Harsha Bhogle talks to cricketers and administrators

'If I couldn't have played sport, I don't know what would have become of me'

Part five: Andrew Symonds on growing up in the country, and being part of a world-class fielding side (00:00)

October 4, 2010


'If I couldn't have played sport, I don't know what would have become of me'

October 4, 2010

Andrew Symonds shows his other sporting skills, Kochi, October 1, 2007
"You feel good when you are fit and you are strong and you are playing your best cricket. I was always really healthy" © Getty Images

Harsha Bhogle: This sledging fascinates me. A lot of you are very strong, tough, skilled cricketers, and you could win a game on your own without really needing to talk to the opposition. So what causes you to do that?

Andrew Symonds: Well, sometimes it is to get yourself going as well. You might have a day where you are carrying an injury, or you are bit sick, or you are tired or sore or whatever. So just to get you up for the battle, you might pick a fight with someone. And that used to work for me sometimes.

HB: How much did your upbringing have an effect on the way you played cricket? As you said, you moved to Australia from England when you were 18 months old. Was it hard growing up in Australia?

AS: Yes, it was. I grew up in country Australia, I grew up in the bush. When we moved to the city, the things that the kids did were completely different. Like, we used to play sport every weekend and run our bikes exploring the countryside every day after school or whenever we were free. We would be gone in the morning and had to be home before dark. Then when I moved to town, it was all about the shoes and the clothes, and all these sorts of things. I was really uneasy when I first got there, but I was very fortunate that I fitted in within the crowd because I could play sport. But if I couldn't have played sport then I don't know what would have become of me.

HB: Is there still that bush boy in you still? I realise that you love the great outdoors - you are interested, you said, in hunting, fishing… is that child still in you?

AS: Yes, and that's where I am most of the time now. Living up in North Queensland now.

HB: Not in Brisbane City, not in the centre of the business district?

AS: No, I was only there because I had to be. But my spare time was always up in the north on the farm with my mates. We would have weeks and weeks of fun, just being away from everyone. Nobody can get me on the telephone. There are only two telephone numbers that people can get me on there, and they both are house numbers and I am never in the house, so I'm free as a bird.

HB: Yet, people would look at you and say - if Andrew had to be an animal or bird, what would it be? No one would call you a bird. Birds are delicate things that fly away.

AS: Not all birds, Harsha.

HB: Tell me one… the ostrich?

AS: No, there are eagles and all those sorts of birds, birds of prey. Be good to be able to fly, I bet, you know...

HB: We look at you and the first thing that strikes you is how fit you are. Did you have to be forced to train or did it come from inside?

"My spare time was always up in the north on the farm with my mates. We would have weeks and weeks of fun, just being away from everyone. Nobody can get me on the telephone. I'm free as a bird"

AS: No, I sort of hit a point where I realised that I had to be really fit to be able to bat and score a hundred. Be able to bowl 10-15 overs in the day. I had to be fit and I had to be strong. I enjoyed my fitness. I actually spoke to my favourite trainer I have had this morning, Justin Cordy. Training with him was fun. Like, it was hard but it was fun. He used to talk to me when we would do our extra training. We would do things that I want to do, and then he would just make it hard for me physically. You feel good when you are fit and you are strong and you are playing your best cricket. You know, I was always really healthy.

HB: One of the things that we enjoyed watching was you and Ricky Ponting on either side of the field inside the circle, and it was a great time in international cricket because there were Jonty Rhodes and Herschelle Gibbs for South Africa. And you matched them, and sometimes bettered them, you and Ricky Ponting… that must have given you great satisfaction, that you were cutting off runs and picking up wickets even when you were not bowling?

AS: Yes, our inner circle was something that created a lot of wickets for us. You could just see the hesitations in the batsmen, on replays. There was a run there but they look up and they see Ricky, and they would hesitate, and that's too long with him, and he would be just all over it - running people out and just causing uncertainty. Our fielding went a long way in winning us games on fairly regular occasions, I reckon.

HB: What was your training regimen for fielding? Some people say, "I will take 100 catches a day," some people say that I will throw so many balls a day, I will stop so many balls a day… what was your preferred fielding regimen?

AS: Well, we were lucky that we had Mike Young come into the fray, and he was invaluable, just what he taught you. You had to be smart with your shoulder as to how much you threw, but you could catch as many balls as you wanted to. He would always be watching you. I could have a session with him for 10-15 minutes, and something wouldn't be right and he would demonstrate that in that time. You could feel the adjustments that you had made. They might be small, but now you'd be back to your highest accuracy level, moving a bit better, your anticipation a bit better, and your balance would be better. And then from there you are back to where you need to be.

HB: Do you practise 70 yards at all? Because you used to throw flat from 70-75 yards.

AS: Yes.

HB: Is it something that you don't see more people doing?

AS: Well, I don't know how people train these days, I haven't been in that environment for a couple of years, but I did use to practise my longer throws. It is something that you need to do to get your range right. Especially when you travel to South Africa and places where the air is different - like, the ball travels further. You've got to get your range, you don't want to be overthrowing or be short. But I found that on altitudes it was always good to get some longer throws done so that you could feel your distances.

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