It must be tough being Andrew Symonds. Ever since Sydneygate, his every move, however innocuous, has been scrutinised and studied with steadfast regularity by just about everybody Indian.
And if Saturday was anything to go by, the Australian all-rounder, it seems ought to be prepared for pretty much the same in the IPL. Throughout the 100-odd minutes Team Hyderabad practised for their opener against Kolkata on Sunday, almost every photographer's lens and every reporter's gaze was trained on just one man — Andrew Symonds. Even the people who managed to dodge security and get inside Eden Gardens did it for only for one man.
The presence of the likes of Adam Gilchrist, VVS Laxman and Scott Styris, who will be sharing screen space with Symonds for the Hyderabad outfit, it appeared, was only incidental.
But for the man in the middle of it all, this attention, however unnerving, and distractive, did not seem to matter the least bit. Whether tweaking the ball or thumping it, Symonds did it all with a serious look, not uttering a word, not allowing himself the liberty of the faintest of smiles or the slightest bit of irritation.
Though he started off with a few gentle off-breaks, there was nothing remotely gentle about the man when he had the bat in hand. Symonds was brutal in his treatment of the bowlers — cutting, hooking and slashing with utter disdain. In fact, so hard did he hit the ball that it actually burnt a hole in the net! He first took to the fast bowlers and moved onto the spinners, the aggression intact.
Aussies, it their own words, don't like being upstaged. And if ever anyone proof about the validity of that statement, he had to be there at the nets on Saturday.
So frightening, it seemed, was the prospect of bowling to Symonds that the assistant coach of the Hyderabad team, Kanwalpreet Singh, decided to give his fatigued bowlers a rest and roll his arm over. Now, as luck, or the lack of it, would have it, Singh had Symonds bowled off the third ball he bowled. Obviously stung, Symonds suddenly launched into an unbridled attack on the bowlers, wielding that pink-handled bat of his almost like a mace.
Sufficiently satisfied with his response after a five-minute blitzkrieg, Symonds decided to end his stint at the nets and moved onto some fielding practice. In the field, however, Symonds was a completely different man. The serious demeanour suddenly made way for an equally relaxed one, a chuckle replaced the frown, and the so far reserved Symonds was all of a sudden a completely different man, smiling with his teammates, egging them on, helping them out.
Symonds stayed on the ground for a few more minutes after the session, studying the ground, almost as if measuring the boundaries and picturing himself in the cauldron that it will turn into on Sunday. The stage might be set for a knight to shine, but it could very well be a certain shark-hunter from Down Under who takes all the glory in the end.