It wasn't easy knowing that Harbhajan Singh was a part of the team but old timers who were part of MI set-up remember that both the protagonists of one of cricket's most controversial episodes, were thoroughly professional.
Andrew Symonds never got a proper closure in the Monkeygate episode. It was the Australian cricket establishment of the time that had hung him dry and he was never the same man again. As the cricket fraternity comes to terms with a tragedy of Herculean proportions, it won't be a bad idea to look at Symonds' relationship with Indian cricket.
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If one takes a neutral look from the ringside, it could have blossomed into a fabulous relationship and possibilities were endless considering the quality that the Queenslander brought to the table. It could have been a love affair that Shane Warne, Ricky Ponting, Adam Gilchrist, Matthew Hayden, Brett Lee shared with their Indian fans. But it didn't happen that way and no one can be blamed. Neither the fans nor Symonds. Symonds deserved to be in that elite league of revered Aussie players and that summer of IPL that he spent in Mumbai Indians after three seasons with Deccan Chargers showed that he was trying his bit to shed the baggage of Monkeygate' and be a part of the mix.
It wasn't easy knowing that Harbhajan Singh was a part of the team but old timers who were part of MI set-up remember that both the protagonists of one of cricket's most controversial episodes, were thoroughly professional. "While Bhajji and Symmo played against each other at the international level and in IPL but everyone was sceptical as to how they would adjust with such a history between them. "When he was about to touch base with MI, everyone thought how we would need to handle him but he was an absolute delight around the group," a former MI player, who was part of the set-up recollected.
It seemed that Symonds was fighting a battle within himself to forget the past and move on and he did make more than an honest effort. In fact, the player recollected a poignant incident during that 2011 season where both Harbhajan and Symonds let their hair down for the first time.
"I think we were in Mohali for a match against Kings XI Punjab. We had an invite for a private party and it was one memorable night we had. Everyone was in high spirits and suddenly Harbhajan and Symonds both were seen hugging each other tightly and sobbing. "It was a sight and both were so emotional, saying "sorry" to each other. It seemed as if both wanted to get rid of the burden that was there on their chest," the player remembered. In fact, Harbhajan was captaining MI in Champions League T20 that year and whenever the team was fielding, Symonds would refer to Harbhajan as sir. Sir, where do you want me to stand?" he would ask politely.
Symonds was a tough Queenslander but people in India who came in contact remember him as a humble soul. No wonder, a heartbroken Yuzvendra Chahal remembers his beloved Symonds Uncle, whose wife had once learnt the recipe of butter chicken when he had paid the couple a visit in Australia. Post 2011, Harbhajan and Symonds' paths again crossed during the 2015 World Cup. While the tournament was being played in Australia, Harbhajan and Symonds did spend considerable time in Delhi for a private channel as both were roped in as experts. They in fact sat together and analysed India's semi-final against Australia at Sydney.
Symonds internalised the scars and carried on gamely with his life. Perhaps, the Indian fans deserved to know the man behind the cricketer a bit more. Had fans known the man, he would have perhaps got that unconditional love that so yearned for in his lifetime. Goodbye Roy, wish we had known you a bit more.