Andrew Symonds, whose big hitting and canny offspin have made him an integral part of the Australian team in recent times, has been suspended for two matches, and fined his fee for the same, after he was found to have breached team rules by drinking and staying out late on the eve of the game against Bangladesh. At the toss, Ricky Ponting had said that Symonds had the flu, but by the close of the Australian innings, it emerged that he had been omitted for disciplinary reasons.
To compound Australia's woes, they were at the receiving end of a stunning Bangladeshi performance, though Simon Katich, who replaced Symonds, acquitted himself creditably with a rapid cameo. Symonds had apparently come out for the warm-up with the smell of alcohol on his breath, and in no fit state to play.
After the shock defeat, Ponting, John Buchanan and Steve Bernard - captain, coach and manager - met to discuss the issue, and exchanged views with Cricket Australia headquarters in Melbourne. The nature of the reprimand and suspension will be announced before Australia clash with England at Bristol later on Sunday. Though the possibility of sending the player home was discussed, he will stay with the squad for the remainder of the NatWest Series.
According to Australian Associated Press (AAP), Ponting became aware of the situation only minutes before he went out for the toss. He was quoted as saying: "Was I angry with Andrew this morning? Of course, yeah. I think all of his teammates would be as well." Incidentally, Ponting himself had come through well-documented problems with the booze, having been suspended for his part in a bar brawl in 1999.
Symonds had attended a dinner with seven other team-mates to celebrate Shane Watson's 24th birthday, but while the others retired at a reasonable hour, he opted for more liquid refreshment. Afterwards, Ponting spoke of what was expected from his players when he said: "As a team, under the players' spirit of cricket pledge, we pride ourselves on playing cricket hard but fair, but also on being good role models.
"We take this sort of thing very seriously and I am very disappointed with what has happened, as is Andrew. Andrew is aware he has let the team down, as well as all his cricket fans, but most of all he has let himself down."
While Ponting referred to the incident as an unwanted distraction, Symonds was contrite when asked to explain his actions. "I know no-one has to accept this, but I apologise to everyone for what I have done," he said. "I know it was the wrong thing and I am very embarrassed.''