Despite a run of low scores, Australia’s cricket selectors say matchwinning allrounder Andrew Symonds had nothing to prove as they prepare to unleash him on New Zealand next week.
The matchwinning allrounder was recalled to Australia’s 13-man squad for next Thursday’s first test in Brisbane for the first time since the ‘gone fishing’ controversy during the winter series against Bangladesh.
He was the only newcomer to the squad who lost the test series 0-2 in India, at the expense of legspinner Cameron White, while vice-captain Michael Clarke was named subject to fitness after returning home with a virus.
Clarke and paceman Brett Lee were both struck down by illness late in the India tour but after blood tests yesterday, Lee was given the all-clear.
Symonds’ rehabilitation included several appointments with a sports psychologist and a show of contrition for missing a team meeting in Darwin when he went fishing instead.
It was enough for Cricket Australia to rubber stamp his selection.
An early season average of 13 for Queensland in first-class cricket didn’t concern chairman of selectors Andrew Hilditch.
“Cricket Australia and Andrew and the leadership group had some issues, and we were told late last week that he was again available for selection,” Hilditch said.
“I think Andrew has come out of it a better person and we’ve all learned a lot.
“We’re selecting a great player. We don’t think he has anything to prove.
“I thought he was exceptional in Australia last year under some difficult circumstances. If he gets his chance, I’m sure he’ll seize it.”
Symonds, who averages 44.65 from 22 tests, will likely bat No 6 against New Zealand on his home ground.
Hilditch said the selectors wanted to play a specialist spinner, meaning Jason Krejza will retain his spot after a memorable 12-wicket debut against India in Nagpur.
Fitness-permitting, Lee, Stuart Clark and Mitchell Johnson should make up the pace attack, with allrounder Shane Watson probably the unlucky one despite a solid tour of India.
“We were really happy with Shane Watson in India (but) he’s got to cement his spot in the top six. Everybody’s got to have a spot that’s theirs, you can’t be bits and pieces.”
Victorian Peter Siddle should be the other paceman to miss out.
Hilditch said he’d met with Lee today to discuss a disappointing tour where he struggled to make an impact after the breakup of his marriage.
“He was probably a bit underdone by his own admission leading into the first test. It’s not for me to go into areas, but he’s obviously been through a difficult time. It can’t have come at a worse time; it’s such a tough series.”
With captain Ricky Ponting under fire in Australia for their series defeat, Hilditch was confident it would only steel them for the summer ahead.
“In my own mind, I’m treating it a bit like 2005. We were hammered by the Poms — although the series was close, they really did beat us convincingly in lots of areas — and we learned a lot and got better.”
Australia: Ricky Ponting (captain), Matthew Hayden, Simon Katich, Michael Clarke, Michael Hussey, Andrew Symonds, Shane Watson, Brad Haddin, Mitchell Johnson, Brett Lee, Jason Krejza, Stuart Clark, Peter Siddle.