Aussie great Ricky Ponting has heaped rich praise on his former team-mate and close friend Andrew Symonds’ skill and legacy, saying that the burly all-rounder was arguably the best white-ball cricketer in the world during a certain point in time and as a skipper he could pick him in every Australian playing XI irrespective of the format.
Reflecting on the recent loss of Symonds, who left the cricketing world in mourning after dying at the age of 46 in a car crash in Townsville on May 14, the former Australian skipper said that the Queenslander was so good in his prime.
“There was a four or five-year period there where he was arguably the best white-ball cricketer in the world and he was probably the best fielder the game has ever seen,” Ponting told Isa Guha in the recent episode of The ICC Review.
“He could bowl medium pace and off-spin and batting in the middle-order, he was one of the most dangerous and best finishers the game has ever seen. Any team that I could pick for Australia if I was captain — whether it be a Test match, a One-Dayer, or a T20 — Andrew Symonds would be in my line-up every single time,” he added.
Ponting said it was Symonds’ fielding that really set him apart from other great players over the years.
“You could put him anywhere in the field and you would just know he would get the job done for you. His lateral movement, his speed across the ground, his stump hitting, all those things just came together as a very complete package as a fieldsman,” he said.
“I don’t think I played with a better athlete and it would have been a nightmare being an opposition batter trying to drop the ball in on the off-side somewhere with Symo patrolling the covers because there were never too many easy runs up for grabs,” he added.
Symonds rose to prominence during Australia’s successful World Cup campaign in 2003 a tournament in which Ponting was captain and had to deal with a litany of off-field issues even before the first ball was bowled. Champion spinner Shane Warne missed the entire tournament due to a one-year ban for a positive drug test, while key batter Darren Lehmann sat out the opening game due to suspension.
It was Symonds that filled the void best as he scored 326 runs for the tournament and really paved the way for Australia to go all the way by belting an unbelievable 143 not out against Pakistan in the tournament opener.
“That tournament was his arrival on the world stage as a serious international player. (Coach) John Buchanan and I had to fight really hard just to get him into that World Cup squad to start with and when we picked that squad there were guys like him and Jimmy Maher and Andy Bichel that we thought would be on the periphery at the starting XI,” the World Cup-winning skipper said.
“That was as good a World Cup innings you will probably see and especially in the first game of the tournament on the back of what had been a pretty difficult lead into that game
“It was important for him, but for us to make our mark on the tournament against a very good Pakistan team it has to be said in the first game and to win comfortably. It was an ideal start for us and an even better start for Symo,” he added.
The 47-year-old also believes that Symonds’ match-winning unbeaten knock of 91 in the semi-final against Sri Lanka was even better than the century he contributed earlier in the tournament.
“That was a bigger and better innings. He got 140-odd in the first game, but his 91 in the semi-final when we needed it the most was crucial,” Ponting said.
“There were a few amazing things that happened that day (against Sri Lanka). That was the infamous Adam Gilchrist walking game, you had Symo’s 90 and I remember Binga (Brett Lee) bowled at the speed of light getting up to speeds in the high 150s.
“But we may not have made our way into the World Cup final if it wasn’t for Symo’s 90 in the semi-final,” he concluded.