Sep 13, 2008

Sport - Symonds's absence a relief for India

Andrew Symonds’s absence from the Australia touring party leaves it shorn of a forceful cricketer and character. India has felt his power at the crease and will be relieved to be spared any repetition. Never mind that he was patently caught behind the wicket before he had taken command, still Symonds’s innings in the ill-mannered Sydney Test match was one of coruscating power. Once he was underway, Anil Kumble and company might as well have been firing popguns at a tank. It was an exceptional assault.
Add the all-rounder’s athleticism and knack of breaking partnerships with seamers or off-breaks and his capacity is revealed. But Symonds’s influence on the Australian team goes beyond runs and wickets. Something in his nature causes colleagues to circle the wagons around him. Perhaps it is that he took so long to make his mark, or the knockabout way he talks, or his fondness for fishing, or his humour, or his shyness, or the vulnerability caused by his mixed background. Heck, even the New Zealand judge called upon to disentangle the SCG Test liked him.Strong solidarity
Whatever the cause, teammates feel a strong solidarity with him, or they did. Of course the same applies to Harbhajan Singh. Otherwise events in Sydney cannot be fully understood. Indeed the Australians were so eager to protect their man in Sydney that they lost their heads. Afterwards Symonds said that he did not understand what all the fuss was about. In the meantime battles had been fought on his behalf. Ricky Ponting’s failure to hold himself or his team in check showed him in a poor light.
But Symonds also has limitations, most particularly a stubborn streak that might impress a mule. His reluctance, bordering on refusal, to so much as countenance going to play cricket in Pakistan has had a strong influence on his teammates.
Whereas others might be prepare to listen to those responsible for the wellbeing of the game, Symonds was not for turning. And his attitude took hold.
Before long Australia’s reputation as the most narrow-minded of the international teams had been restored.
As ever the senior players must take the blame. Shane Warne and Glenn McGrath were missed.
All the more reason to lament Symond’s decision to go fishing during a team meeting in Darwin. Never mind that meetings are mostly a waste of time, or that the opposition was weak. He was obliged to support his team and his captain and instead slapped their faces. It is not a capital offence but he deserves a stint in a remote paddock.In good hands
By no means, though has the episode been all bad for the Australians. In his first sustained stint as captain, Michael Clarke was called upon to choose between his mate and his team. To his credit, he accepted that the offender ought to be sent home. It was the second time in a few months that he had shown that he is his own man.
His rejection of the IPL lollies demonstrated his independence. By no means an innocent party in the SCG imbroglio, Clarke has bounced back impressively. As India can confirm, he is also a fleet-footed batsman and the best finger spinner in his country. Australia’s future is in good hands.
Although Symonds will be missed, he is not irreplaceable. Simon Katich is a fine cricketer and Shane Watson is pressing. And it’d be unwise to underestimate Bryce McGain and Peter Sidall.
McGain is an accomplished and experienced wrist-spinner and his fellow Victorian sends down lively outswingers. Australia has a lot of unfamiliar faces but will still be hard to beat.

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