Andrew Symonds, the former Australia allrounder, has spoken out about the hurt and anger he felt at what he perceived as administrative mishandling in the aftermath of the 2008 Sydney Test - where an on-field altercation with Harbhajan Singh blew up into a race row.
“If truth, honesty and common sense had prevailed, then there would have been a punishment for the player,” Symonds said, speaking to Harsha Bhogle on ESPNcricinfo’s Opening Up.
“It would have been dealt with, and it would have set a precedent for the future. But I don’t think it has done that”.
Harbhajan had an exchange with Symonds on day three of the Test, during which he allegedly called Symonds a “monkey”. He was handed a three-match ban, which was later overturned on appeal.
Symonds alleged that the BCCI had flexed its muscle to get Harbhajan off, and said he and his team-mates “were made to look idiots” when the ban was reversed. “I think Cricket Australia was intimidated by the Indian cricket board.”
“The thing, I think, that was grinding on me the most was the lying. Because the allegation was that this hadn’t happened, and it had. Then the lies started, and then it became political. The captain [Ricky Ponting] was made to look like a fool, and that should have never happened, and the other players too.”
Harbhajan’s appeal was presided over by Justice John Hansen, a former New Zealand high court judge, who said there was insufficient evidence for a racism charge to stick. The offence was changed to a Level 2.8 one according to the ICC’s Code of Conduct – abuse and insult not amounting to racism – to which Harbhajan pleaded guilty and was fined 50% of his match fees. Two days later the ICC admitted the judge hadn’t been given enough material, especially on Harbhajan’s past offences, and apologised for the punishment, which many considered not severe enough for a repeat offender.
Symonds said Australia’s case wasn’t presented well. “It was really like a courtroom slugfest in the end. And I think the way our side was put across, it wasn’t as accurate as it needed to be. We probably missed a couple of points, which in the end cost our side dearly.”
Symonds said he was angry at first and then completely disillusioned. He also felt embarrassed because his team-mates had been dragged into it. “If it had been just me, then I would have just kept going forward,” Symonds said.
“I was with these blokes day after day, and there were people still writing about it in the paper. You think about their wives, their mothers and fathers, that sort of thing. I think it was, as I said, something that was handled poorly.”
Symonds, who effectively retired from international cricket last year after his Cricket Australia contract was cancelled following a string of disciplinary breaches, said of his decision to quit: “I woke up one day and I thought, ‘You know what – this isn’t originally what I was enjoying.”
Symonds’ last couple of major infractions were a scuffle in a pub following the win in the first Test against New Zealand late in 2008, and a radio interview early the next year, where he called Brendon McCullum a “lump of s***”, which led to him being banned for the tour of South Africa.
Symonds said that the change in the atmosphere of the team was among the factors that contributed to his decision to leave. “There was conflict, there was politics, there were rules that have been broken, there were side contracts, and there were lots of other things involved. The whole sort of feeling in that side was changing. Compared to what I was used to.
“For me, life is not all about cricket, cricket and cricket. I was finding it difficult to enjoy myself in that environment, which was leading me to drink and then not make sensible decisions. It got to the point where I did not want to be in the side.”
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