Are Symonds' minders interested in his welfare?
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