The story of Andrew Symonds, the cricketer, has limitless potential, briefly but gloriously realized in a career that seduced Australia and defied the rules.

Here was a cricketer of another gender entirely. A front row more than an all-rounder, Symonds and his towering figure dominated the games like few others have, but always with a wink and a beaming smile.

Cricket had heard of Andrew Symonds long before any of us saw him. But once we did, we fell in love.

He batted like a kid playing two age levels below, attacking the bowling pins with a unique blend of power and grace.

Symonds’ versatile skittles were an underrated weapon.(Getty Images: Jamie McDonald)

He bowled as he pleased. He tours one week, medium pace the next. Sometimes with a hat. Somehow it always worked.

He played like no one before him. The athleticism of Jonty Rhodes and the laser arm of Ricky Ponting, all in one.

Symonds brought more to the game than most in a career cut short, partly because of his own excesses and partly because of a system that abandoned him when he most needed support.

Andrew Symonds throws a streak to the ground
Symonds contemplated a rugby league career when cricket had stagnated. The evidence suggests that he might have been successful.(Ezra Shaw: Getty Images)

The big embarrassment now is that the story of Andrew Symonds, the man, can be talked about in many of the same painful terms.

At the age of 46, Symonds was killed in a car accident not far from Townsville in North Queensland.

He had much more to give, mainly to his family, but also to all of us. His limitless potential was realized too briefly.

Roy whispers

Symonds says he knew he was adopted from the moment he was old enough to speak.

Born June 9, 1975, in Birmingham, Symonds’ adoptive parents, Ken and Barbara, took him in when he was 15 months old. The family moved to Australia soon after, settling in the rural town of Charters Towers in North Queensland.

A young Andrew Symonds plays a shot.  He wears colorful clothes and does not wear a helmet.
A young Symonds batting for Gloucestershire against Somerset in 1995.(Getty Images: Ben Radford)

Symonds’s British birth would generate debate as his cricket career progressed, but when a call-up from England A in 1995 forced a decision, there was likely to be only one answer.

Throughout his youth and adolescence, word of Symonds had spread throughout Queensland and Australia. There was a boy from the far north who was special, a flaming bat destined for baggy green.

Symonds worked his way up through the state’s underage teams before making a first-class debut for Queensland in the 1994–95 season.

A young Andrew Symonds, with maroon-dyed hair, bowls a cricket ball
A Queenslander through and through.(Getty Images: Darren England)

His reputation as a free scoring attacking batsman led to his ODI debut for Australia in 1998 against Pakistan in Lahore. Symonds bowled two overs and did not bat.

Such was the story of Symonds’ early international career. His shares at first-class level, both in Australia and in English country cricket, were growing, but a breakthrough for his country remained elusive.

With the drop in form in 2002 and motivation suddenly an issue, there were even brief dalliances with the Brisbane Broncos and a drastic code change.

introduced to the world

The 2003 World Cup defined an era for Australia in many ways. It was the first big win in a decade without the help of Shane Warne. It was the confirmation of Ricky Ponting as the game’s most outstanding hitter.

And it was the coming out party, at last, for Andrew Symonds.

Andrew Symonds, wearing his ODI gear, is all smiles as he sits and holds his bat.
Reflecting on his decisive century for Australia against Pakistan in the 2003 World Cup.(Getty Images: Hamish Blair)

Symonds was a surprise selection in the Australia squad as places were opened up by Warne’s drug ban, an injury to Shane Watson and Darren Lehmann’s suspension for using a racial slur.

In 2003, few had faith that Symonds would turn his promise into practice. Fortunately, Ponting was not among those who doubted.

Symonds scored his first international century in Australia’s opening tournament victory against Pakistan. The way he skinned Wasim Akram, Shoahib Akhtar and Waqar Younis throughout The Wanderers in Johannesburg will forever be etched in the memory of all who saw it.

A man in cricket gear dives for a catch
In an era of brilliant fielders, Symonds may well stand out as the best.(Getty Images: Cameron Spencer)

This 143 no-out inning, which came at a time of desperate need for his team, was the manifestation of Symonds’ life’s work. He rewarded the faith of all who had joined him on his journey, and proved to the man himself that he truly was capable of all that he believed himself to be.

Symonds remained a key part of the Australian team that would lift the World Cup. But there was already talk of his next conquest.

Top of the man-mountain

In literal terms, Andrew Symonds replaced Steve Waugh in Australia’s Test squad for the first Test against Sri Lanka in Galle, 2004.

He made a duck in his first Test inning and 24 in his second, sacked both times by Muttiah Muralitharan’s shenanigans.

