Symonds out of South Africa tour
Andrew Symonds' international playing future is in serious doubt after Cricket Australia's directors ruled he should be stood down from a second consecutive overseas tour. Symonds will not be considered for Australia's three-Test contest in South Africa when the selectors convene on Wednesday.
Symonds will instead undergo further psychological counselling and represent Queensland in a last-ditch attempt to convince both the selectors and the Cricket Australia board that he remains a viable Test player. He was ruled out of Australia's tour of India last year after Cricket Australia board members upheld the recommendation of the team's leadership group following the allrounder's ill-advised fishing excursion in Darwin.
This time, the board concurred with the sentiments of the Cricket Australia chief executive James Sutherland, who advised that the 33-year-old not be considered for South Africa after his outburst towards Brendon McCullum. Symonds was fined A$4000 for the "lump of s..." comments during a radio interview with the comedians Roy and HG.
Sutherland said in a statement Symonds would need to "review and reaffirm his personal documented commitments" if he was to be considered for Australia's one-day international series against Pakistan in April. Fortnightly reports on his progress will also be sent to Cricket Australia.
"Our assessment is that he is making good progress but that his commitment needs testing against new, tougher criteria we will finalise after consultation with his counsellors, the ACA [Australian Cricketers' Association] and Queensland Cricket," Sutherland said. "We have a responsibility to Andrew and his welfare, but we also have a responsibility to Australian cricket to ensure his commitment is as it needs to be before he can be considered for national selection".
The future now appears bleak for Symonds, who will be ineligible for Australian selection until the end of the Sheffield Shield season, at which time Cricket Australia will announce its 25-man contract list. Symonds will have missed eight of Australia's last 12 Tests by then - seven on behavioural grounds - and will turn 34 before the Ashes. With Shane Watson, Ashley Noffke and Andrew McDonald all expected to be available for the series in England, Symonds faces an uphill battle to be considered Australia's pre-eminent allrounder.
The decision to stand Symonds down is intriguing on several levels. Ricky Ponting's strong endorsement for Symonds' inclusion in the touring party has been all but ignored, which some will interpret as an erosion of the captain's power base. And Cricket Australia will no doubt be bracing for criticism over their handling of the tempestuous Symonds. Many observers felt he was recalled to the national squad too soon after the Darwin controversy.
Symonds seldom appeared comfortable in his four matches in Australia this summer. He averaged 23.85 in Tests against New Zealand and South Africa, and was withdrawn from the game in Sydney to undergo arthroscopic knee surgery. On his first-class return for Queensland over the past week he managed 5 and 3 against Western Australia.
Alex Brown is deputy editor of Cricinfo