Big man and his big deeds

V. GANESAN

Andrew Symonds is an impact player, whether dismissing the ball ruthlessly to the corners of the park or plucking catches out of thin air. And the fact that he can send down both medium pace or a brisk variety of off-spin brings his versatility to the fore, writes S. Dinakar.

Andrew Symonds is the quintessential Australian who rules the Outback. Not for him the city life and the formal ties... only freedom and fresh air.

There are numerous stories about Symonds. That he enjoys hunting and chases down wild pigs with bare hands. On the quieter side, he spends much time fishing on those big lakes in Northern Queensland.

Symonds is a big man and has this imposing physical side to him. The message is: ‘Do not mess around with me.’ The aggression within him simmers.

While he has this reputation of flexing his muscles in the Outback when the need arises, Symonds is also known for his honest, no-nonsense ways. With him, what you see is what you get.

Endearing tales of how Symonds has volunteered to help those in distress abound. There is a child-like quality in the manner he celebrates dismissals. He can be temperamental and moody, and also great fun.

Symonds has run into roadblocks on the disciplinary front too. He was pulled up for a late night drinking binge ahead of an ODI during Australia’s tour of England in 2005. The cricketer has shown the resolve to fight back from career crises.

The Aussie, in fact, could be something of a Bollywood hero. He also smashes attacks, Bollywood style... or the Aussie way. Amongst the cleanest strikers of the ball, the 32-year-old Queenslander clears the ground with effortless ease, whether destroying attacks in the county circuit — he first made an impact as an uncomplicated striker here — or embarking on a pulse-pounding ride for Australia.

Aggressive batsmen can push the bowlers from a wicket-taking mode to a defensive one. Symonds does this to various attacks, blazing away in the Australian middle-order with cultured strokes and hefty blows.

His 4409 runs in 173 ODIs (till the Chandigarh ODI) have come at a terrific strike-rate of 93.11. Add to this his 124 wickets at 37.57 (economy rate: 5.00) and we have a very valuable player. He can maintain the momentum in the middle overs and then change gears in the end.

Andrew Symonds trains at the Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bangalore before Australia’s first ODI against India.-K. BHAGYA PRAKASH

Andrew Symonds

When Symonds was injured in the run-up to the 2007 World Cup, Australia suffered. He brings with him a huge dose of confidence and stroke-making ability.

Symonds is an impact player, whether dismissing the ball ruthlessly to the corners of the park or plucking catches out of thin air. The fact that he can send down both medium pace or a brisk variety of off-spin brings his versatility to the fore.

The Indians have not been spared in the ongoing Future Cup ODI series, although Symonds has been rather subdued by his own standards. His 87 in the Kochi ODI was an effort that reflected his growing maturity. Australia had been dented early, and he first rebuilt the innings and then consolidated.

Symonds’ 89 in Hyderabad — once again he walked in at No. 5 — was an innings of different shades, from a dull grey to a blazing red. Man of the Match he certainly was.

The Aussie has also got involved in skirmishes. Not a saint on the field by any stretch of imagination — Symonds can be sharp with words — he was outdone by S. Sreesanth’s peevish and provocative behaviour in Kochi.

Those who know Symonds are not surprised that when he had to choose between representing England or Australia, he opted for the latter. England offered him guaranteed Test and ODI places and, possibly, a long and lucrative international career. In Australia, he would have to walk down an uncertain path. Symonds decided to take the tough road.

He has reasons to be proud of his achievements, although he is only now cementing a Test spot. He has been a livewire in the ODI XI, swinging matches around for Australia. A counter-attacking, unbeaten 143 against a high-quality Pakistani attack at the Wanderers in the 2003 World Cup was a breakthrough innings for him.

The morale in the Aussie camp was low after the Shane Warne doping scandal and the Pakistani bowlers had made early inroads. The Aussies were vulnerable.

Symonds was under severe pressure himself. His career till that point was one of unfulfilled promises. There was uproar down under following his selection to the Australian team for the World Cup. But the selectors and Ricky Ponting comprehended that match-winners come rare. They were proved right.

Australia was staring at another crisis against Sri Lanka in the semifinal at Port Elizabeth when Symonds constructed an innings of much skill.

Muttiah Muralitharan was a formidable force on a sluggish surface that encouraged spin, but Symonds used his feet well in defence and offence. His unbeaten 91 was, probably, the most influential knock of the World Cup.

His Test career has been a mixed bag but Symonds’ 156 in the last Ashes Test down under could prove a launching pad for what could be a rollicking few years in Test cricket with the baggy greens. Like Matthew Hayden, he could prove a late developer.

This Symonds may have a lot more gas left in the tank.