Legends Month

Legends Month: Best of Andrew Symonds

To conclude Legends Month on Cricket Network, take a closer look at the fielding genius of Andrew Symonds

Sam Ferris

31 May 2018, 12:05 PM AEST

"Twisting and turning and diving and then swivelling without actually getting up on to his feet, and he still hit the stumps and ran the batsman out."

Those are the words of an awestruck Richie Benaud, the former Australia captain and Wide World of Sports commentator describing a run out in 2001 orchestrated by a promising young allrounder by the name of Andrew Symonds.

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Symonds, aged just 25 at the time, had just underlined his enormous potential with a piece of fielding that had even Benaud - albeit briefly – struggling for the right superlatives.

The Queenslander had dived to his left at short mid-on, collected the ball, spun around while sitting on his backside and then threw down the stumps at the strikers' end to run out West Indies quick Laurie Williams, who had mis-timed a drive and been sent back to watch the moment his stumps were broken.

Run outs are one of the few elements of cricket not statistically recorded. They should be, though, if only direct hits and not the combined efforts of fielders, wicketkeepers and bowlers.

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If they were, Symonds would be one of the leading players in that category, a sharpshooter in the field with a deadly aim, a powerful arm and reflexes that belied his imposing physique.

Matching his ability to sense a run out, Symonds' instincts as a catcher were almost precognitive.

Whether stationed close on the off-side or asked to patrol a vast distance on the boundary, rarely did a ball escape his clutches if it was there to be taken.

Symonds threw everything into his fielding // Getty
Symonds threw everything into his fielding // Getty

If his outfield grab to dismiss Pakistan’s Mohammad Yousuf in Australia's opening match of the 2003 World Cup, when he darted across The Wanderers outfield to dive forward and take the catch with two hands, wasn’t impressive enough, it came after he'd scored a career-defining unbeaten 143 with the bat.

Along with Ricky Ponting, Michael Clarke and Mike Hussey, Symonds formed a near impenetrable barrier on the off-side in Australia’s Test and ODI teams stretching from second slip to cover.

It would take a shot of immaculate timing or sheer brute force to pierce the Australian infield on the off-side, which sometimes led to opposition batsman taking a risk as a means of production.

But perhaps Symonds’ biggest strength as a fielder was the sheer enjoyment he found doing it.

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If a ball was dropped, fumbled or spilled, regardless if it had come off the bat or a gentle throw from a teammate, Symonds would whistle and call a 'knock on', a term used in rugby when a player drops the ball towards the opposition’s try line. Nobody was spared, from rookie to skipper.

If Symonds is not the best all-round fielder world cricket has seen, he's in the discussion, along with modern marvels Ponting, Herschelle Gibbs, Jonty Rhodes and Paul Collingwood.

Rhodes, the South African whippet many consider to be the greatest fielder of all time, is in no doubt that Symonds was a better fielder than he ever was.

Symonds was deadly in the in-field and on the boundary // Getty
Symonds was deadly in the in-field and on the boundary // Getty

Symonds, according to the Proteas star, was "10 times" better.

"Where he's better than me is that he's a true all-round fieldsman," Rhodes said in 2006.

"For a big guy, he moves well close to the wicket, getting down to the ground, diving, cutting off balls if he's in the ring.

"He's quick and can cut off boundaries. But the extra dimension is his strength. From the middle of the innings, he can be out on the fence saving twos because he has such a strong arm.

"Put him anywhere on the field and he's brilliant. He is the complete fieldsman. I can't imagine there's been anyone better in the past."

From a player like Rhodes, there can be no higher praise.