'Monkeygate' scandal behind Symonds' fall from grace

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Sydney, Nov 17 (UNI) Andrew Symonds' well documented stand-off with Harbhajan Singh during the ill-tempered Sydney Test and the ensuing 'Monkeygate' scandal drove the Australian all-rounder to take to the bottle and led to his fall from grace.

Symonds had accused the temparamental off-spinner of racially abusing him but Harbhajan was let off the hook after the influential BCCI threw its weight around.

Symonds admitted that the lack of support from Cricket Australia (CA) left a deep impression on his mind and contributed to the 'gone fishing' incident which led to his ommission from the squad for the India tour.

''At times, I was drinking too much and I wasn't a good bloke to be around,'' Symonds said on Channel 9. ''I had turned bad, I think, with the buildup of the whole of last summer and the things that had unfolded.'' However, the burly left-hander, who is set to be included in Australia's starting XI for the first Test against New Zealand, is now keen to put his bad times behind and focus on getting his international career back on track.

''I wasn't in a great place. Looking back now it probably happened at the right time that I got sent home and told to straighten myself out,'' he admitted.

''I feel much better within myself. Even if I don't come back and play great cricket, I know that I have done something that will improve what I need to be as a person,'' he added.

Symonds, strongly tipped to be chosen ahead of fellow allrounder Shane Watson or spinner Jason Krejza, is the latest Australian cricketer after Shane Warne to admit to excessive drinking.

It is not the first time Symonds has had a problem with alcohol.

His night on the booze in Cardiff before the 2005 Ashes series almost cost him his Australian contract.

This time it cost him his Baggy Green for the Indian tour and it is believed advice on sensible alcohol consumption was part of his rehabilitation program ordered by the CA.

Symonds' axing from the national side also shattered his friendship with former best mate and Australian vice-captain Michael Clarke and he conceded that he had not shown Clarke enough respect, an apparent reference to an argument the pair had in the West Indies this year.

''I did something silly with him one night and I suppose I was a bit disrespectful to him,'' Symonds said.

''That relationship is still alive, but to be perfectly honest it is not what it was. We are both making efforts to get it back to where it was because that's a friendship I don't want to lose.'' UNI XC AB CS DS1405

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