The end of 2003 World Cup brought bad memories for the Pakistani team. The World Cup also ended the careers of two of Pakistan's legends, Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis, while putting some players’ futures in danger.
Pakistan's first match in the World Cup was against defending champions Australia. The Australian team has always been a tough opponent and often the scales are always in Australia's favor. The Pakistan team suffered a humiliating defeat in the 1999 World Cup final despite being favorites.
In 2003 a similar draft was written in the Johannesburg ground. Waqar Younis won the toss and elected to field on a strong batting pitch. For Pakistan, legend Wasim Akram had a very good first spell and sent three of the best players to the pavilion with 52 runs on board.
Shoaib Akhtar was also bowling well from the other end and the top order were sent to the pavilion with 86 runs on the scoreboard. It seemed that the match was in the grip of Pakistan. But the dreams of millions of Pakistanis were shattered by Andrew Symonds.
As soon as Symonds arrived at the crease, he took an aggressive stance and started taking on bowlers. His aggressive batting approach can be gauged from the fact that an experienced bowler like Waqar Younis forgot his line and length and bowled two consecutive high no balls and was banned from bowling. Shahid Afridi, the only spinner in the squad, too, failed to stop Symonds. The plight of Pakistani bowlers was such that Younis Khan had to complete the total overs quota.
Symonds hit 18 fours and 2 sixes to snatch the match from Pakistan. The Kangaroos eventually scored 310 runs in the stipulated 50 overs. His batting performance had already defeated Pakistan before they came to bat.
It would not be wrong to say that Symonds was Shoaib Akhtar of Australia. The Australian Cricket Board was bothered because of his egocentric and stubbornness. He could not perform as much as he was talented because of his temperament. He never had a cordial relationship with the coaches. One of his coaches used to say, "I can't see him batting". Once during the Bangladesh tour, he left the team meeting and went fishing.
During the 2009 tour of England, when alcohol was banned during matches, he deliberately drank and was dropped from the team.
Spat with Harbhajan
Symonds' exchange of hot words with Indian spinner Harbhajan Singh is a dark chapter in the history of cricket. Harbhajan abused Symonds while batting during the 2008 Sydney Test match. He called him ‘monkey’. Symonds and the umpires heard and reported it. Harbhajan was banned by the match referee but the ICC pardoned him due to the testimony of Sachin Tendulkar who was batting on the other side. Symonds was never happy about that decision.
Symonds was born in Birmingham and his parents belonged to the Caribbean and Sweden. Since his childhood he desired to wear a green baggy. He arrived in Australia as a youngster and started playing for Queensland and soon caught the selectors’ attention. He was selected for the Pakistan tour in 1998 and started his international career with a one-day match against Pakistan in Lahore. Coincidentally, his last match was against Pakistan in 2009 in Abu Dhabi. He kept going in and out of the team due to his loose temperament, which led to inconsistent performances.
After 2009, the T20 cricket format became part and parcel of his life. Initially, he started playing in the Indian Premier League. The Deccan Challengers took him and he played for them for three years, but then became part of the Mumbai Indians in 2011 which his old rival Harbhajan Singh was also a part of, but the two had become very good friends. So the IPL seasons went well but his batting performance was declining. Alcoholism drove Symonds away from cricket.
He bid farewell to international cricket in 2012 even though he was 37 and could have played for a few years. Despite being away from cricket, he remained popular among his fans. Because of his temperament he was a built-in cricketer for short formats: 5088 runs and 133 wickets in 198 ODI matches are a reflection of his ability.
His demise at the age of just 46 was an unbearable tragedy for his fans. Although the car accident took his body, but his words and his cricket will always live on in the hearts of cricket fans.
He was a high spirited player. Many a time his fearless batting saved Australia's sinking ship. Because of his unique style He will be remembered as a trendsetter in cricket history.