Sydney, Sept.4 : Cricket Australia's inability to standby Australia's cricketers during last year's controversy surrounding a verbal scrap with Indian off-spinner Harbhajan Singh, sowed the seed of discontent and turbulence in the mind of all-rounder Andrew Symonds.
According to a report in the Sydney Morning Herald, Symonds's discontent was sown long before the Northern Territory fishing expedition. To this day, Symonds has not forgiven Cricket Australia for what transpired in an Adelaide federal courtroom eight months ago. It was there that Symonds and three teammates were convinced by their board to downgrade a charge of racial abuse against Harbhajan Singh to one of mere verbal abuse - a ploy the Australian players were advised would help ensure a lengthy suspension after the Monkeygate scandal, but one which eventually resulted in Harbhajan escaping sanction altogether.
Harbahjan's reprieve infuriated Symonds, who felt abandoned by administrators he felt were more interested in kowtowing to the influential Indian board than protecting their own.
Sources within the Australian team say Symonds has refused all of CA's subsequent attempts to appease him, and the lingering resentment has fuelled his deteriorating attitude to work.
Those close to the 33-year-old do not believe he will retire, but there is grave concern over the mindset in which he will return.
Some fear that a bullish, unrepentant Symonds could erode harmony during this period of team transition, where the ever-dwindling list of senior players are being relied upon to set the standard for a new generation of Australian cricketers.
Others are worried that Symonds's relationship with Michael Clarke - his friend and Australia's captain elect - could prove irreparable should the Queenslander place the blame for his embarrassing expulsion solely at Clarke's feet.
Ripples of discontent at Symonds's wavering commitment have surfaced on occasion this year, but it was not until Darwin that the issue came to a head.
Australian players and officials were alarmed when Symonds arranged to have his fishing boat trucked from Queensland to Darwin before the three-match one-day series against Bangladesh. Hardly the sign of a man focused.
Symonds has made no secret of his distaste for his ever-burgeoning celebrity status: another factor that has gnawed at his passion for the game.
In a recent interview with the Herald, he spoke of a "traperazzi" scam during the 2007 World Cup, in which a man slapped him outside a nightclub while a hidden photographer waited to capture the ensuing outburst.
"Sport is not necessarily just sport any more," he said. "People like to know what sportsmen are doing when they're not playing sport. People want to know what goes on behind the man, I suppose, which to me, I think, is probably slightly rude."
The majority of the Australian squad have sent Symonds messages of support since his forced return to Queensland, and those who have received replies have been heartened by his apparent determination to return to international cricket.
Story first published: Thursday, September 4, 2008, 14:17 [IST]
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