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It was a slip of the tongue, but Ricky Ponting inadvertently summed up the mood as Andrew Symonds’ family and mates, from the cricket world and beyond, farewelled the larrikin former Test and white ball star in Townsville on Friday.
After a private service earlier Friday, fans and cricket A-listers attended a public service at Riverway Stadium in Townsville.
While his former Queensland teammates Greg Rowell and Jimmy Maher gave heartfelt tribute, the service also featured a four-way chat between Australian cricket legends Ian Healy, Adam Gilchrist, Darren Lehmann and Ponting.
Ponting had only just returned from his IPL commitments in India, reflecting that they had prevented him from participating in similar tributes for Shane Warne and Rod Marsh in what has been a devastating period of loss for Australian cricket.
Healy asked Ponting how he was doing.
“It’s been pretty tough like it has for a lot of the cricket loving public in the last three months,” Ponting said.
“It’s incredibly hard, everyone has has done such a remarkable job today it’s been really a pleasurable – not pleasurable – a great opportunity to be here and listen to some of the stories from us and his closer mates.”
Oddly, Ponting was right. Such was Symonds character, funny stories abound and the retelling of them and rejoicing in his character brought great warmth to the service. Considering the somber catalyst for the occasion, the mood was spot on as fans, many wearing cricket shirts and zinced lips in tribute to the larger than life character – said goodbye after his death in a car crash last month, aged 46.
“The service was just simply beautiful,” said Gilly of the earlier private affair. “In its entirety, it was full of sadness, but just such wonderful beautiful memories of a guy that just gave so much of himself to so many people unconditionally.”
Lehmann was asked his favourite moment with Symonds on tour. “Not Cardiff,” he joked, referring to the day in 2005 when Symonds turned up drunk before a game against Bangladesh.
“Oh, he was tough to coach,” Lehmann added. “Brilliant though. The first picked in any side. I think he was the bets player I ever coached and that’s no disrespect to Adam who I coached.
“He put the team first in everything he did and in life he did that. We’re all going to miss him – although I’m not going to miss him calling me Darryl every time instead of Darren.
“To coach him was a pleasure the way he went about it. He was a great person to be around and we’re going to miss him dearly.”
Gilchrist said he first came across Symonds in a state colts game. The former Australian keeper said the expectations had been high on Symonds from an early age.
“He was on the radar of all the talent spotters,” said Gilly. “His reputation was so large. Then England came calling. It was a tough journey for him. I know as a Shield opponent with WA we used to give him a torrid time just because he was so talented. We used you say you haven’t justified your spot but … he worked hard and fought and fought.
“His skill level was exceptional. We talk so much about him as a person we forget to talk abut the level of cricketer he was.”
Healy said Symonds was known “as a chilled laid back character, but he was anything but.”
Gilly added: “Success and fun – he could find the balance there.
“The was determined to never take a backward step on the field. He set high standards, had high expectations of himself and he expected teammates to achieve everything they could.
“He had a natural sense of knowing if someone was putting in or it was false hustle. And he’d call them out, he was honest, so brutally honest.
“All that intensity on the field came with a wonderful sense of enjoyment and he was just having fun.
“A lot of it came from a culture in the Queensland team all the other states were jealous of. When you played a Queensland team it was so bonded together it was like an extra player.”
Maher joined the stage and told the audience: “His loyalty, as everyone has talked about, was the thing for me. And his ability to be there for me and recognise a tough time… they are the things I’ll remember for more than anything else.
“He’s fiercely loyal, suspicious, creative, humorous. Unreliable and reliable at the same time. Charming, abrupt, uncomplicated yet complex. High maintenance and low maintenance all at once.”
Ponting revealed he had almost been a late scratching form the service, suffering from gastroenteritis on Friday.
As he laid in bed wondering if he could make it out, “I heard these words ringing in my head, ‘get up, get down there, what you got a sore belly do you?,” he laughed.
Ponting said Symonds was a “great bloke, great teammate.
“If I’m picking a team tomorrow in a Test, one dayer or T20 he’s in my team every day of the week,” Ponting said.
“You just knew if you gave him some pretty simple directions he wouldn’t leave a stone unturned.
“He wanted the best for the team. He would do anything if it meant saving one run or giving his mates a better chance of winning the game. A lot of blokes you play with you can’t say that about. He did it every time.”
Ponting reflected on the fact he hadn’t seen enough of Symonds, a hero of Australia’s 2003 World Cup win, since their playing days ended.
“We were great friends and probably didn’t get enough time to spend together post game,” said Ponting.
“That’s cricket. One tragedy I think with international cricket is you spend 10 months a year with these guys for 10-15 years, you finish playing and you just don’t see each other.
“What’s happened over the past few months, some of the biggest tragedies and life lessons for me is that I’m not that good at staying in touch with people and I’ve learned a lot from that,” Ponting said.
“We spent so many great days together on the field but a lot of thing you shared when you’re off the field when you’re with these guys for so long.”