Close-up photograph of Andrew Symonds, wearing a baggy green cap, dreadlocks, and white zinc on both lips
Andrew Symonds took the time to find his place as a test cricketer.(Supplied: Cricket Australia)

Symonds was ruled out of the third Test of that series and would not wear the baggy green for another 18 months.

A retirement for the summer of 2005/06 brought with it the first glimpse of what Symonds can become as a Test cricketer, with a 72 helter skelter against South Africa at the MCG.

Those entries proved prophetic. Twelve months later, in the same place, Symonds exploded.

Andrew Symonds celebrates his first Test century against England at the MCG.
Atop Mount Haydos, Symonds had risen to the top of the game.(Reuters)

A first test century, 156 to be exact, in a Boxing Day ashes test. As the crushing weight fell from Symonds’ shoulders, it passed to Matthew Hayden’s forehead as his great friend from Queensland jumped into a celebratory hug.

It was one of the defining images of an iconic Australian summer. Cricket would never be so sweet to Andrew Symonds.

An impossible battle to win

The glitz and glamor of professional sports never appealed to Andrew Symonds. His escape was found in a boat or on a river, fishing rod in hand. And after finishing work for the day, a beer or two.

Drinking had threatened Symonds’ career at many crosses, most seriously in 2005 when he turned up for an ODI against Bangladesh in England, still drunk from the night before and unable to get to his feet.

Andrew Symonds watches as Australia descends on Bangladesh
A night of drinking in England in 2005 nearly cost Symonds his career.(fake images)

Symonds worked hard to keep his drinking under control, and during those fruitful years from 2006 to 2008, he mostly succeeded.

The 2008 SCG test, between Australia and India, was so many things. It remains one of the most spiteful Test matches ever played and featured one of the most unforgettable climaxes thanks to Michael Clarke’s twist of the fingers.

For Andrew Symonds, it was the beginning of the end of his career.

LtoR Harbhajan Singh and Andrew Symonds
The Harbhajan Singh incident in Sydney in 2008 changed everything for Symonds.(Ezra Shaw: Getty Images)

Symonds alleged that Indian spinner Harbhajan Singh called him a monkey during that test. Symonds’ claim was corroborated by Australian teammates who were close to the incident.

The ICC initially handed Harbhajan a three-match ban, only to lower it following BCCI’s appeal. India threatened to boycott the rest of the tour over the allegations, and as Symonds sat in court alongside Matthew Hayden, Michael Clarke and Ricky Ponting, he was wracked with guilt that he had dragged his teammates and friends into the mess. highly political.

There would be no suspension for Harbhajan and no boycott of India, just a void within Symonds that would never be filled.

A group of men sit at a long desk with microphones.
Sitting with friends and teammates in Harbhajan’s hearing, Symonds was wracked with guilt.(Getty Images: Robert Cianflone)

Racism, specifically the term “monkey,” had followed Symonds for years to that point. And having finally taken a stand, Symonds was overwhelmed by the feeling that Australian cricket had let him down.

In the years to come, Symonds would admit to his problems with heavy drinking. In June 2009, just 15 months after the Harbhajan incident, Symonds was sent home from the T20 World Cup in England due to “an alcohol related incident”.

Andrew Symonds’ international cricket career was over.

back to its roots

In 2012, Symonds officially retired after spending a few years on the international T20 circuit and devoted himself to his family.

For the past several years, he has lived in Townsville with his wife, Laura, and their two young children, Chloe and Billy.

Andrew Symonds looks down while wearing a white cap
Andrew Symonds’ life and career were interrupted, but both were filled with more memories than most. (Getty Images: Alex Goodlet)

Together, they lived a simple life as Symonds surrounded himself with the people and places he loved most.

He became a familiar voice in Big Bash commentary, and his modest and unassuming analysis stood out from his contemporaries.

It continues to be loved by those who follow the game, here and abroad, and will be forever.

Generations from now, stories will be told of the man they called Roy. From the time he and Haydos capsized their boat and had to swim to shore.

Andrew Symonds holds a microphone with Darren Lehmann and Jessica Yates
Symonds moved into broadcasting after his career and carved out a niche for himself among the Big Bash commentators.(Getty Images: Matt Blyth)

Or those infectious wicket celebrations, heels slammed together with dreadlocks dancing in a way that has never been seen before in Test Cricket.

And what about the scratcher in the Gabba!? Maybe he could have done it as a Bronco after all.

Andrew Symonds’ story will now feel forever unfinished, but never unfulfilled. This was a life lived to the full, the fruits of which were enjoyed by millions.

We were lucky to be taken along for the ride.

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