June 7, 2009

Michael Jeh

Are Symonds' minders interested in his welfare?

Michael Jeh


Andrew Symonds is entitled to make his own lifestyle choices and accept the consequences © Getty Images
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Apparently Andrew Symonds may have a slight issue with alcohol. Shock, horror. After months of denials from his management team, an assurance from his counsellors that he was ready to take up life in the public spotlight again and complete confidence expressed in him by the selectors/team-mates, apparently there may still be a lingering problem. Really?

Apparently he now faces the very real possibility of having his Cricket Australia contract ripped. Gosh, we never saw that one coming!

Apparently the team and the administrators feel that he’s had enough chances. Apparently the new team culture cannot make any more allowances for someone with an alcohol problem. This surprising revelation came from Ricky Ponting, looking solemn and sad and ever-so-slightly ridiculous in his VB cap and VB team shirt. No place for alcohol in this environment Roy. Not for public consumption anyway!

Apparently the terms of his contract had a special clause to help him deal with this slight penchant for a beer. What do you do with someone who may have a wee drinking problem? Of course - allow him to drink with team-mates in the dressing room or in the hotel but for goodness sake, don’t let him be seen in public. He can drink if he likes but he just can’t be seen to be drinking.

Apparently that will fix the problem. Just ask any expert in that area (not that I am one!) and they’ll tell you that the best thing for someone in Symonds’ position is to allow him to drink in private but ensure he isn’t seen doing it in public. Yeah right. Make sure someone is always assigned to look after him 24/7 and frogmarch him back to his hotel room if things go a bit pear shaped. There’s a great alcohol management plan! Apparently.

It’s hardly like this latest showdown is any great surprise. Blind Freddy (not Flintoff in the Caribbean on a pedalo)) could have predicted this without the benefit of counsellors and psychologists. Here is a guy who is clearly battling with what he wants out of life. No secret there. I predicted this situation back in September 2008 and a few weeks ago when the Ashes squad was announced. Surely those closest to him would have seen this coming?

Symonds is entitled to ask himself; are these friends, managers, counsellors and employers actually interested in my welfare or do they just want to use my marketability and skill until I become a liability? Any contract that merely requires me to maintain a public image while turning a blind eye to a growing problem in private sounds more like a PR exercise than a genuine effort to help me find any long-term solutions to whatever it is that is bugging me.

It’s probably time now to give him some time to make his own decisions and then treat him no differently to any other member of the squad. Everyone should know the rules and the rules should apply to equally to everyone. Simple as that. Grown men taking responsibility for themselves without having to rely on having a ‘minder’ to watch over them. If that’s what it takes to control one individual in a team environment, what does that say about the culture of that organisation?

That might be exactly what Symonds needs. He can make his own choices and choose his own ‘inner-circle’ of people who are prepared to support him through those choices. He won’t feel that sense of betrayal and confusion about his Jekyll & Hyde image problem. He can be free to be himself, whoever or whatever that is and his employers can decide if he fits into that culture. With or without a VB cap.

The best place to look for truth is in front of the mirror. For Symonds, there’s nothing to be gained for yearning wistfully for the days of Lillee, Marsh, Boon etc and the baggy green culture that prevailed then. Whether we agree with it or not, those days have gone. The memories of poorly paid cricketers, flying economy-class and working part-time jobs have also long gone. You take the good with the bad.

He’s entitled to make his own lifestyle choices and accept the consequences. This is a man who jumps on wild pigs in the outback, just for something to do to pass the time of day. If he wants to have a beer or ten and turn his back on cricket, surely that is his prerogative.

On and off the field, he was always prepared to play big shots and take his chances. Death or glory. That’s Andrew Symonds. So long as he understands that his actions are his own responsibility and that it is not upto anybody else to protect him, cover for him or chaperone him. In public or in private.

Michael Jeh is an Oxford Blue who played first-class cricket, and a Playing Member of the MCC. He lives in Brisbane

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Posted by prashant on (June 17, 2009, 7:53 GMT)

I think that symonds is sort of being made a scape-goat here. It is a cover-up by ponting n clarke to deflect attention from their own lack of intensity n their tardiness. Besides symonds wont get as much support as a white cricketer. CA , inspite of all its high ideals, is just a big racist body and doesnt it love some nice scapegoats!!!

