Best among equals

As Andrew Symonds roams around the covers like a Bengal tiger on the look out for a meal, there is no one to touch him in the modern game and few in any era, writes Ted Corbett.

February 5: Andrew Symonds tears a muscle in his upper arm off its fixing to the bone, needs an operation and six weeks to recover. I am not sure if all the great fielders I see in a long life are better than the giant with frizzy hair, lip protector applied like war paint and a prowl at cover point that makes many batsmen think of staying in their crease even when there are two runs on offer. Catching and concentrating, hitting the stumps from any distance, picking the ball up one-handed on the run; Roy, as the Aussies call him, is the superior of all those admirable fielders like Jonty Rhodes, Chris Lewis, Roger Harper and Clive Lloyd who have the natural gift and work hard to make that skill perfect. I suspect it is because he loves fielding and that, encouraged by his pals and his coaches, he sees it as the most important part of his day's work. There are few more talented hitters, but his medium pace bowling is a bit more than ordinary and he will never be the new Jim Laker; but as he roams around the covers like a Bengal tiger on the look out for a meal, there is no one to touch him in the modern game and few in any era.

February 6: Show me a story that starts with a taxi driver quote and I will show you a lie but, believe me, these next few tales are all true. I am driven from Brisbane airport to my hotel by a tiny man whose knowledge about cricket — even thought he is more interested in the AFL game — is first class. He is from Vietnam but he lives in Oz for the last 20 years. During this trip by taxis I also meet the giant Kiwi I recall last week, a burly guy who coaches AFL sides and wants me to tell Duncan Fletcher, the England coach, that he will get better performances out of Steve Harmison if "he gives him a smack before the team runs out because that is how I get the big guys fired up." He may have a point. Twenty four hours after first writing this paragraph I step into a cab driven by a young Korean boy who drives a taxi five days a week, studies engineering at university and is learning Japanese privately. His English is immaculate, his knowledge of the back roads of Brisbane astonishing and, most amazing of all, he can discuss Michael Vaughan and Andrew Flintoff with as much intelligence as any English cricket fan.

February 7: Love it or hate it — and I concede I will sooner read a bad book — the Mexican Wave begins as an expression of joy, progresses until it is an expression of boredom and is now becoming illegal. Cricket Australia says that the Wave is all right but that hooligans throwing noxious substances or hard objects or even plastic cups into the air make it a dangerous pastime. I suspect that in their snobbish, upper class way they are glad to find a reason to ban it since, like the monotonous chanting of the Barmy Army, it is too low class for their taste. At its best it does no harm and at its worst it simply needs supervising. Me, I am for revolution. Why not award a prize for the best Mexican Wave of the summer. One of the conditions for success must be that no animals or human beings are hurt during the Wave and if a sponsor can be persuaded to put up a couple of quid for the winners so much the better. If there is a prize it is certain the Aussies will join the fun and we may get some handsome examples of this underdeveloped art.

February 8: Of all the industrious public relations people I know, Gayle Alleyne takes the big cookie. She sends out endless stories about the World Cup, unfailingly answers queries and never seems to flag. I am not sure if she is responsible for the World Cup motto but I love it. "Come for the World Cup, stay for the party!" Sounds like my sort of tournament; why am I going to be sitting in England, with freezing weather and a can of beer to keep me cheerful? Because hotels are so expensive, because travel will be so difficult, because, to be frank, holding the World Cup in the Caribbean may have been a step too far even with Gayle calling the shots.

February 9: More stick for the securitymen at the 'Gabba, a nature reserve for the really unpleasant men and women in uniform. "They are more interested in stopping an obviously pregnant lady getting to her seat the easy way than helping my crippled father make his way to his seat," is the gist of one text from a friend. Give me a policeman any day, although I still find it hard to see armed cops when they are on crowd control duty at a sports event.

February 10: I accidentally hit the wrong button on the television set and up comes a quiz show. The quizmaster asks: "For $1,000, name a product you are most likely to buy at a cricket match." Lady contestant: "Beer!" Quizmaster: "Correct. Give that lady $1,000!" Is there anything else you want to know about Australia, the land of the young and the free?

February 11: The old diary and I are on our way home to watch the World Cup on our new television set — because anything is cheaper than a trip to the Caribbean in the next few weeks — to await the outcome of Darrell Hair's attempt to sue ICC and the Pakistan Board and whether Marlon Samuels can come out of his scrape with the police with his career intact. Just a warning; well, three warnings actually. Player fixing is still around, do not bet on the outcome of matches in a dead rubber and treat everything you hear from the mouths of cricket's growing army of public relations men with extreme caution. Ours is a lovely old game, some of my best friends are cricketers but that does not mean they can be trusted with your last pound note.