World Cup History: Andrew Symonds - gifted and distracted
Every now and then an immensely gifted player comes along but fails to realise his potential due to a flawed personality. The awesome striker of the cricket ball that he was, Andrew Symonds should have achieved so much more, particularly in Test matches.
He floated from one controversy to another, made news more for his unseemly behaviour on and off the field than will his chunky willow, and eventually disappointed hordes of fans of his big-hitting prowess. Like a George Best or a Shoaib Akhtar, Symonds squandered the gifts that he was bestowed with.
Scintillating unbeaten 143 on World Cup debut
In the World Cup, though, Symonds blazed a fiery trail that was a vital component in the wresting of titles both times. The great Wasim Akram aided by the pacy Shoaib Akhtar put Australia on the mat straightaway in the 2003 clash with Pakistan. Symonds joined skipper Ricky Ponting at 86 for four in the 16th over. They added 60 in 13.4 overs before Ponting fell, having completed his half-century.
Symonds brought up his fifty off 60 balls, and as if to celebrate, hit Shahid Afridi for 4 fours in an over soon after. He put on 70 with Brad Hogg before the latter was run out for 14. Symonds had taken to Afridi, and he slammed the leg-spinner for his 15th boundary to raise his first century in one-day internationals. He needed just 92 deliveries to reach the coveted landmark, and rocketed the next ball again to the fence. His stand with Ian Harvey was worth 54.
By now Symonds was in top gear. He hit Akram for two consecutive boundaries, and in the next over blasted Waqar Younis for a six. After bowling three deliveries in that 49th over, Waqar was ordered out of the attack for bowling two beamers at Symonds. In the final over he crashed Akram too over the ropes. Symonds returned unbeaten on 143 off only 125 deliveries with 18 fours and 2 sixes. This was at the time the highest score by an Australian in the World Cup.
He took Australia to 310 for eight with one of the most audacious displays of power hitting. After having notched up just two half-centuries in 54 ODIs, Symonds had finally lived up to the potential everyone knew he had for years. In the process he bailed out his team in a crucial opening encounter. Pakistan were shell-shocked by this fearsome counter-attack and folded up for just 228 runs. The only choice for the man-of-the-match prize was Symonds.
Ian Chappell said of him later:
I think it’s the fear factor he puts into the opposition because Symonds can clear the boundary on a regular basis. He is going to create some run outs for you. He’ll take a blinding catch and he has been very, very tidy with the ball now for a long time. He gives you flexibility there.
Symonds did not get the chance to bat in the next three matches. Sent in at No. 4 against first-timers Namibia, Symonds scored 59 off 63 balls with 2 fours and 2 sixes. It was one of the most lop-sided matches in World Cup history.
Presented with a target of 205 after Andy Bichel ripped out seven English wickets for 20 runs, Australia were given the rough treatment by Andy Caddick, who grabbed the first four scalps in a hurry. Wickets continued to tumble, Symonds fell for a duck, and Australia were in dire straits at 135 for eight. That man Bichel then allied with Michael Bevan to pull off a tremendous victory with two balls to spare.
Symonds missed the first two super-six games, and scored an unbeaten 33 against Kenya to ring in victory.
A magnificent 91 not out in the 2003 semi-final
Then again, on that difficult St, George’s Park track, it was Symonds at his very best in the semi-final encounter with Sri Lanka. As Australia found themselves in some trouble at 51 for three, he put on 93 with Darren Lehmann.
Even as wickets continued to tumble thereafter, Symonds batted serenely to score a magnificent unbeaten 91 off 118 balls with 7 fours and a six. What a priceless knock it was, could be gauged from the fact that Australia could put together just 212 for seven in their 50 overs.
The Lankans struggled right through and when the rain came they were far short of the target. Symonds was once again the undisputed man-of-the-match.
The final was a one-sided affair. Symonds did not get the opportunity to bat but picked up two wickets for 7 runs as Australia won their second successive World Cup. It was a hugely successful tournament personally too for Symonds with those two tremendous knocks, an average of 163 and strike-rate of 90.55. Andrew Symonds had arrived, finally.
Australia’s brilliant run in the 2007 World Cup
After missing the first two matches against the minnows in the 2007 event, having had surgery to repair his torn right bicep, Symonds made his appearance in the clash with South Africa. As Matthew Hayden smashed the then fastest century in a World Cup and Australia their highest score in the World Cup, Symonds could manage just 18 runs.
Hayden then hit the highest score for Australia in the World Cup as they took on hosts West Indies in the super-eights. Symonds got only 13 runs this time. He did not get the opportunity to bat against Bangladesh, and scored an unbeaten 28 off the English bowling to usher in an easy win. As Ireland packed up for 91 runs, Symonds was sent in one drop, and all he could do was score 15 not out to bring up another victory.
It was all too easy for Australia in this World Cup, and Sri Lanka presented no difficulties either. They set a target of 227, and Symonds joined hands with skipper Ponting in an unbroken 106-run stand to take the team home yet again. Symonds hit up an unbeaten 63 off 71 balls with 5 fours and 2 sixes.
As Hayden got his third hundred of the tournament against New Zealand, Symonds scored just 11 in another big Aussie total and consequent facile win.
With all the top-order batsmen in such good form, it seemed as though Symonds’ primary task in this tournament was to take Australia home when they batted second. So it was once more in the semi-final. All that South Africa could total was 150. This time it was Michael Clarke who accompanied him to the winning post. Symonds was undefeated on 18.
In the final it was Adam Gilchrist who took the game away with his pyrotechnics. All that Symonds could do was play another quickfire unbeaten knock. He scored 23 as Australia posted 281 for four. The Sri Lankan challenge faded after a second-wicket century partnership between Sanath Jayasuriya and Kumar Sangakkara, long before the light itself faded and the Duckworth-Lewis method drew the curtain on the most eventful and tragic World Cup.
It was an easy ride for a brilliant Australian team in this tournament. They were hardly stretched and Symonds barely needed to exert himself.
Overall in his two World Cups, Symonds averaged 103, having hit up 515 runs with a brilliant strike-rate of 93.29. Controversies continued to cast a shadow over his career and Symonds’ international career finally came to an end when he had so much more to offer. He finally pressed the self-destruct button.
Andrew Symonds’ World Cup record:
Matches 18, Highest Score 143*, Runs 515, Average 103.00, Strike-rate 93.29, Hundred 1, Fifties 3, Catches 7