Posted by Vikram Maingi on (June 17, 2009, 6:44 GMT)

Symonds has now lost his contract with CA. I don't know what's next for him.

Posted by qakamba on (June 13, 2009, 18:13 GMT)

Oh well this man is quite a talent to be wasted though i knom CA probarbly has got an idea how to replace the likes of Symonds, the Australian side has always managed to find itself at the top regardless, am sure CA will be fine as one cant say the game needs such a role model.

Posted by waterbuffalo on (June 9, 2009, 17:06 GMT)

One could suggest that Symonds' career has been going downhill(with the exception of 20/20) since the monkey chants in India and the monkeygate affair in Australia. I believe he thinks he was used by CA and Ponting to get at the Indians, and all for the short term gain of winning one series at home. The long term effects from that fiasco is now plain for everyone to see. When he was useful, they backed him to the hilt, now they have other allrounders in the team, CA and Ponting have decided to move on. If there were NO allrounders like Watson and the two new guys who played in SA, one wonders what the outcome would have been and whether Symonds would have batted at 7 for the ashes. Seeing as spin is not Australia's strength at the moment. Just my opinion.

Posted by AK on (June 9, 2009, 10:09 GMT)

Andrew, you were greatly missed in the current match agaist SL... in my opinion he can do what you like as long its not on the field and its is not arming anyone! Anyway, he will be better off if just consentrate on IPL....LOT MORE MONEy for few days work. Good luck.

Posted by antiaussie on (June 9, 2009, 6:07 GMT)

Well, i dont think Symonds has any well-wishers and he deserves what he is facing. Now that even Austalia is out, Symonds can join his mates back home and practice some sledging, or turn into some racist activities may be..

Posted by Roger on (June 9, 2009, 3:14 GMT)

Leave him alone. Since when has it been illegal to have a beer and watch State of Origin. He is the victim of self righteous do gooders who expect people to not be normal. Andrew will end up making more money and have a much less stressful life being a traveling professional, while the Aussie cricket side slide due to the narrow view of people whom make the decisions Good luck to him.

Posted by Daveo on (June 8, 2009, 9:23 GMT)

If it was an "onfield" infraction then boot 'em or suspend him. This moral outrage in sporting circles over a well-known problem is hurting Australian cricket. We KNOW Roy can't find the off switch. We are also perfectly aware that Cricket Australia is a mob of hypocritical buffoons. All my best to Roy and his future. I've enjoyed what he has done on the pitch and look forward to seeing him play again for a more savvy crew of sportos.

Posted by Arun on (June 8, 2009, 3:04 GMT)

I was actually surprised at the rather premature recall of Andrew Symonds into the national side. Cricket Australia was rather desperate to get him into the thick of things and if they were actually worried about his future or wanted to take care of him as a person, they should have waited long enough for him to complete the rehabilitation program. I understand he is a human and is bound to make a few mistakes in life or make some irrational choices. That is alright as long as he admits he has made a mistake and is honest about it - there are no two ways about it. He should be personally responsible for his actions as an individual and as a cricketer and face the consequences. The authorities on their part should support him to the fullest extent possible. At the same time, Symonds cannot take for granted the support and sympathy of CA and his colleagues and friends. It is up to him to set his priorities right. You cannot have the cake and eat it as well - as simple as that.

Posted by David on (June 7, 2009, 15:10 GMT)

CA essentially had a choice between Symonds and their VB sponsorship, and they went with the money.

As Symonds is an alcoholic, he is no longer able to "make his own lifestyle choices and accept the consequences". That's the thing about an addiction - the choice is beyond you. So either CA gets rid of all alcohol and all association with alcohol so they can have Symonds in the team, or else they dump Symonds and take the money. But CA was greedy - they tried to have it both ways, with the result that they brought a very entertaining career to a premature end and made Symond's journey out of his darkness just that much more difficult.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Michael Jeh
Born in Colombo, educated at Oxford and now living in Brisbane, Michael Jeh (Fox) is a cricket lover with a global perspective on the game. An Oxford Blue who played first-class cricket, he is a Playing Member of the MCC and still plays grade cricket. Michael now works closely with elite athletes, and is passionate about youth intervention programmes. He still chases his boyhood dream of running a wildlife safari operation called Barefoot in Africa.

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