The story of Andrew Symonds, the cricketer, has limitless potential, realized briefly but gloriously in a career that seduced Australia and defied the norm.
Here was a cricketer of another genre. More up front than all-rounder, Symonds and his imposing frame dominated the games like few others, but always with a wink and a beaming smile.
Cricket had heard of Andrew Symonds long before any of us saw him. But once we did, we fell in love.
He bounced like a kid playing two age levels down, intimidating bowling attacks with a unique blend of power and grace.
He played whatever felt good. Spin one week, medium pace the next. Sometimes with a cap. Somehow it always worked.
He played like no one before him. Jonty Rhodes’ athleticism and Ricky Ponting’s laser arm all rolled into one.
Symonds has brought more to the game than most in a broken career, partly from his own excesses and partly from a system that abandoned him when he most needed support.
The great shame now is that the story of Andrew Symonds, the man, can be told in so many of the same painful terms.
At age 46, Symonds died in a car accident not far from Townsville in North Queensland.
He had so much more to give, especially to his family, but to all of us as well. Your limitless potential was realized very briefly.
Symonds says he knew he was adopted since he was old enough to talk.
Born on June 9, 1975, in Birmingham, Symonds’ adoptive parents, Ken and Barbara, took him in when he was 15 months old. The family moved to Australia soon after, settling in the rural North Queensland town of Charters Towers.
Symonds’ British birth would provoke debate as his cricket career progressed, but when a call-up to England in 1995 forced a decision, there was likely to be only one answer.
During his youth and adolescence, Symonds’ buzz spread across Queensland and Australia. There was one boy from the far north who was special, a flaming bat destined for the wide green.
Symonds passed through the state underage teams before making his first-class debut for Queensland in the 1994–95 season.
His reputation as an attacking hitter and leading scorer led to an ODI debut for Australia in 1998 against Pakistan in Lahore. Symonds threw two overs and didn’t hit.
That was the story of the beginning of Symonds’ international career. His actions at the first class level, both in Australia and in English cricket, were growing, but a breakthrough for his country remained elusive.
With a slump in form in 2002 and motivation suddenly an issue, there were even brief flirtations with the Brisbane Broncos and a drastic code change.
introduced to the world
The 2003 World Cup defined an era for Australia in many ways. It was the first major triumph in a decade without Shane Warne’s help. It was the confirmation of Ricky Ponting as the most outstanding hitter in the game.
And it was Andrew Symonds’ reveal party, finally.
Symonds was a surprise selection in the Australia squad as the spots were opened up by Warne’s drug ban, an injury to Shane Watson and the suspension of Darren Lehmann for using a racial slur.
In 2003, few had faith that Symonds would ever live up to his promise. Fortunately, Ponting was not among the skeptics.
Symonds marked his first international century in Australia’s opening tournament victory against Pakistan. The way he skinned Wasim Akram, Shoahib Akhtar and Waqar Younis for all parts of The Wanderers in Johannesburg will forever be vividly etched in the memory of all who watched.
This entry of 143 not out, coming at a time of desperate need for his team, was the manifestation of Symonds’ working life. He repaid the faith of everyone who joined him on his journey and proved to the man himself that he truly was capable of everything he believed he was.
Symonds remained a key part of the Australian team that would go on to lift the World Cup. But the conversation had already turned to his next conquest.
top of the mountain man
Literally speaking, Andrew Symonds replaced Steve Waugh on the Australia test team for the first test against Sri Lanka at Galle, 2004.
He made a duck on his first test turn and 24 on his second, dismissed both times by the antics of Muttiah Muralitharan.
Symonds was excused for the third audition of that series and would not wear the baggy green for another 18 months.
A recall for the summer of 2005/06 brought with it the first glimpse of what Symonds might become as a test cricketer, with a whopping 72 against South Africa in the MCG.
This entry proved to be prophetic. Twelve months later, at the same location, Symonds erupted.
A first century of testing, 156 to be exact, in a Boxing Day Ashes Test. As the crushing weight lifted off Symonds’ shoulders, it was passed onto Matthew Hayden’s forehead as his close friend from Queensland jumped into a celebratory hug.
It was one of the defining images of an iconic Australian summer. Cricket would never be so sweet to Andrew Symonds again.
an invincible battle
The glitz and glamor of professional sports never appealed to Andrew Symonds. His escape was found on a boat or in a river, fishing rod in hand. And after the day’s work is done, a beer or two.
Drink had threatened Symonds’ career at many crosses, most seriously in 2005 when he showed up for an ODI against Bangladesh in England still drunk from the night before and unable to get up.
Symonds worked hard to keep his drinking under control, and during those fruitful years from 2006 to 2008, he succeeded.
The 2008 SCG Test between Australia and India was so many things. It remains one of the meanest test matches ever played, and it featured one of the most unforgettable climaxes thanks to Michael Clarke’s finger swivel.
For Andrew Symonds, it was the beginning of the end of his career.
Symonds claimed that Indian spinner Harbhajan Singh called him a monkey during that test. Symonds’ claim was corroborated by Australian teammates who were close to the incident.
The ICC initially gave Harbhajan a three-match suspension, only to demote this following BCCI’s appeal. India threatened to boycott the rest of the tour over the allegations, and when Symonds sat in court alongside Matthew Hayden, Michael Clarke and Ricky Ponting, he was wracked with guilt over dragging his teammates and friends into the mess. highly political.
There would be no suspension for Harbhajan and no boycott of India, just a void within Symonds that would never be filled.
Racism, specifically the term “monkey”, had followed Symonds for years up until that point. And having finally resisted, Symonds was overwhelmed by the feeling that Australian cricket had let him down.
In the years to come, Symonds would admit to his drinking problems. In June 2009, just 15 months after the Harbhajan incident, Symonds was sent home from the T20 World Cup in England due to “an alcohol-related incident”.
Andrew Symonds’ international cricket career is over.
Back to your roots
In 2012, Symonds officially retired after spending a few years on the international T20 circuit, and devoted himself to his family.
For the past few years, he has lived in Townsville with his wife Laura and two young children, Chloe and Billy.
Together they lived a simple life as Symonds surrounded himself with the people and places he loved most.
His voice became familiar in Big Bash commentary, and his unassuming, unassuming analysis stood out from his contemporaries.
He continues to be loved by those who follow the game, here and abroad, and will forever.
Generations from now, the stories of the man they called Roy will be told. From the time he and Haydos capsized the boat and had to swim to shore.
Or those infectious wickets celebrations, heels swinging together with dreadlocks dancing in a way Test cricket had never seen before.
And the radiator on Gabba!? Maybe he could have done it like a Bronco after all.
Andrew Symonds’ story will now forever seem unfinished, but never incomplete. This was a life well lived, its fruits enjoyed by millions.
We were lucky enough to be taken along for the ride.
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