|Event:||ICC World Twenty20 2009|
DateLine: 5th June 2009
Ricky Ponting said Andrew Symonds had "let himself down, let all his team-mates down and Cricket Australia down" after he was sent home from Australia's squad at the World Twenty20 in England.
All-rounder Symonds's exit on Thursday, which Australia captain Ponting confirmed was for an "alcohol-related incident", came just 48 hours before the team's opening Group C match against the West Indies at the Oval.
This is not the first time that Symonds's career has been blighted by off-field problems - on Australia's 2005 tour of the UK he was dropped on the morning of their shock one-day defeat against Bangladesh in Cardiff following a late night drinking session.
But whereas Ponting has often spoken up for Symonds, he deliberately avoided telling reporters at the Oval on Thursday if the 33-year-old Queensland cricketer had an international future.
"We are all a little bit disappointed with the events of the last 24 hours to tell the truth on the eve of a very big tournament for us," Ponting said.
"To lose one of our better players and better performing Twenty20 players in the world right now is far from ideal, but we have got to move on from it as quickly as possible."
Ponting said any sadness he felt at the latest indiscretion of Symonds, a hard-hitting batsman, brilliant fielder and a bowler capable of both spin and seam, went far beyond the personal.
"I don't feel any more disappointed or let down than anyone else in the team. It's a team game, the bigger picture here is about the team and the future of Australian cricket.
"That's why we've come to the decision we came to."
Asked what had happened, Ponting said: "I'm not going to go into specifics. I think James Sutherland (Cricket Australia chief executive) made it pretty clear it was an alcohol-related incident.
"He (Symonds) has let himself down, let all his team-mates down and Cricket Australia down."
Ponting, who said Australia were now seeking "clarification" from the International Cricket Council as to whether they could summon a replacement in to what was now a 14-man squad, refused to speculate about Symonds's future.
"As everyone knows he's contracted until June 30 this year and we will see what happens from there."
Ponting stressed he didn't regret his previous support for Symonds.
"I don't think you'll ever see me not put my hand up and back anyone that I feel can win a game for Australia."
In the short term, the absence of Symonds - who was not selected for the Ashes series in England that follows the World Twenty20, with Shane Watson and Andrew McDonald chosen ahead of him - leaves Australia with a selection issue.
"Now we've got to find someone who can have the same impact upon a game as Andrew Symonds can," Ponting said.
"It probably throws the balance a little bit in our side but the beauty of our side is that there is a lot of flexibility within the group."
Symonds received counselling earlier this year and returned to the Australia team in the one-day series win over Pakistan in Dubai in April.
Ponting denied Symonds had been rushed back to international duty.
"I don't think so, we gave him the appropriate amount of time, Unfortunately, for him and us, he's come back in and this has happened again."
Ponting added Symonds had not broken any curfews because he considered them an irrelevance.
"There's no such thing as curfew in the Australian cricket team," Ponting said. "You don't need curfews around good teams, that's what being part of a team is all about, having respect for yourself and your team-mates."
Ponting was Australia captain when they lost leg-spin great Shane Warne to a drugs ban on the eve of the 2003 World Cup in South Africa which the team won without losing a match.
"I've been there before, I know how to handle it," said Ponting. "It's about the next guy in line coming in and putting his hand up when required and making a name and identity for himself at international level."
(Article: Copyright © 2009 AFP)
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