| Andrew Symonds |
Calcutta: There have been instances of cricketers being sent home from tours (Lala Amarnath and Abdul Qadir, for example), but Andrew Symonds appears to have scripted rather dubious history.
Hes been disciplined in a home series, for going fishing instead of attending a compulsory team meeting in the lead-up to Australias three-match ODI clash against Bangladesh.
Symonds, who was at the centre of the monkey-row (which also featured our garam Sardar, Harbhajan Singh) during the Sydney Test in January, was sent home on Saturday morning.
Specifically, the 33-year-old allrounder was made to board the first available Darwin-Brisbane flight.
The exemplary disciplinary action was taken late on Friday (but not immediately made public), around 12 hours after the UK-born Symonds opted to go fishing.
He loves the outdoors, but a line surely has to be drawn somewhere.
Cricket Australia (CA) moved promptly after stand-in captain Michael Clarke recommended that action be taken. According to general manager, public affairs, Peter Young, Clarke had a one-on-one with regular captain Ricky Ponting before speaking to CA.
There was a meeting of the Leadership Group within the team and, then, Michael made the recommendation to CA. Before that, he had a word with Ricky, who as you know is recovering from an injury, Young told The Telegraph.
Besides Clarke, the current Leadership Group comprises vice-captain Michael Hussey, coach Tim Nielsen and long-serving manager Steve Bernard.
Asked if Symonds was given a chance to explain his absence, Young replied: An explanation didnt have to be called for as the team meeting wasnt optional. It was compulsory... Were the No.1 team and certainly cant afford to have anybody on board who isnt a 100 per cent committed...
Young added: Michael and the Leadership Group are clear about that... There cant be any compromise on the 100 per cent commitment bit... CA, by the way, is in touch with the players association...
A shade over three years ago, in England, Symonds had been disciplined (though he wasnt sent home) for presenting himself in a drunken state before an ODI — the opposition then too had been Bangladesh.
Quite a bizarre coincidence that.
Symonds hasnt quite been labelled Australian crickets enfant terrible, but hes still seen as a problem child of sorts and definitely isnt the most popular around in the dressing room. As a cricketer, however, the burly Queenslander is outstanding. Rare, in some ways.
Significantly, CA intends sitting down with Symonds, over the next couple of days, and determining his level of commitment to Australia.
Its not clear, as yet, as to who all will have a session with Symonds, but thats on the cards... Right now, though, I cant say whether CA is going to take further action... That will have to be decided over the next few days, Young said.
Officials from Symonds home state, Queensland, are expected to interact with him before anybody from CA does so formally.
Assuming no more disciplinary steps are taken, Symonds could make a comeback during Australias tour of India (for four Tests) in October-November.
Seen as a one-day specialist for long, Symonds has grown to occupy a permanent slot in Test cricket as well. Hes only played 22 Tests (an average of almost 45), but thats because his debut in ODIs was almost six years before his first Test — March 2004, in Sri Lanka.
Australia didnt, of course, miss Symonds in the first ODI: Bangladesh got thrashed by 180 runs. His replacement, Brett Geeves, had a successful debut.
Footnote: Both Sydney warriors, Harbhajan and Symonds, have now been disciplined. The offie, it may be recalled, was banned for five ODIs (in May) for slapping Sreesanth after an IPL match.