It was a shock to wake up to the news of former Australian all-rounder Andrew Symonds passing away in a car crash at the age of 46. The burly Symonds struck a chord with all those who watched him in action on the cricket field. Symonds was a true entertainer and a real character. He stood out from the rest of the all-conquering Australian team of the new millennium and was a cult figure.
Ever since he smashed a world record 16 sixes for Gloucestershire against Glamorgan in the county circuit in 1995, Symonds was destined for bigger things. He turned down an offer to play for his country of birth England and was desperate to don the Australian colours. It was an epic 143 not out against Pakistan in Australia’s opening match of the 2003 World Cup, which catapulted Symonds as a superstar in white-ball cricket. This was just the tonic Australia needed after leg-spin maestro Shane Warne was sent home after testing positive for a banned diuretic. That knock proved to be the turning point in Symonds’ career that saw him turn out for Australia in 26 Tests, 198 ODIs and 14 T20Is.
Symonds was the quintessential white-ball player. He was a hard-hitting batter, could bowl both medium-pace and spin, and was a real live wire on the field. He was deadly with his throws. No wonder he was part of Ricky Ponting’s Australian team which won the 2003 and 2007 editions of the World Cup without losing a single match.
It’s true Symonds did not do justice to his talent in the longer version of the game. An unbeaten 162 against India in the 2008 Sydney Test was marred by the infamous Monkeygate scandal involving him and Harbhajan Singh. Symonds believed that episode was the beginning of his slide. No doubt it was a roller-coaster ride for Symonds. At heart he remained the country boy who loved fishing and hunting. He had his fair share of troubles with alcohol and disciplinary issues and slowly faded away.
Just like Warne, Symonds was a free spirit. The cricket world will miss him for sure. RIP, Symonds.