Symonds’ torturous confession
ANDREW Symonds says he's probably going to be remembered most for flattening a streaker in the middle of the Gabba but not every part of his cricket career will be looked back on with similar fondness.
The all-rounder had plenty of highlights - among them a breakout 143 not out against Pakistan in the 2003 World Cup opener and his maiden Test century against England on Boxing Day alongside good mate Matthew Hayden - but a downward spiral saw his time in the national colours come to a sad end.
The catalyst was an altercation with Indian off-spinner Harbhajan Singh, who Symonds alleged called him a "monkey" during the Sydney Test in January 2008. The allegations caused an international storm and prompted India to threaten to quit its tour of Australia but Symonds, speaking to Fox Sports and Triple M commentator Mark Howard in an episode of his podcast The Howie Games, available on PodcastOne, said it wasn't the first time Singh crossed the line with him.
"I'd spoken to Harbhajan the (ODI) series before in India, he'd called me a monkey before in India," Symonds told Howard.
"I went into their dressing room and said, 'Can I speak to Harbhajan for a minute outside please?' So he came outside and I said, 'Look, the name calling's got to stop or else it's going to get out of hand. We've got a few names for you blokes and you've obviously got a few names for us and that's all good but it's going to end in tears so let's knock it on the head.'
"So we shook hands and he said, 'No problem boss, all good.'"
But that wasn't the end of it. Come the New Year's Test - a spiteful affair the Aussies won in dramatic fashion late on day five, which prompted then-captain Anil Kumble to declare only one team was playing in the right spirit - Singh was back at it.
Brett Lee was bowling short and fast at the Indian tweaker, Symonds revealing the hosts were "trying to take him out" by breaking fingers or ribs so he wouldn't be a threat on a wearing wicket late in the match.
But Singh saw the funny side, tapping Lee on the backside with his bat at one point during his innings.
"I said, 'Listen here d***head, we're not out here to make friends, you're about to get hurt here,'" Symonds said. "And he started going, 'You're nothing but a monkey.'
"He said it probably two or three times. From that moment on that was my downhill slide."
Much has been said and written about what happened afterwards. Symonds felt let down by a lack of support from Cricket Australia, who he says begged him to downgrade the charge of racial vilification against Singh.
Faced with the prospect of losing tens of millions of dollars if the all-powerful Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) followed through with its threat to quit the tour, CA was accused of caving under pressure and bowing to the demands of its Indian counterparts rather than backing its own player.
Singh was originally handed a three-match ban, which was later overturned on appeal, but Symonds says he didn't care what the punishment was. He felt betrayed by his own side but most torturous for him was the way his teammates were dragged into the scandal.
Hayden, Michael Clarke and Adam Gilchrist all heard Singh call him a "monkey" and then Ricky Ponting made an official complaint when it was relayed back to him. Singh's fate didn't bother Symonds, he just felt awful his mates were being forced to suffer through the ordeal with him.
"I started to drink heavily as a result of it and my life was starting to dissolve around me," Symonds said.
"I felt the pressure and the weight of dragging those mates of mine into the cauldron of this cesspit that should never have got to this sort of point where we felt guilty.
"Me and Punter (Ponting) were up one night before the Adelaide Test until one in the morning talking to our solicitor, so it was tricky times.
"I was dealing with it the wrong way. I felt guilty that I'd dragged my mates into something I didn't think they deserved to be involved in.
"I wasn't particularly bothered on how he got punished, that was nearly irrelevant to me. I wasn't thinking about that, I was thinking about what I was going through and what I'd put the other boys through.
"That (the punishment) was neither here nor there with me, it was the weight and responsibility of what we'd all been dragged into."
Symonds struggled to deal with the fallout from the scandal along with the increased public scrutiny, which caused him to drink too much. He said his cricket suffered and so did his personal life.
Forced to sign a different contract to the rest of the Aussie squad that included a commitment to not drink ahead of the World T20 in England in 2009, Symonds caved when he had a beer while watching a State of Origin match. He was sent home and never played for Australia again.
But his cricket career continued in the lucrative Indian Premier League (IPL), where he was reunited with the person Symonds says "was perceived to be my worst enemy".
After a stint with the Deccan Chargers he became Singh's teammate at the Mumbai Indians, where he discovered the two were actually quite similar. While it was frosty at first, an emotional apology from the finger spinner at a team BBQ a few games into the season was the catalyst for the two becoming good friends.
"When I got to Mumbai it was icy, when I walked in there the first time," Symonds said.
"We'd had a few drinks and Harbhajan came over to me. He said, 'Boss can I talk to you for a minute?'
"He said, 'I really want to apologise for what I did and what I said, I hope it hasn't harmed you or your family too badly,' and he broke down.
"I could just see the weight lift off his shoulders when he got that off his chest."