Come back Andrew Symonds, all is forgiven
The World Twenty20 starts this week, and Australia has already lost a warm-up match to Zimbabwe. It’s no toughie to work out why. Beyond Dave Warner, Shane Watson and Cameron White, our batting order lacks firepower. The bang crash wallop only one man can deliver. But that man, presumably, is on a fishing boat somewhere.
I was in India last week on assignment for Alpha magazine. One of my stops was the IPL match between Dave Warner’s Delhi Daredevils and the Deccan Chargers, captained by Adam Gilchrist and starring Andrew Symonds.
Symonds was just unbelievable. On a tricky, slow pitch where all other batsmen failed to dominate, he produced an array of heaves, swipes and dabs. One minute he swung his revolutionary Mongoose bat like a lumberjack. The next, it was a delicate wizard’s wand.
His versatility was also on show in the field, where Symonds sent down two miserly overs at four runs apiece. Lithe and assured on the boundary, he looked more likely to buy Cricket Australia chief James Sutherland a beer than let anything through to the rope. Unsurprisingly, he was Man of the Match.
Symonds has been variously described as “troubled” and “ill-disciplined”, euphemisms which mean he doesn’t fit CA’s squeaky clean mould in its ongoing battle for Australian sport’s moral high ground. He is not currently one of CA’s 25 contracted players, and at age 34, is unlikely to be again. But he should be.
Symonds’ last appearance in Australian colours was at the most recent instalment of the biennial World Twenty20 tournament, which for reasons best known to TV rights negotiators, was a mere 10 months ago, in England. Before the tourney, he spent a boozy morning watching the State of Origin back in Australia, violating the explicit no grog policy of the team sponsored by VB. Game over. Pack your bags, son.
Yes, it was another chapter in a past more chequered than the flannies he wears away from cricket – a past that includes various team curfew violations caused by a combination of booze and poor diary skills, and late night scuffles, usually provoked by drunk attention-seekers.
But would someone, please, remind me of the heinous crime that Andrew Symonds has committed in the mould of say, AFL serial idiot Wayne Carey or NRL glasser Greg Bird? The Melbourne Storm players were given free boats. Safe to assume Roy’s beloved tinny was purchased through his own hard-earned.
Symonds has been quietly dignified since his axing last June. Apart from a 60 Minutes appearance in 2009, he hasn’t sought to buy back favour through the tell-all book and public displays of crocodile tears.
Indian journalists I spoke to last week are shocked that there is no place for him in the Australian team. Fans, too. Almost no one in India can believe that authorities here are so short-sighted and vindictive as to keep him on the outer.
Oh, and for the record, most Indians bear no grudge against Symonds for fulfilling his obligation and reporting Harbhajan Singh for calling him a monkey. They don’t blame Harby either, on the grounds that the word “monkey” in India is not considered an offensive taunt, much like the term “bastard” in Australia. But that’s another story.
Admittedly, most Indians are unaware of Symonds’ spat with Australia’s T20 skipper Michael Clarke. That, more anything, is what makes his return to Australia’s T20 team an impossibility.
A shame, a real shame. As his IPL performances proved, Symonds is still our best T20 bat by the length of his fishing line. He may even be a reformed character. For what it’s worth, he was behaving himself immaculately at the ridiculously ostentatious IPL after-party last week – at least till I left at about 3:30am.
Bottom line: Andrew Symonds has never sexually assaulted anyone, texted nude images of his lover to his mates, glassed his girlfriend or shat on a hotel carpet. You don’t need me to remind you that the four rats accused of said acts are now back playing their respective football codes.
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