Symonds eyes role as global Twenty20 freelancer
Andrew Symonds could earn up to one million rand ($120,000) for less than two months' work in South Africa's domestic 50- and 20-over leagues if, as expected, he reinvents himself as the world's first freelance Twenty20 player. The Australian allrounder, who is expected to announce his retirement from international cricket on Wednesday, has already received expressions of interest from Pro20 franchises in South Africa, and could feasibly participate in four domestic 20-over tournaments across the globe next year.
Deccan Chargers, the defending IPL champions, have already declared their intention to retain Symonds' services at the princely sum of $1.35 million per season. Symonds' home state, Queensland, are also seeking to keep him on their books, and speculation in England is rife that the controversial allrounder could join the county ranks in the near future.
Should he become cricket's first notable Twenty20 mercenary , Symonds' earnings could dwarf those he stood to earn under his current Cricket Australia deal. A reduction in his bowling workload could also extend his playing career, and his global exposure may go some way to restoring his marketability, which has taken a sizeable hit after a slew of recent controversies.
Cricinfo sources have revealed that Symonds could top-up his substantial IPL earnings by up to one million rand should he opt to play in South Africa's Pro20 tournament next year. Sanath Jayasuriya is understood to have commanded a similar figure during his stint with the Dolphins last year - split between the franchise and a third-party sponsor - and senior South African provincial officials expect the Australian will command similar levels of interest should he make himself available next season.
Franchises in the South African league are permitted one overseas player, subject to approval by the national board, and payments to 'imports' fall outside teams' salary caps.
"Everyone knows he is a brilliant one-day and Twenty20 cricketer," Cassim Docrat, the chief executive of KwaZulu Natal and the Dolphins Pro20 franchise, told Cricinfo. "I'm sure people would have to take a look at the disciplinary aspect of taking him on, but if you're asking me would franchises be interested, then the answer is almost certainly yes. You would have to give it serious thought."
Andre Odendaal, chief executive of Western Province and the Cape Cobras Pro20 franchise, concurred. "There is more and more incentive for top players to play in South Africa," he told Cricinfo. "I would not be surprised if a player like Symonds attracted a lot of interest. A player of his quality could help most teams."
South Africa's Pro20 tournament runs from January to February - which partially overlaps the Big Bash in Australia - and precedes the IPL (scheduled for March-April in 2010) and the proposed P20 competition in England (June-September). Symonds will also play in the 2009 Twenty20 Champions League, following Deccan's IPL victory last month, and could figure in the planned Southern Premier League - a joint venture between the Australian, South African and New Zealand boards based on the Super 14 provincial rugby model - which has been bracketed for an October, 2011 launch date.
A move to England certainly appears on the cards. Rod Bransgrove, Hampshire's millionaire owner, was reportedly drinking with Symonds in London on the night that led to the allrounder's eventual expulsion from Australia's WorldTwenty20 squad. Symonds has previously played with Gloucestershire, Kent and Lancashire, and could qualify as a local player given he was born in Birmingham.
Matt Fearon, Symonds' agent, told Cricinfo last week his client would consider becoming a freelance Twenty20 player if, as most assume, he announces his retirement from international cricket. Symonds met with Michael Brown, Cricket Australia's chief operating officer, in Brisbane on Monday, where he was informed he would not be offered another central contract. He will sit down with Fearon on Wednesday, after which an announcement regarding his resignatiion from the Australian team is expected.
"It's fair to say he's constantly sought after from many regions, both prior to this happening and currently," Fearon told AAP. "They are areas we haven't explored before because he's always been focused on playing international cricket. They're options for him if he chooses to do that."
"There's no doubt he's looking at continuing to play cricket and there are good opportunities there for him. But it will be about enjoyment rather than 'this is where I can make the most money.'
"As far as where the Australian team is headed and the culture within, that's changed significantly and he's no longer a good fit there. Queensland Cricket have been a big part of his career and are supporting him now and would be an avenue for him as well."
Alex Brown is deputy editor of Cricinfo