The Philosophy of Roy: Cricket and the Mind with Andrew Symonds
Author: The Simple Bit
We caught up with Roy to talk about his philosophy, his cricketing brain and how being sworn at by Mike Hussey was his secret weapon.
The simple bits:
- Andrew Symonds was an Aussie all-rounder who excelled in all forms of the game
- His preparation was the same regardless of the format
- He knew the value of keeping a positive frame of mind
- Support from team-mates (like Mike Hussey) was a huge help
Andrew ‘Roy’ Symonds was a fierce competitor in his cricketing days, known for crashing boundaries and crunching streakers. But he was also known as a bit of a lad who knew it was important to take some time out to go fishing every now and again. In some senses, he might have been a sportsman ahead of his time, who knew himself and knew what it took to stay focused in the crease.
Now an expert voice on Fox Sport’s Big Bash coverage, we caught up with him to talk about his philosophy, his cricketing brain and how being sworn at by Mike Hussey was his secret weapon.
Playing the long game
To Symonds, an aggressive middle-order batsman, handy bowler and crack fielder in every form of the game, preparing to take the crease was the same, regardless of the format. As he puts it, regardless of whether you’re playing for five days or five overs, it all comes down to one moment.
“As the bowler turns around to start running in, that’s when you switch on. You lock on to where his release point is, where he releases the ball in his delivery stride. So, I’m watching him, and then as he jumps to bowl, I’m locking on to where he’s going to deliver the ball. I’m trying to get that good a look at the ball I can see the seam on it,” he says. “That particular moment is the same in all forms of cricket.”
That said, the mindset can change from format to format. “In test cricket, you’ve got more time, so you’re sort of thinking as far ahead as to what the situation could become,” he says.
And in BBL or Twenty20? “You’re looking to be busy,” says Roy. “Every ball, you’re looking for an opportunity to score, whether it be a quick single, or whether they’ve moved a fielder, and you’re thinking, I might be able to exploit that by finding the boundary in that area if I move, or whatever it is.”
But the universal theme here is concentration. “Your actual focus is not intense for very long. It’s just harnessing that, so you just concentrate,” he says.
“That particular moment is the same in all forms of cricket.”
Keeping it light
One of Roy’s other secrets to success at cricket’s highest level is keeping a positive mindset. Even if that means having the pee taken out of you a little. “You do have to be able to laugh at yourself, and I was fortunate enough to play with a group of men that they used to take the piss out of me fairly regularly, and I like a joke,” says Roy. “I like to sort of tame an awkward situation down with a bit of humour.”
That humour allowed him to relax at the crease and get on with the job. “It’s only a number of seconds, so between balls you’ve got to find a happy place. So you either relax, you talk to your partner at the end of the over, or you talk to him sometimes during the over.”
One of the most talkative of Roy’s batting partners was Mike “Mr Cricket” Hussey.
“Mike Hussey and I used to bat a lot together, and I’d play a rash shot, a stupid shot, and he’d walk down the wicket, and he would swear at me. He’d go, “Oi, dickhead, what are you doing?” Hussey’s good-natured straight talk would tend to help Roy maintain his focus. “He’s calmed me down because that’s how he used to communicate with me.”
The value of support
It was the support of Hussey and his other great mates in the Aussie Test side that helped Roy through when he couldn’t find his mojo. “I would actually tell the boys, I’d tell my mates, I’d say, “Listen, I’m not going real well here, but I’m keen to get this right. I might need a bit of a hand.” If I made them aware of that, they’d be checking on me.” And again, Roy brings up Mr Cricket.
“Mike Hussey’s looking at me, he’s going, “Mate, are you right?” “Yep, I’m right,” or I’d go, “Nah.” Hussey would then offer advice – be balanced and look at the ball as hard as you can, for example. And that would get Roy back on track. Otherwise Hussey might buy some time. “Even if I defend it, if I drop it at my feet, he’s looking to get me off strike. He’s looking after me. If I drop it at my feet, he’s running. He calls me through. He gets me off strike, and out of the twilight zone.”
That support was important to Roy through his career. “Just having your teammates aware of what you’re going through was a big thing for me at times,” he says.
Downtime at the top
International cricket is a 12 month proposition. With international touring, BBL, IPL, Sheffield Shield, there isn’t a lot of downtime at the top of the game. It’s common practice for elite athletes to be encouraged to take a break these days, but Symonds was always a big believer in it. “I’m not a mad cricket watcher, you know what I mean? On my days off, if someone else, say England are playing the West Indies, I’m not going to turn the TV on even to check the score. I’m going to get in the boat, or I’m going to get in the ute, go for a drive, go for a fish, go for a hunt. I’m getting away from the game,” he says. But that break built the hunger back up. “Then when I come back, I’m dying to go again. I’ve missed it, I’m ready for another challenge,” he says.
Finally, we couldn’t help but ask Roy what his philosophy is – what it all boils down to. He’s typically workmanlike in his response, literally. “Well, in the end, when I actually sort of worked it out a bit, my philosophy was the harder you train, the harder you work – and I made it very specific to what my role was in the team – the better I seemed to perform.” To Roy, later in his career, training and preparation became an exact science. “I knew what I had to do, and I knew in my own skin how I felt.”
And if that didn’t work, there was always a bit of a stir from Mr Cricket to get him through.
Andrew Symonds is a commentator on Fox Sports, covering the BBL and WBBL all summer.