Andrew Symonds and John Buchanan might sleep in the same country and even city but they are as far apart as Alexander Solzhenitsyn and Captain Pugwash. Apart from the geography, they occupy different worlds, lead different lives. But they have one thing in common. Of late both have suffered painful declines and their reputations are in tatters.
Flaws have emerged in their character and judgement, howlers have bee committed, mistakes that betrayed supporters and offended a wider community. Hubris has been their undoing. Both scaled the heights, felt its power and, with terrible predictability, suffered a heavy fall. A year ago they could name their prices, and did. Now their cover has been blown.
Actually there is another connection between this contrasting couple, the hunter and the thinker.
Both families invested heavily in a finance company in Queensland whose collapse left scars.
Of course they are not the only ones to lose a packet in the current calamity but the setback compounded problems encountered in other areas. And so their conduct became more erratic and their pronouncements more bizarre.
However hidden, despair plays tricks on the mind. Symonds, especially, could not conceal his misery. Drink was his solace, and he does not handle it well.
By any reckoning, these fellows have been high achievers and only the most mean-spirited will welcome their diminishment. Brilliant in the field, brutal with the bat and resourceful with the ball, Symonds is a magnificent cricketer, or has been.
Buchanan has a superb record as coach of youth, provincial and national teams and has been buttered up by daft Englishmen convinced that he has the keys to the kingdom. But both have been the architects of their own misfortune. Symonds has become a hothead.
Impact of SCG Test
The notorious SCG Test match was at once his highest and lowest point. Only now, amidst the attacks on Indians, can locals realise the dangers of that episode. Symonds scored a dazzling hundred, admitted he had been lucky, became embroiled in the bitterness and the zealotry, and hated every second of the aftermath.
Doubtless he felt let down by officials.
His mood darkened. Add a disintegrating marriage, lost millions and an inability to absorb alcohol and a headstrong outlook, and the rest was well nigh inevitable. Before long he had fallen out with all the loves and securities of his life.
Australia backed Symonds as long as could reasonably be expected but he could not contain himself. Anger was too close to the surface. Not that he was ever a clean skin. Australia’s mistake was its failure to discipline him after he arrived at a One-Day International in Cardiff worse for wear.
Spared, he thrived for a time but it did not last and as the pressures grew so came ruination. He has been a fool to himself, and has become a liability to Australian cricket, his making and his breaking. IPL and county cricket await.
Buchanan is another matter. Self-promotion not self-destruction has been his downfall. His misjudgements, profligacy, poor tactics and favouritism doomed Kolkata’s IPL campaign, cast doubt on his contribution towards Australia’s success and reinforced his failure at Middlesex.
Now England is seeking his services as a consultant. Almost all consultants are a waste of money, and those recommending divided leadership and omitting Charl Langeveldt and Ajantha Mendis from 20-over teams have little to commend them.
As far as Symonds and Buchanan are concerned the game is up. On paper Australia might be weaker without the all-rounder but the field has been cleared and the team can focus on cricket.
Symonds had become high maintenance. It was time to move on. Cricket teams exist to win matches not to resolve personal problems.
Nor is Buchanan much of a loss to the antipodean game. Theorists are fine so long as they are surrounded by hard heads.
Given a free hand, they can wreak havoc. Buchanan’s reputation is in tatters.