Australia in South Africa 2008-09 February 3, 2009

About time for tough call


On the outer: At 33, Andrew Symonds might feel it's easier to head to India © Getty Images

Finally, Cricket Australia has got serious with Andrew Symonds, but it might be too late for the national set-up to benefit. By the time Symonds is eligible for international selection again the Indian Premier League will be about to start and he will have the choice of US$1.35 million for six weeks of Twenty20 or play for an organisation that has officially tired of him.

Symonds has a conviction sheet as long as his dreadlocks, but with him out of form and fitness - and barely in control - the Cricket Australia board, following a recommendation from the chief executive James Sutherland, told him he was not in the Test squad for South Africa. The senior players were the ones who started the push for him to be sent home following last year's Darwin adventure and while he was left out of the subsequent India Test series, the flimsiness of the ruling was shown when he was brought back as soon as the team returned. Nothing had changed.

Since the season started he has struggled for runs and been in more trouble, first with an over-eager fan in a Brisbane hotel and then during his Brendon McCullum "lump of s..." interview. A fine for the radio comments was the final slap in a path of punishments that winds back to his night out in Cardiff before the Bangladesh defeat in 2005. Despite the most recent regressions, Sutherland said after the South Africa judgment that Symonds was "making good progress" with his rehabilitation, which indicates the potential for the decision makers to soften again.

In a rare diversion from what it is usually considered important, Symonds' increased counselling programme will have priority over his Australian and Queensland commitments. Presumably he will be able to arrange his sessions away from match and training times, but it will limit his off-field promotions, something he has been pushing for since asking for a pay cut during his contract negotiations last year. Even when he loses, Symonds manages some wins.

However, at 33, he might feel it's too much hassle to follow all the self-help sheets while answering hours of open-ended questions. His long-term mate Matthew Hayden has gone and a newer breed of players seem less enamoured with his distracting indiscretions.

Ricky Ponting, one of Symonds' main promoters, speaks of the allrounder as a great player. A great friend might be a better description of someone Ponting can rely on during a match. What is more important at the moment, as the slumping Australian team seeks leadership and long-term examples, is that they have players the whole set-up can rely on. Symonds is not one of those men, no matter what his counsellors say.

Peter English is the Australasia editor of Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Swissie on February 5, 2009, 21:56 GMT

    CA have not made the right decision and Mr. English says some quite silly things. As Cricket lovers we want to enjoy the game: Symonds is one of the few modern Australian players not suffering from the behavioural hernia imposed on the team by the so called marketing savvy CA hierarchy. The team performances in the ODI arena without him reflect this.

  • James on February 5, 2009, 14:02 GMT

    Symonds is a very good player, perhaps the one I would most prefer to watch. He is also a Test-level player. I agree that why he is not in the squad for South Africa is mysterious. I am a cricket spectator, not a moralist. I don't recall Symonds's showing by his Test performance that he has to be dropped. Is it that there is something that, if it were disclosed, would be defamatory and actionable? This can't be answered, without the action's ensuing. This, then, proves that calling on other than cricket values in selection is futile. I fear the bureaucratisation of cricket has pushed the selectors into a fallacy.

  • Jason on February 4, 2009, 12:37 GMT

    It pains me to say this but Symonds day may well be done. I understand that Warney and other sporting heroes have probably behaved worse and lived another day, but Symonds doesnt have 700 test wickets, and before his drunken ordeal he even hinted at retirement after the Ashes series. With all the difficulties the Australian team is having on the park it doesn't need to have the media circus of a drunken Symonds off it. Sad to say he is just not worth it anymore. Australia may have to put another great cricketer behind them and continue the rebuilding.

    Having said this Andy if you are reading this I would LOVE you to prove me wrong!

  • anand on February 4, 2009, 8:59 GMT

    I agree with peter on this isssue. With due respect to every comment, I fail to fathom why d harbajan fiasco is dragged as a garb to hide symmo's misdemenours. Personally I feel symmo has always been overrated. His stats support d fact. His persona is imposing but arguably disgusting.There is no dearth of talent in this aussie team & I still back them to beat SA, if their bowling can come good. As for symmo, I feel he has chosen a wrong sport as a career. he was better suited for some contact sport[rem'br d way he barged a streaker in CB SERIES match]. Com'n folks, no player is bigger than game.

  • Ritesh on February 4, 2009, 6:56 GMT

    It seems Symonds has this uncanny ability of getting under the skin of not only his opponents but also his own team mates and the cricket administrators in his country. Disrespectful, boorish, foul-mouthed are the words that can be used to best describe him, which, by the way will be equally applicable to Hayden, Ponting and a dozen other Australian cricketers. The problem is Symonds also has a 'couldn't care less' attitude to boot. Hayden and Ponting are equally abrasive and have said worse things about the opposition (calling Harbhajan an obnoxious little weed) and have gotten away. That's because they quickly swung into damage control mode. More importantly, they never did anything to undermine the interests of their own team, like turning up drunk before a match. What Australian cricketers need to understand is that one doesn't need to be badly behaved to be a champion player or side. Ask Dhoni. If they need an example closer home, ask Mike Hussey.

  • Pradeep on February 4, 2009, 6:32 GMT

    What is all the brouhaha about? Symonds had it coming for quite some months. Knowledge, skill, physical fitness and attitude are needed to succeed at the highest level. Symonds has never been a well rounded sportsman.

  • Iqbell on February 4, 2009, 4:40 GMT

    Roy you will be missed, you would agree that you shot yourself in the foot. however wether you had been good as well the sword of damoceles was always hanging, dont forget you was one of the who could have been vice captain the elimination process began long before you had gone fishing. Good luck!!!

  • Keith on February 4, 2009, 3:57 GMT

    In regards to Gilly's comments, don't forget when Colin Croft deliberately barged a New Zealand umpire when the West Indies were in NZ in 1980. Can't get much lower than that.

  • django on February 4, 2009, 3:45 GMT

    Well this has to be the end for him now. I cant help but think CA has some responsibility in all this. If only they had stood up for their own player when he was under attack by India, I think things may be different now.

    Of course Symonds must take responsibility for his actions but CA should have supported him when he needed it most instead of kowtowing to BCCI. Now, both mentally and form wise I dont think he will make it back and Australia have lost a very good player. Such a waste really, he really was a better batsmen than his test record will show.

  • Michael on February 4, 2009, 2:33 GMT

    I'm glad Symonds isn't going to Suth Africa. Apart from the appauling conduct from someone who is representing his country (though I accept that he is a cult hero for many people who are just as disrespectful as he is), it is clear that he has some serious problems that he needs to sort out. An argument can be made for keeping him in familiar environs while he tries to sort them out, but with the speculation last year over whether he would quit the game I'm sure he would find other things to do with his time. The important thing is to support him while he sorts out his issues - and keeping media spotlights on him due to performances might not be the best way to do it. He needs help, or he will likely end up a washed-up drunkard and ruin his life. And, if that weren't enough to convince his supporters that it's in his best interests, then certainly his form doesn't warrant selection. 94 runs in one game and hardly anything the rest of the summer - and he's hardly bowling, either.

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