The death of former cricketer Andrew Symonds in a car crash has left Australian cricket fans in shock. Within a matter of months, three of the most well known names of Australian cricket have left this world. Rodney Marsh and Shane Warne passed away in March. Now World Cup winner Andrew Symonds, 46 years old, who represented Australia in 26 Tests and 198 ODIs met his end when the car he was driving went out of control and crashed. He was a vital cog in the all conquering Australian team of his days.
Hyderabad cricket fans will remember very well this robustly built all rounder who used to play for Deccan Chargers in the IPL. He was widely popular for his hard-hitting strokes and outstanding fielding. While Hyderabad fans developed a great liking for his easy going personality, he too fell in love with Hyderabad during his days with Deccan Chargers. He once said that he loved Hyderabad food especially the biryani and he could eat two plates at every meal.
His trademark was the white zinc paint which used to apply lavishly, especially on his lips, to protect himself from the sun while on the field of play. His squinting eyes hid his ferocious determination to excel at every department of the game. He was a strongly built and fit athlete who could give the ball a very hard hit. Every time he decided to hit out, he could clear the boundary with effortless ease.
But behind the tough exterior was a fragile and emotional mind which he usually tried to camouflage. However, sometimes he could not hide his mental upheavals and his problem with alcohol. In the second half of 2008, his career had a setback. He was sent out of the team due to disciplinary reasons and in June 2009, he was sent home from the World T20 championship. It was his third suspension or exclusion from selection in the space of one year.
But he did not give up. He made strong efforts to come back and it was only in 2012 that he decided to hang up his boots. He was one of the colourful personalities that every sport needs. But he often ran into trouble too. In 2007, crowds at an ODI match in Vadodara shouted monkey chants at Symonds to which the player felt highly offended. But the BCCI tried to deflect the issue by saying that the crowd chanting had nothing to do with Symonds but was about Hanuman of Ramayana.
However in 2008 the issue flared up again when it was alleged that Indian off spinner Harbhajan Singh also called Symonds a monkey on the field. The case was decided by the match referee Mike Procter of South Africa who conducted a hearing. Harbhajan was given a three match ban but then the BCCI lodged an appeal against the decision. In January 2008, after the hearing of the appeal, by the ICC’s appeals commissioner John Hansen, the racism charge against Harbhajan could not be proved and the three match ban was lifted. However, a lesser charge of using abusive language was applied and Harbhajan was fined 50 percent of his match fee.
Here it would be pertinent to recall the role played by Hyderabad’s Ranji trophy star batter M.V. Sridhar in this controversy. Sridhar had the job of assistant manager of the Indian team on that tour and the way he handled the media and public relations set an example for others who followed. It was Sridhar’s skilful handling of the tricky situation that protected the image of the Indian team and also satisfied both the Indian and Australian media.
However, to get back to the story of Symonds, after this incident he felt that he was not getting enough support from his own administration and gradually he began to lose interest. “From that moment, my downhill slide began. I started to drink heavily and my life started to dissolve as I felt the pressure,” Symonds told Australian Broadcasting Corporation in an interview.
Aussie captain Ricky Ponting wrote in his autobiography that Symonds was badly disillusioned. Later his career took another nosedive when he decided to go fishing instead of attending a team meeting. He began to drift away from cricket. He took part in the Bigg Boss television show and also acted in a Hindi film titled Patiala House along with a few other international cricketers.
A few years ago he was a guest commentator in Australia’s Big Bash T20 league and also did commentary for Fox Sports. According to reports, he had reduced his drinking habits and was trying to lead a healthier life with his wife Laura and his children Chloe and Billy. Sadly it all came to a sudden end on a highway. But Symonds will always be remembered throughout the world as an excellent and entertaining cricketer during his prime.