Andrew Symonds is one of the finest all-round talents in world cricket. His laid-back attitude, cheeky grin and capacity to swat the world's best bowlers around the park with a laconic disdain endear him as a truly great Australian talent. He is a match winner in a team where winning matches is a matter of course. But yesterday's announcement that he has been sent home from Australia's squad for the World Twenty20 for yet another breach of discipline could spell the end of his international career.
The Queenslander arrived in England with a point to prove after a controversy-filled 10 months which left team officials wondering whether his off-field liability outweighed the match-winning plus points he provides on it. His previous misdemeanours had already cost him a place in the Ashes squad, with the Australian selectors instead planning only to utilise his talents in the shortest version of the game when far greater honours are to be won this English summer.
Some argued Symonds, who will turn 34 on Tuesday, was lucky even to be selected in that squad after his recent problems saw him left out of major tours of India and South Africa in the past year. Symonds' problems began last August when he opted to go fishing rather than attend a compulsory team meeting ahead of a one-day series against Bangladesh in Darwin. The indiscretion saw him suffer the indignity of being sent home by his own teammates who, with the power vested in them, voted to exclude Symonds on unprofessional grounds.
"I guess the main concern for us is Andrew's commitment to playing for this team and, in my opinion, you need to be committed 100 per cent," Michael Clarke, the stand-in captain for that series, reasoned. "That's all facets of being an international cricketer." It was a damning criticism of Symonds' desire for the cause from a close friend. His cause was not helped when he failed to convince Cricket Australia (CA) he wanted to tour India last September, and was duly left out of that team amid claims he was ready to walk away from the game.
Proving his commitment has proved a difficult task for Symonds, and further controversies failed to inspire the confidence needed to win over his detractors. After failing to impress on his return to the national team in the Australian summer, Symonds landed himself in hot water again when in a radio interview he described New Zealand wicketkeeper Brendon McCullum as "a lump of s***". A fine and a public apology to McCullum had seemed an end to the matter until CA blocked Symonds' selection for the tour to South Africa.
Symonds was told by CA to seek counselling to prove his commitment to the team before he would be considered for selection again. There were fortnightly reports sent to CA about his progress. If Symonds did not feel patronised then, certainly the trust between player and team management was lost. Recovering that trust is key to Symonds remaining an Australia player. Recovering that confidence is something that Symonds could only do with his on-field displays.
After returning to the team in the limited-overs series against Pakistan in the UAE, his performances failed to indicate such bridge building could yet be achieved. The World Twenty20 could have been his last chance, and it looks as though he has blown it. email@example.com Nathan Bracken's column is unavailable due to a media blackout by Cricket Australia