South African domestic cricket June 10, 2009

Lions keen on signing Symonds

South African Twenty20 franchise, Highveld Lions, have declared their interest in signing Andrew Symonds should the Australian allrounder opt to forego his international ambitions for a career as a freelance 20-over specialist. Alan Kourie, the chief executive of the Lions and Gauteng Cricket Board, said a player of Symonds' power and versatility would provide a tremendous boost to the Johannesburg-based franchise, which failed to win a game in South Africa's Pro20 competition last season.

Domestic Twenty20 sides around the world are anxiously awaiting word on Symonds' playing future, following his expulsion from the Australian squad on the eve of the World Twenty20 in England. Symonds, who held lengthy discussions with his agent on Wednesday, is expected to announce his retirement from international cricket in the coming days to focus on his domestic Twenty20 career, freeing him to pursue opportunities in India, Australia, England and South Africa.

A Queensland official told Cricinfo on Wednesday the state association was expecting a decision from Symonds before the weekend regarding his commitment to the Bulls for next season. But given that Australia's Big Bash tournament overlaps South Africa's Pro20, Queensland may face a battle with South African franchises for Symonds' signature.

"At this point in time we haven't made an approach, but if he were to come on the market we would certainly be interested," Kourie told Cricinfo. "He is one of the most exciting players in the world and still has plenty to offer. I believe the key to getting the best out of him would be to make him feel comfortable and welcome in his environment, which I feel we could do."

Several South African domestic sources told Cricinfo on Monday that Symonds could expect to earn between R800,000 and R1 million ($120,000) for a six-week stint playing 50-and 20-over cricket in South Africa. Kourie was not so certain.

"It must be remembered that we operate in rand, not pounds or dollars, and our currency is not as strong as some of the others out there," he said. "I'm sure a player like him could do well if he wanted to play in South Africa, but I'm not sure whether those figures you mention are realistic. I guess it will depend on the needs and revenues of the franchises looking at him."

Since returning to Australia, Symonds has discussed his playing future with family, friends and cricketing colleagues. He also held talks on Monday with Cricket Australia's operations officer, Michael Brown, who is believed to have informed him he would not be offered another central contract following a series of highly publicised behavioural infractions over the past four years.

John Buchanan, Symonds' former coach with Queensland and Australia, was hopeful the allrounder would find contentment after deciding upon his future path.

"My view is that it should never have come to this, but it has got to the stage where something had to be done," Buchanan said. "We've exchanged text messages. I am always here to offer Andrew support if he wants it. Hopefully his next move, whatever it is, is a good one for him."

Alex Brown is deputy editor of Cricinfo