Almanac Cricket: Old Mate Roy, No matter what

 

 

ANDREW Symonds must have been a terrific bloke to know personally. His many mates in the cricket community have made that abundantly clear since his death in a car accident in Queensland last weekend.

 

There has been no mistaking the authenticity of the grief they have all expressed. If anyone has had a bad word to say about him, it certainly hasn’t been in public – and quite possibly hasn’t happened at all.

 

From the outside looking in, that is not entirely unsurprising.

 

And that is my vantage point, even though I was part of the cricket media for the entirety of his spectacular and entertaining career.

 

Regrettably, I never got to know “Roy” at all. Can’t remember a single one-on-one conversation, only press conferences which were not always all that useful because he didn’t seem to enjoy engaging with journalists and as far as I could tell what relationships he did have with them were often testy.

 

How come?  Perhaps because, as some of his circle have noted, he had a tendency towards self-consciousness rather than self-confidence, but maybe also because he did cop his fair share of public criticism, the reasons for which he had only himself to blame.

 

They have been well-documented in his many otherwise extremely positive obituaries in the cricket media.

 

The three most obvious were turning up drunk on the morning of an international match, going fishing instead of attending a team meeting and pouring a glass of wine over vice-captain Michael Clarke’s head in a fit of pique.

 

He was also fined and suspended for calling popular New Zealand player Brendon McCullum “a piece of shit” in a slurred-voice radio interview.

 

To call any or all of that unprofessional is a gross understatement.

 

Usually, that would be more than enough to turn your team-mates off you permanently – and for your cards to be marked by the selectors and the administration.

 

After multiple suspensions and contract withdrawals, the latter did eventually happen – the McCullum incident was in 2009, and he never played for Australia again.

 

Ironically, it was Cricket Australia’s heavy-hitters themselves who have a bit to answer for about the way he left the game embittered and disillusioned, because they now admit they hung him out to dry when he was the central – and innocent – figure in the “monkeygate” vilification drama involving the Indian team,

 

But Roy’s popularity inside the dressing room – as has been confirmed by everything we have heard this week – never waned. He remained everyone’s favourite team-mate apparently which is an extraordinary accolade in itself.

 

Even Clarke forgave him and they ended up mate again, while McCullum took no offence and happily accepted an apology.

 

“Everyone’s favourite team-mate” sounds too good to be true and might well be slightly exaggerated, but, still, how often do you hear that said about someone, say, in a League footy team? Very seldom, I would suggest.

 

That speaks volumes for the sort of likeable character people found him to be, and just goes to show that what you get is not necessarily what you see – especially if you’re observing from a distance.

 

Certainly, the image he has left behind is an enviable one.

 

He will be remembered not only as a hugely entertaining cricketer of above-average talent who obviously derived joy from playing the game with his mates – the reason most young people start playing sport at all – whose defining moment was that first Test century at the MCG against England in 2006, with the memorable, unrestrained mid-pitch celebration with his bestie, Matt Hayden.

 

There was also the knockabout larrikin for whom the fame and fortune on offer was nowhere near as important as living life on his own terms, which meant avoiding corporate obligations and the like, in favour of catching fish, hunting pigs and have a few beers with his mates.

 

What’s not to like about that?

 

He had a life, during and after cricket, that any number of young blokes would kill for, and it is totally tragic that it was cut so short.

 

Sadly, he has that in common with his old team-mate Shane Warne, of course, one of the blokes with whom he hit it off best, which is not surprising because there was a fair bit of Warnie in him.

 

They were kindred souls in some respects, although their profiles, lifestyles and achievements were poles apart.

 

It is hard to believe that neither made it much past half-way in life – Warne 52 and Symonds 46 didn’t quite reach a century between them – and that they could both depart within a couple of months, making it a terrible year for the cricket community who also lost revered wicketkeeper Rod Marsh at 74.

 

Dean Jones’ demise, also at 52, in September, 2020, is still a raw memory too.

 

And then there is former ODI player Ryan Campbell who , at 50, suffered a life-threatening heart attack recently but who has now recovered, while two other Test stars, Michael Slater and Stuart MacGill, have made regular appearances in the news media that they could have done without.

 

It’s depressing, but the year is not yet half over so cricket will be desperately hoping that the rest of it is altogether more uplifting.

 

Speaking of Warnie, I have lost count of how many books have been written about him – there are five by his own  (assisted) hand alone – but it hasn’t taken long for the production line to crank up again, with Australia’s most prolific sports author Ken Piesse releasing ON YA WARNIE  (Wilkinson Publishing), a tribute packed with anecdotes, quotes, lists, stats and caricatures. It can best be described as a cheer-up for the great man’s millions of fans.

