Peter English is the Australasia editor of Cricinfo
Oops, he's done it again. Showing the self control of Britney Spears in her crew-cut phase, Andrew Symonds has fallen off another wagon and been sent home from a tour of England. Now not even a hit album will be able to return his former life as an all-conquering allrounder.
Four years ago Symonds toppled off a wheelie bin at training following an all-nighter before a one-day loss to Bangladesh in Cardiff. This time he slipped a couple of days before Australia's opening World Twenty20 match and will fly home to Australia for meetings that must not be allowed to save his career.
Symonds was at a dinner with Australia's Twenty20 squad at a west London hotel on Wednesday night and was well behaved early in the night. An early-morning trip to watch the State of Origin rugby league changed the circumstances and his travel plans.
James Sutherland, Cricket Australia's chief executive, said the punishment was a result of breaching team rules over the past two days. Some of his personal conditions to his employers were also broken. Sutherland had no reason to be surprised.
In Cardiff in 2005 there were board members who wanted Symonds' contract torn up, but he turned into the country's pet project and has now run out of international lives. Over the past year his continual transgressions, ranging from minor to moderate, have been an embarrassment. The spiral began in the West Indies and then took in Darwin fishing trips, excessive drinking and scuffles in bars. He wore out international and domestic team-mates, rambled and swore during a radio interview and was banned from the tours to South Africa. He had already not been considered for the 2008 trip to India despite developing career-best consistency at Test level.
There were apologies and vows to do better, counselling sessions and more promises. Nothing changed, except his form, which dipped lower than Australia's new budget deficit.
At each step he was given support and with each return there was a relapse. While Symonds has been the easily-forgiven problem child, Cricket Australia have been the parents who actually believed the grunts of apology, thinking only of slammed sixes over midwicket and lifted run-rates when calling him from his room. There have been many mistakes throughout this saga; allowing Symonds to rejoin the national squad was a basic one.
Symonds was not picked in the Ashes squad, which was a good decision, but the move was ruined with his inclusion in the Twenty20 side after an unconvincing tour of the United Arab Emirates. His IPL team's victory prevented Symonds from attending the squad camp in Queensland last month, creating a further disruption, but Ricky Ponting, a staunch supporter, said at the time he still expected the allrounder to be part of the one-day campaign following the England Tests. Not anymore.
Despite grace from some of the most powerful people in Australian cricket, Symonds has failed them. Everybody involved was disappointed, particularly a sad looking Sutherland. But nobody was shocked that he did it again.