proportions of the New Zealand public are also losing patience with the talented batsman but New Zealand manager Mike Sandle said, because it was not a breach of their code of conduct, his contract was not in jeopardy.
Sandle, coach John Wright and captain Brendon McCullum decided on the sanction and have called up Colin de Grandhomme as a replacement for tomorrow's game.
"This is an internal team [matter]," Sandle said. "It's not a code of conduct. Jesse went out, there was a verbal altercation only. There was no physical or damage to property but he reacted along with Doug to some jibes from a bar patron and to me that was very minor in the scheme of things.
"We are disappointed, really disappointed as a team, that they were out there drinking alcohol and compromising their position and their preparation after the next game.
"I can't say how much [they were drinking]. It wasn't a big night. I know the guys were down town for a few hours. It wasn't an all nighter.
Ryder returned to Wellington this morning and won't be selected for the first test Sadle said.
"That is purely a form issue. John [Wright] will elaborate on that. Jesse not being selected for the first test has nothing to do with this incident in Napier."