In less than 3 months, the cricket world is mourning again the death of another Australian cricketer, Andrew Symonds. On Sunday morning he passed away at the age of 46 in a car accident. The aggressive all-rounder played a very important role in Australia’s success in white-ball cricket.
Born in Birmingham, England, to Afro-Caribbean and Swedish parents, Symonds was adopted by Ken and Barbara Symonds and moved to Australia with his parents when he was just 3 months old. ‘I’m an adopted child, right, so I don’t actually know my natural parents. I’ve never met them,’ he told this to Brett Lee last month.
Symonds was always known for his hard-hitting batting, in 1995 during his knock of 254, Symonds smashed 16 sixes for Gloucestershire in the county match which was a record at that time. The same year he was selected for the England A team for the tour of Pakistan but he refused as he wanted to play for Australia.
In 1998, he got the chance to play for Australia when he made his debut in white-ball cricket against Pakistan but didn’t get a chance to bat. He was then dropped and got back into the team after around a gap of 10 months. But after making a comeback Symonds cemented his place in the ODI squad and became an important member of the team. Symonds was not only a hard-hitting batsman but was also a useful part-time bowler and an absolute gun fielder.
Many people regard his 143* against Pakistan in the World Cup 2003 as one of the greatest world cup hundred. Symonds scored these runs against the likes of Wasim, Waqar, Shoaib etc when the team was struggling after losing 4 wickets for just 86 runs. In the semi-final of the same World Cup, he smashed 91 against Sri Lanka when no one else could score even 40 from either side. Australia went on to win the World Cup and again in 2007, both Symonds and Hayden were part of these two wins and they are the only two players who never lost a World Cup match, among those who played minimum 5 world cup matches. Symonds has amazing consistency outside Australia. In countries where he played minimum 10 innings, he averaged 60 while in Australia he averaged just 29. Symonds played 198 ODIs for Australia in which he scored 5504 runs and took 133 wickets.
6 feet tall Symonds was considered one of the greatest fielders of the modern era because he was quite an athlete. He could hit the stumps at will and his agile throws saw many batsmen short of the crease. He took 85 catches in white-ball cricket and dismissed many batsmen through runouts.
In Tests, Symonds wasn’t as successful as he was in white-ball cricket but one of his test hundred is remembered by many, especially Indians. In the 2007 Sydney Test, Symonds scored 162* against India in the first innings. It was a controversial knock as he nicked the ball when he was on 30 and didn’t walk. Later the monkey-gate episode and dubious decision on the fifth day of the test made it more ugly.
Later that year, he was sent to mental rehabilitation by Cricket Australia for missing a mandatory team meeting and falling out with seniors. Just after completing the mental rehabilitation, Symonds was caught in an altercation at a Brisbane pub. Though he was proven innocent Symonds published an apology statement, “I have told my teammates that I am sorry to have put them through this distraction at a time when they are trying to prepare for a Test match. I have been and am still going through a counselling process and I give my teammates, Cricket Australia and Australian cricket fans a commitment that I will continue the counselling work which, as I have already said publicly, is something I want to use to help me understand how and why I behave so I can be a better person. Wearing Baggy Green is an honour and being part of this group is a privilege that is important to me. I have learnt a valuable lesson from this incident and I know that actions speak louder than words and that’s how I will be judged.”
Symonds was part of the IPL too. In the second season of IPL, his team Deccan Chargers won the tournament. Later he moved to Mumbai Indians to play alongside Harbhajan Singh who was involved in the monkey-gate episode.
He was a controversial figure but he will be remembered as one of the greatest fielders of all time and one of the greatest white-ball cricketers from Australia.