June 09, 1975, Birmingham, Warwickshire, England
Right hand bat
Right arm medium, Right arm offbreak
Andrew Symonds brought gusto to whatever he did, whether firing down offbreaks or mediums, hurling his ungainly bulk round the field or vigorously ruffling the bowler's hair at the celebration of a wicket. He saved his loudest grunt for his batting, where he was that rarest of modern-day creatures - an unabashed six-hitter in the mould of a George Bonnor or a Colin Milburn or a David Hookes. Batting for Gloucestershire at 20, he scythed 16 sixes in the first dig [a world record] against Glamorgan at Abergavenny, 20 for the match [another first], and then announced he couldn't care less about the milestone; he wanted only to help his team. His flaw was to attempt one six too many - invariably off the wrong ball - and get mixed up in off-field troubles.
"I used to hate watching him bat," his old coach Toot Byron once lamented. "He wasn't in control of his shot-selection ... he'd get 24 off an over and then go out on the last ball of that over." Legend has it that Symonds, a Queensland larrikin who shaved his dreadlocks early in 2009, once turned up barefoot and wearing a cowboy hat for a contract meeting with Cricket Australia's then-chief executive Malcolm Speed. He also ruled himself ineligible for any award at the 2006 Allan Border Medal - he would have been the One-Day Player of the Year - after being suspended for turning up drunk before Australia's embarrassing loss to Bangladesh on the 2005 Ashes tour.
During almost five years in and out of the one-day side he frittered away golden opportunities galore. One day changed everything. Striding out with his team in turmoil against Pakistan in the 2003 World Cup, a game and tournament he never expected to play in, Symonds sculpted a masterly 143 not out in 125 balls. Until that day, he had mustered just 762 one-day runs at only 23; after that he averaged more than 43 and became a hero to those who adored his clumping style. "In the past," he admitted, "I was a man without a map when I went out to bat." He grew to understand his one-day role perfectly - he could have claimed to be the side's most valuable player after pounding three hundreds and taking 21 wickets in 2005-06. His impact to the limited-overs outfit was shown the following season after he ripped a tendon from his arm playing a fierce drive. Without him the team struggled to its worst losing streak in a decade. Symonds proved he was an incredibly quick healer by entering the World Cup mid-tournament and was part of his second consecutive triumph.
Born in Birmingham, Symonds could have played for England but dreamed only of wearing the baggy green. In 2004 his fantasy was fulfilled in decidedly unGabbalike surroundings: the crackling minefields of Sri Lanka. He batted gamely without looking altogether comfortable, and was dumped after two Tests. Almost two years later he received an extended run as Australia's selectors searched for an answer to Andrew Flintoff, but he couldn't consistently mirror his one-day performances. Faced with the axe, he cracked a huge six at the MCG to open his scoring in a pressure-relieving 72 from 54 balls, which included a ground-record five maximums, but was dropped on the Bangladesh tour after struggling for reliable impact in the previous series against South Africa. Given another opportunity when Shane Watson was injured and Damien Martyn retired, he appeared in his first Ashes series and reached a career high in his second game with 156 at the MCG. Batting with his fishing friend Matthew Hayden, he showed he had the mindset to make it.
The 2007-08 campaign was easily his best, with 777 runs in nine Tests against Sri Lanka, India and West Indies. The high was an unbeaten 162 in the first innings at the SCG, which was quickly followed by the low of a lengthy race row involving Harbhajan Singh. The problems did not prevent him becoming the most popular overseas player at the Indian Premier League auction, where he sold for US$1.35m, and he had four games with the Deccan Chargers. After the tournament he switched back into five-day mode and a pair of half-centuries in the tight opening contest with West Indies showed his growing batting maturity and sense of security at Test level. By the end of the campaign his average was a respectable 44.65.
However, his off-field attitude continued to be a problem and the last straw came when he went fishing in Darwin when he should have been at a team meeting in the lead-up to an ODI series against Bangladesh. Symonds was sent home from the series and not picked for the tour of India in late 2008. He was rushed back in Australia and was involved in a pub scuffle while celebrating the first Test win, and he appeared in three more matches before undergoing knee surgery. A radio interview where he targeted Brendon McCullum was a factor in him being banned for the South Africa tour - along with his poor form for Queensland - and he was unconvincing in his one-day return in the United Arab Emirates. A breaking of team drinking rules led to his exit from the squad in England on the eve of the 2009 World Twenty20, and his Cricket Australia contract was soon cancelled. He retired from white clothes to become a Twenty20 specialist, playing for Queensland, Deccan Chargers and Surrey, and ultimately retired from all cricket in February 2012.
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