File photo: New Zealand cricketer Jesse Ryder bats at a practice session for the World Cup in Ahmedabad. AP
Battered New Zealand cricketer Jesse Ryder was showing signs of improvement on Friday and gave family the thumbs-up as police charged two men with assaulting the gifted batsman in a savage beating.
Ryder was attacked by a group of men as he left a bar in the South Island city of Christchurch early Thursday, and was rushed to hospital in a critical condition where he was placed in an induced coma.
His manager Aaron Klee said Ryder was responsive on Friday and had given the thumbs-up to medical staff and members of his family who rushed to be at his bedside.
Ryder remains in an intensive care unit in a stable condition and requires help with breathing because of an injury to his lung while the extent of his head injury has yet to be determined.
His mother Heather and his partner Ally thanked people around the world for sending messages of sympathy and police for arresting "people responsible for the heinous crime committed on our Jesse".
"Jesse will be chuffed knowing how many people care and have reached out, including the huge number of cricket fans and players from around the world," they said in a statement.
"We have read many of the messages online over the past 24 hours and we are keeping them for Jesse to read when he recovers."
Police said they had charged a 20-year-old man and a 37-year-old relative of his with the assault and they would appear in court next Thursday.
"Two or three" people attacked Ryder as he left a bar and then resumed the assault when the injured player made his way to the car park of a fast-food outlet across the road, police said.
Although Ryder has a history of alcohol-related incidents and had been drinking before he was attacked, police said alcohol was not a factor in this instance.
Closed-circuit television footage showed the 28-year-old Ryder shaking hands with one of his alleged attackers moments before the assault started, according to bar owner Steve Holmes.
Holmes told Fairfax Media after reviewing the footage that the assault was "completely unexpected".
He said Ryder, who had been drinking with his Wellington team-mates after losing a season-ending match against Canterbury, was leaving the bar when one of the attackers called out to him.
Ryder went back to talk to the man and the two appeared to chat before shaking hands, Holmes said.
After a few minutes he said the "body language changed" between the two. Ryder walked out of the bar and the man followed him, seemingly yelling after him.
"There was no altercation until the cricket team left basically," he said. "No one was heavily intoxicated, it was just a mediocre Wednesday night."
Regan Harvey, who witnessed the assault and has given a statement to the police, believed Ryder was the target of an unprovoked "hate fight".
Harvey was drinking at the bar when he heard the fight erupt.
"As I walked out there were a couple of guys beating up this one guy on the ground" and one of the attackers gave "two massive kicks" into Ryder's stomach and rib cage, he said.
Ryder is on a self-imposed exile from international cricket while he addresses "personal issues" and has rejected calls to return to the New Zealand team despite an outstanding domestic season.
He last played for New Zealand a year ago in a one-day match against South Africa.
He was dropped for the next game when he breached team rules and went drinking in a bar where he verbally reacted to taunts from a member of the public.
Ryder was due to fly to India this weekend to compete for the Delhi Daredevils in the lucrative Indian Premier League. The team has wished him a speedy recovery.