Friday, Aug 12, 2022
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Andrew Symonds: From IPL To Big Boss, An All-Rounder Par-Excellence

Andrew Symonds was a mercurial Australian cricketer who did not do justice to his enormous talent due to his undisciplined nature.

Andrew Symonds died in a car crash on Saturday at the age of 46.
Andrew Symonds died in a car crash on Saturday at the age of 46. AP

"My late father said that bad things always happen in threes." This was the first reaction of former Australian captain Mark Taylor on Wide World of Sports after hearing the devastating news of Andrew Symonds' death in a car accident on Sunday. 

How right Taylor was! Just two months after the demise of iconic wicketkeeper Rod Marsh and spin legend Shane Warne, Australia has lost another cricketing great. Mercurial all-rounder Andrew Symonds, who represented Australia in 26 Tests, 198 ODIs and 14 T20Is, was killed in what Queensland police described as "a single-vehicle accident late on Saturday at Hervey Range, about 50km from Townsville". He was only 46.

Symonds, fondly called 'Symo' and 'Roy' by his teammates, was a key member of Australia's World Cup winning sides in 2003 and 2007. Muscularly built, he was a powerful stroke player renowned for hitting monstrous sixes and taking the opposition attack apart. A multi-dimensional cricketer, the Queenslander was also quite effective with the ball, capable of bowling both off-spin and gentle medium pace with elan. He was a livewire on the field and would often effect run-outs with direct hits. 

LATE BLOOMER

Symonds was a late bloomer in the arena of international cricket. Though he made his ODI debut at the age of 23 in November 1998, he failed to make much of an impact either with the bat or the ball in his initial years. At one point in time, it looked as if he would remain an underachiever and soon sink into oblivion.

However, destiny had other plans for him as his career underwent a transformation after a famous knock against Pakistan in Australia's first match of the 2003 ODI World Cup in South Africa. 

Australia were reduced to 86 for 4 in the 16th over when Symonds walked out in the middle. In the run up to the match, the burly all-rounder had received a pep talk from skipper Ricky Ponting who gave him a license to play fearlessly without worrying about his spot in the playing XI. 

Inspired by Ponting's belief in him, Symonds pulled his team out of the woods with a display of extraordinary power-hitting. He bludgeoned 143 off 125 balls and single handedly lifted Australia to 310 for 8 – a score Pakistan never looked like getting anywhere close to while chasing.

The innings ushered in a new phase of success in Symonds' ODI career. He came to his team's rescue once again in the semi-final against Sri Lanka with his unbeaten 91 off 118 balls being at the heart of Australia's 48-run win by D/L method in a low-scoring game. Symonds finished the mega tournament with a tally of 326 runs at an astonishing average of 163 in 9 matches.

Over the next five years, Symonds remained one of the star perfomers for the Australian limited-overs side. Though he failed to establish himself in the Test team, the maverick hitter had his share of glory in the red-ball cricket. Probably, his best Test innings was a blistering 156 against England at the MCG during the 2005-06 Ashes.

CONTROVERSY'S FAVOURITE CHILD

Apart from his swashbuckling batting, Symonds would be remembered for a number of controversies he was involved in throughout his playing days. He was at the centre of the infamous ‘Monkeygate’ scandal also featuring Harbhajan Singh during India's tour of Australia in 2007-08. 

The Monkeygate episode, in Symonds' own words, began his 'downhill slide'. The Australian all-rounder, who accused the Indian off spinner of racially abusing him during the Sydney Test, claimed to have taken to excessive drinking in the aftermath of the incident. Harbhajan, who was earlier handed over a three-match ban, got away with only a reprimand and 50-per cent match fine after Indian team had threatened to pull out of the tour over the allegations. 

Drinking was his lifelong bane and it eventually led to his premature exit from the international cricket in 2009 when he was sent home from the T20 World Cup in England following his involvement in a case of alcohol abuse. He never donned an Australian jersey after that.

IPL STAR

Despite his infamous confrontation with Harbhajan during the Sydney Test of 2007-08, Symonds was an extremely popular cricketer in India. He was the second most expensive player (next only to Mahendra Singh Dhoni) in the inaugural edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL) in 2008, receiving a whopping Rs 5.4 crore from now defunct Hyderabad Deccan Chargers.

The dreadlock-sporting Aussie played a pivotal role in helping the Adam Gilchrist-led Deccan Chargers clinch the IPL trophy in 2009. He scored a brisk 21-ball 33 and picked crucial wickets of Ross Taylor and Virat Kohli to fashion the Hyderabad-based franchise's thrilling six-run victory over Royal Challengers Banglore (RCB) in the final. 

Later in 2011 after joining the Mumbai Indians, he seemed to have reconciled with Harbhajan while playing together as the two were often seen embracing each other on the field. Outside cricket in the same year, he appeared as a special guest in popular TV reality show 'Big Boss'. 

Above all, Symonds was a quintessential Australian –  someone who played hard, loved his beer and lived life to the fullest. It won't be inappropriate to say that in death, he has joined his former teammate and another quintessential Australian, Warne.

Farewell, Roy. You are gone too soon.

(Ankit Kumar Singh is a former journalist and an academician. Views are personal)

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