Former all-rounder Andrew Symonds says the infamous “monkeygate” scandal with India a decade ago drove him to drink as he opened up Friday on how his life started spiralling out of control.
The big-hitting Australian accused spinner Harbhajan Singh of calling him a “monkey” in the 2008 New Year Test in Sydney.
Singh, who denied any wrongdoing, was suspended for three matches, but the ban was overturned when India threatened to quit the tour in what was a low point in India-Australia cricket relations.
Ten years on and Australian cricket is again reeling from the behaviour of its players after the cheating scandal in South Africa and a review this week that slammed both Cricket Australia and the culture of the team.
Symonds, who was born in England with one of his parent’s of West Indian background, continues to insist Harbhajan called him a monkey “probably two or three times”.
“From that moment on that was my downhill slide,” he told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
He said his guilt over the way the process played out took a heavy toll after his teammates were “dragged in” to back up his account of being racially abused.
“I started to drink heavily as a result of it and my life was starting to dissolve around me,” Symonds said.
“I felt the pressure and the weight of dragging those mates of mine into the cauldron of this cesspit that should never have got to this sort of point where we felt guilty.
“I was dealing with it the wrong way. I felt guilty that I’d dragged my mates into something I didn’t think they deserved to be involved in.”
Symonds’ Cricket Australia contract was withdrawn in June 2009 after he was sent home from the World Twenty20 following the latest in a series of alcohol-related indiscretions.
He claimed at the time he had been diagnosed as a binge-drinker, not an alcoholic.
Symonds claimed Friday it was the not the first time Harbhajan had abused him.
“I’d spoken to Harbhajan the series before in India, he’d called me a monkey before in India,” he told the ABC.
“I went into their dressing room and said, ‘Can I speak to Harbhajan for a minute outside please?’ So he came outside and I said, ‘Look, the name-calling’s got to stop or else it’s going to get out of hand.'”
Despite the animosity the pair eventually made up and played together in the Indian Premier League.