A pledge to refrain from drinking in public will likely cost Andrew Symonds his international career. The clause, inserted into his personal contract with Cricket Australia, was breached when Symonds indulged in a late-night drinking session after Australia's warm-up match against New Zealand on Tuesday, and again when he and several team-mates watched the telecast of the State of Origin rugby league game at a west London establishment the following morning.
Under the terms of his personally-tailored deal with CA, Symonds was permitted to drink with team-mates in the dressing room after matches and at team hotels. Drinking in public, however, was banned under the agreement, following a series of altercations at bars in Australia, South Africa and the Caribbean in recent years. No other player on CA's central contract list is bound by such an agreement.
The personal contract was drawn up after Symonds' infamous fishing excursion which resulted in him being ordered home from Australia's limited overs series against Bangladesh in Darwin. The allrounder was told that he would only be considered for future Australian sides if he submitted to regular counselling, and abided by the agreement with CA which prohibited him from drinking in public.
So eager was CA for Symonds not to be seen drinking in public that senior management had instructed players to "drag him out" of bars if they spotted him. Team-mates did assist in removing Symonds from a Brisbane pub last year when a member of the public threw a punch at him, but it remains unclear what role, if any, Australian cricketers played in Symonds' latest drinking excursion in London. He was in the company of several team-mates when watching the State of Origin game, some of whom were drinking moderately. There was no suggestion Symonds' behaviour was unseemly on Wednesday.
The question now appears to be who will initiate the move to end his international career. Will Symonds, who feels his freedom has been severely curtailed by the public drinking clause, walk away from the game? Or will Cricket Australia tear up his contract, pointing to the breach of their personal agreement?
Players and officials contacted by Cricinfo on Thursday were of the opinion that Symonds would call time on his 26-Test, 198-ODI career of his own accord and focus on his IPL career with Deccan Chargers. "The culture of the (Australian) team has moved on, but he hasn't," said a source close to the player. "It's probably time to look at other options."
Symonds' agent, Matt Fearon, said his client could consider becoming a freelance Twenty20 specialist, travelling the world to play in domestic leagues such as the IPL and England's P20 competition.
"He definitely wants to continue playing cricket, and he has tried his hardest for that to be with Cricket Australia," Fearon told Cricinfo. "He had some really clear goals surrounding the Ashes and the World Cup, and he will sit down now over the next few days and decide whether he needs to set new ones.
"The thing he has learned in the last few months is that he loves playing his cricket, and he loves playing it with people he fits in with. The Twenty20 route is an option, but there are still a lot of unknowns. I suppose Matthew Hayden and Adam Gilchrist have demonstrated that you can be successful in Twenty20 cricket for a long time. That might be something he wants to concentrate on.
"He is really disappointed that all this has come about, but perhaps it needed to happen. He arrives home (Saturday) morning, and I think over the next week we will sit down and decide what is his next move."
Paul Marsh, the chief executive of the Australian Cricketers' Association, said Symonds would retain the support of the players' union even if he chose to leave the game. "Does he want to go on, pull the pin or just play IPL? That's the decision before him," Marsh told Cricinfo. "He has definitely taken on restrictions that other players have not, but he knew that if he wanted to play for Australia again, he had to operate under certain guidelines. It's up to him now to decide whether he can do that.
"This is a sad day for Andrew and a sad day for Australian cricket. His history has caught up with him. Whatever he decides, he will have our full backing and support."
Alex Brown is deputy editor of Cricinfo