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Symonds Brings Windian Flair To Aussie Steel

By Orin Davidson
Feb. 16th, 2008

The average cricket fan hardly knows Australian dynamo Andrew Symonds is of West Indian origin or was born in England.

But by now most would agree he is an established member of the team in all forms of the game following a recent series of career defining displays.

Andrew Symonds

Not too long ago Symonds seemed consigned for a role as a career one-day player, much like the likes of Michael Bevaun, or Adam Gilchrist was supposed to be or Mahendra Singh Dhoni was touted as.

But with retirement being the order of the day in the aging world champion squad, Australia has not had to look far for replacements for the likes of Damien Martyn and others.
It required only a cursory glance at the limited overs rooster to come up with the man known only for power hitting and electric fielding.

These days Symonds is more than just the master of “slam bang thank you maam” batting, he has added defense and shot selection than fits him neatly in the middle order of the undisputed world champs.

And with his more than just average off spin bowling, Symonds is giving the team much more with his versatility.

In the recent series against India, his name was associated more for his toss up with Harbhajan Singh over racist taunts, but more importantly his blasting of two half centuries and a huge ton, that followed up on an additional two half tons from Sri Lanka earlier in the Aussie summer, cemented his place at number six.

With Symonds in the Test mix, it makes Australia an even greater marketing behemoth that might be good news for the marketing elements of cricket boards around the world but a nightmare for the cricketing side of those organizations.

Symonds’ strength and agility are the key to his flair whether he is batting or fielding and which likens him to many great West Indian players of yore.

Vivian Richards comes quickly to mind, if not in the splurge of runs at the same time of Antiguan’s career, but more in Symonds’ ability to hit powerfully and consistently that goes with fielding prowess and backup off spin bowling of the former.

That flair can be attributed to West Indian genes because one of Symonds’ biological parents is from the islands.

It might also explain his longstanding dread locks, which originated in Jamaica and is now an identifiable trait for most West Indians.

Outside of those factors, there is nothing to suggest Symonds once lived in England where he was adopted. His world record 20 sixes in a match including 16 in one innings while playing for Gloucestershire against Glamorgan in the English county championships, is his most noticeable link to the land which created cricket. And of course the valiant attempts by the English Test and County Board to have Symonds represent them, as is the case with almost every eligible foreign player that makes an impact there.

Symonds though, is everything else Australia, having been taken there since three years of age by his adoptive English parents.

He sounds every bit an Aussie and loves a challenge that is a trademark for all competitive individuals from the land Down Under.

Not many players would’ve turned his back on having an easy path to the international status like Symonds did when he refused to walk into the England team, preferring a much tougher path through the Aussie system.

Which happens to be as rough as any road could be, as Michael Holding once pointed out some years ago, in his outrage over the appointment of fellow Windies testie Carl Hooper as captain.

The former fast bowling ace was quoted as saying that it is harder making a state team in Australia than getting into the West Indies test side.

Brendon Nash, an Australian state player must have been listening at the time as he has given up on state competition there to try his hand for West Indies and already is a regular in the Jamaica team.

Symonds though, is made of stronger mettle and even at 32 years he does not mind having to wait that long to own his Baggy Green cap and be recognized as an established Australian player. Even though being a part of the team’s limited overs squad has produced high prestige which comes from him owning two World Cup gold medals in a total of four Cups won overall by the world number one country.

Outside of his belligerence with the bat, Symonds has the mental toughness to complement his game without which he would’ve been no-where near close to owning the baggy Green.

His most memorable innings were the big ones he blasted with his team in turmoil.

In the 2003 World Cup against Pakistan Symonds pulled the team from a hole at 86 runs for four wickets, with a whirlwind 143 not out.

Two years later with his neck on the chopping block following a run of disappointing scores and Australia on the receiving end on 84-5, Symonds called on his inner strength to restore his place and the team with an epic 156. Australia won the game and Symonds embarked on the road to solidity in the middle. A few weeks ago he repeated the trick albeit with a few lucky breaks courtesy of the umpires, after lifting Australian from 119-4, with phenomenal 162 not out against India at Adelaide.

Such is his prominence now, Symonds’ role has morphed into intimidation of the opposition on the field. Ex Aussie captain Steve Waugh refers to it as mental destabilization but the world knows it as sledging.

Symonds called out Harbhajan batting in the recent Sydney Test which eventually boiled over into the racism war.

The full story of who said what, we might never know, until probably either player writes his autobiography. But what his known for sure is Symonds is in the team for keeps.

Although it might take a miracle for him to eventually match Ricky Ponting’s 58.83 Test batting average, but at 41.24 Symonds is higher than every current West Indian testie except Shivnarine Chanderpaul.
Orin Davidson Column Homepage

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