Cow Corner

Hard lines for Symonds

Cow Corner

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Ricky Ponting may be good pals with Andrew Symonds, but
the Australia
captain made his next pint with the big man a bit tricky after an
astonishing backtrack over his omission from the Ashes squad.

It was, apparently, a straight fight
between Symonds and Shane Watson, with the blond, beach-bum allrounder getting
the nod.

Watson has spent the majority of his
fledgling career exchanging treatment-table texts with Simon Jones, and even
now is promising Cricket Australia, with all the sincerity of a Herschelle Gibbs public apology,
that his latest back injury 'will not be a problem'.

Watson does have an abundance of talent
but, as Ponting constantly points out, 'Symonds has the X factor!' Presumably
he means that he has been booted out for a more marketable, popular alternative
with better hair.

"I wouldn't be surprised if he
(Symonds) is named in the squad; he is a great guy to have around the team -
there's no doubt about that," Ponting said, with the smug grin of a man
who had just secured his mate the gig, and earned a few free shandies in the
process.

But when the squad was announced, with Symonds nowhere to be seen,
Ponting produced a Chris Gayle-esque change of tack: "I think the
selectors have definitely got it right; the fact is he went out of the side -
and there it is." Brutal.

It seems Ricky is still bitter
about Symonds's ill-advised fishing trip in Darwin
back in 2008, when the captain had heartlessly scheduled a team meeting at the
same time.

But Symonds has done far less
fishing over the course of his career than Jason Gillespie used to outside his off peg in an average innings, and the Tramp never incurred the
wrath of the skipper.

'Roy'
is not the only cricket character to possess a curious fondness for fishing: 'Ian
Botham on fishing' is a book which, according to its cover, is the proverbial
'treasure trove' of information and delightful insight.

It makes you wonder where the Botham
brand will take the old boy next. 'Botham on taking a speed-dating approach to
quaffing red wine', perhaps?

Where would it end if cricketers took
their fanciful, half-baked ideas to the publishers with reckless abandon?

Perhaps a can-by-can account into David
'Keg on Legs' Boon and his epic 52-beer session on the Australians' flight from
London to Sydney back
in 1989?

Maybe Symonds had confessed to Ponting
that Boon's record was under threat; but, unless Ryanair start providing
long-haul flights, surely the feat will stand unrivalled forever.

The Australian tour party cannot be
mentioned without acknowledging the presence of the mysterious Graham Manou,
whose sudden, leftfield selection can only be compared to the likes of England's
Ricardo Ellcock, Darren Pattinson et al.

Well, 'Choco' Manou is 30 years of age and
made four ducks in his opening five first-class innings before coming to Pura
Cup prominence with South Australia.
Right - that will almost certainly be his one and only reference this summer.

The decision from Andrew Hildreth's selection panel to
choose just one spinner, Nathan Hauritz, was also surprising, given that the
off-break bowler turns the ball about as much as Ashley Giles on a marble floor.

Andrew Strauss's interviews usually have the interest and insight
of a call centre script, but the England
captain found some less prosaic words in the lead up to the first one-dayer at
Headingley.

First, Strauss chose to relate
to his side's progress in a tribute to the team director Andy Flower: "The
improvement we have made needs to be cultivated: we need to make sure it grows
and grows."

And then presumably in a tribute to his old mate Robert Key: "The guys have a real hunger to improve and we need to
keep feeding that as much as we can."

Finally, Strauss found the
most tactful phrase possible to insinuate that James Anderson swapped a
post-Test series celebratory beer for an evening drinking bitter and reading
the Burnley Gazette. "James has a 30-year-old's head on his
shoulders," said his captain, who is 32 himself.

Strauss then went back to his
usual stream of non-descript platitudes, in the manner of Alastair Cook playing
three lavish drives before quickly pulling himself together: enough colour for
today, thank you.

- - - - - - - -

And finally, commiserations must be
extended to Shoaib Akhtar, who was forced to withdraw from the Twenty20 World
Cup with, umm, genital warts. 

The amusingly tentative descriptions given
have included: "Akhtar with skin infection of the groin" and
"Akhtar with sensitive viral infection". Come on!

Not since Steve 'Tinker' Harmison was allowed to watch box sets
of Lovejoy in his hotel room during a net session to 'get himself together' on
the 2005 tour of Pakistan, has such touchy empathy been extended to
an overt problem.

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