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Ashes blunder

In his latest blog Dave Fulton believe Australia have made a mistake in dropping Andrew Symonds

Cricket Posted 26th May 2009 view comments

England's hierarchy weren't exactly choking on their cornflakes as they digested the revelation of the new Australian Ashes squad over breakfast last week.

Andrew Strauss, Andy Flower & Co will know that while you must never underestimate an Australian side, never has the old enemy looked more beatable.

Where once there was Warne, read Hauritz: a very decent 'offie' but whom most counties wouldn't look at twice as an overseas player.

Symonds: Dropped

Symonds: Dropped

Instead of Steve Waugh or Allan Border to solidify the middle of the innings, lurks Marcus North, a gutsy left-hander, who made a hundred on debut in South Africa but who will fill England more with anticipation than fear.

And as for the all-rounder position, Andrew Hilditch and his fellow selectors have plumped for the dependability of Andrew McDonald over the enigmatic Andrew Symonds to accompany the fragile Shane Watson.

The Aussie selectors have played safe. McDonald was a very decent performer in South Africa dismissing Jacques Kallis and AB De Villiers at crucial stages in the series. He's only medium pace but he bowls straight and to a plan and poses a different threat to the twin spearheads of Mitchell Johnson and Brett Lee.

Sometimes a batsman can get used to the pace of bowlers operating at 90mph and find it difficult to adjust to the demands of having to wait for the 75mph stuff, which from a technical perspective involves holding your shape for longer.

Loyal

Also, having had adrenalin surging through your veins in what is often a game of courage against the quicks, facing the medium pace of a McDonald asks different questions of your temperament and concentration.

That said, England will be delighted Symonds is not in the side. As someone who has captained him and witnessed both the Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde elements of his cricketing persona, I'd have him in my team every time.

I can't believe he'd be disruptive for the rest of the team as he's such a good team man: he's very loyal to his mates and would do anything for them. The psychotherapist working through his rehabilitation said as much when asked.

Symonds has the ability to turn a game on its head at any time whether batting, bowling or in the field. I've seen him swing the new ball and then return to rip the old one square bowling his off-breaks on the kind of pitch that Cardiff is likely to be.

With the bat he's even more dangerous. In Melbourne during the last Ashes series England had reduced Australia to 84-5 in their first innings but Symonds - in alliance with his old mate Matthew Hayden - counterattacked, helping his team to post 419.

He brought up his hundred with a straight six off Paul Collingwood; his joyous celebration, where he landed in the arms of Hayden, was one of the images of the series.

Symonds is an in-your-face type of cricketer who is never nice to play against. He has a huge physical presence, which is menacing as well. You sense he's always coming to get you; that he wants you out of the way and that rubs off on his team mates. It's why I believe Ricky Ponting wanted him in the side.

Ultimately the selectors thought he'd be too big a gamble; perhaps they were right. His personal problems have been too public over the last few years, while his form has deteriorated. But there can be no doubt that the Ashes will be poorer as a spectacle for not having him there.

Symonds is a box-office player for the right reasons as well as the wrong. His selection would have made England sit up a little straighter and swallow that bit harder.

Dave Fulton is the author of "The Captains' Tales - Battle for the Ashes"

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