 

Read more from Ron Reed HERE.

 

 

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Comments

  1. Very sad day indeed. Think the disgraceful treatment in the monkey business turned him right off and was the start of Indian muscle flexing. Tendulkar seemed to have a memory spasm of some sort? His off field activities remind me a little of Thomson, too, with the fishing and pig shooting. That sort of character will never be seen again, more’s the pity. All power to him, but turning up drunk to an Australian game is just not on. I had been really pleased to see him working his way back into the cricket world with the commentary gig in recent times and will miss him there. Not half as much as his wife and children, hopefully CA can support them somehow. At least better than with the monkey business…

  2. John O'Keefe says

    I was the coach/manager/scorer on the day that Andrew Symonds and Matthew Mott made an opening partnership of 461 in 1992 (I think). It was a semi-final Sunday in the Under-19 one-day competition. We were South Brisbane and they were Gold Coast. They were loaded with talent and we had one batsman, no bowlers and 11 fielders (or, in this case, ball-fetchers). We warmed up for the game by having a bat and a bowl and going through our fielding drills, they warmed up by playing a game of soccer. The ground was the Wynnum-Manly second oval, where the pitch was known locally as a “road”. It was a hot, dry and sunny day, the earth was bare of grass and baked hard. The boundary was short on one side. It looked like being a hard day. I had bowled my leg-spinners to Andrew in the Seconds a few weeks before and been smashed for about 40 or 50 — so, I had an inkling of what was to come.
    They won the toss and Symonds faced the first ball. Half a second later, it bounced back off the sightboard and landed at the bowler’s feet, ready for the second ball. Fourteen runs came from the first over (two more fours and three balls that Andrew stood still and let the ball hit is bat — there was no running and he didn’t even look where the ball went for those two fours). I remember saying to one of the parents that if they continued on like this, they would make 700. (As it turned out, I wasn’t far wrong.)
    Gold Coast didn’t have a scorer (I don’t think they even had a scorebook) and I was the only person there who knew how to score — so, I was the only scorer (trying to keep up with the mayhem). The slaughter continued for 35 overs with Mott’s timing and placement keeping pace with Symond’s strength and power. They were both about 220 at the end of the 35th over when they both retired and walked from the field, not even sweating. I think they scored over 200 in sixes and another 200 in fours. I say “about 220” each because, with the flow of runs, being the only scorer, having players and parents constantly asking for their scores and having to multiply my six-times tables in adding up the totals all the time, it could have been 20 either side of 220.
    The next batsman in also made a century in the final 15 overs and they ended up with over 600. Our first batsman also made a century in reply and we ended up with over 300 — which, in the pre-20/20 bash-and-crash days, was a fair indication of the pitch.
    After the game, I rang up the TV station sports people to tell them that the Gold Coast had just scored a world-record one-day score (for any level) and of Symonds’ and Mott’s performance. After the story appeared on the news, I was inundated with phone calls from my (senior team) mates congratulating me on my coaching and leadership skills after being belted for a world record score.
    As I said, being on my own, having to yell out instructions to the field and having people demanding to know the score and how the boys were going, the scorebook was a bit of a mess, with nothing adding up or agreeing with any progressive totals at the end of the day. The only two certainties were that Souths came second and that we had just seen something special. So, I took the book to work next day and worked through the bowling figures over by over and, effectively, re-scored the game. It turned out to be only 25 runs out and both Symonds’ and Mott’s about a dozen more or less. Later that week, I ripped out the page, signed it and drove it down to Carrara and gave it to the Gold Coast people as a momento. They framed it and hung it on the wall and I think it is still there to this day.
    Matthew Mott went on to play for Queensland and Victoria, to coach the Australian Women’s team and has just been appointed to the team coaching England. We all know what Andrew Symonds went on to become. During the game, I was thinking that it was a sad day for us when he got on the bus up from the Gold Coast, but, in hindsight, it was a privilege to be present at the beginning of what was to become one of the modern age’s greatest big hitters.

  3. Ian Hauser says

    JOK, in the late 90s I scored a senior boys interschool 30 overs a side match where my lads conceded a tad over 270. That was pretty hectic going and, to my surprise, all the figures balanced out! I shudder at the thought of keeping up with the onslaught you had to cope with. (I think my lads, in reply, managed about 150.)

    A colleague of mine at the time had previously taught at Canberra Grammar (I think). He recalled a 15 overs per side House match where Simon O’Donnell (SOD) and his brother Graham (GOD) opened the batting for their House, went on a rampage and declared (!) after 14 overs with the score over 250. Now that is rubbing it in!

  4. Gee, we have lost a few this year, Ron.

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