Queensland feel able to ignore Symonds

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Andrew Symonds' short, but controversial career took another twist yesterday when the Queensland selectors left him out of their squad as they start their defence of the Sheffield Shield tomorrow.

Symonds, born in Birmingham but brought up in Australia since since he was 18 months old, was selected for the England A tour to Pakistan after averaging 55 for Gloucestershire last season but turned down the invitation, preferring instead to return to Australia.

But Queensland have chosen the 22-year-old Jimmy Maher for their opening four-day match against Victoria. "We certainly have a wealth of talent in our batting just now with a number of other young players besides Andrew vying to get a game," John Buchanan, the Queensland coach, said yesterday.

"Andrew had a good season in England but he still needs to show his undoubted talent here in Australia and put some runs on the board."

Symonds, voted Young Player of the Year by his fellow county professionals in England, and who hit a world record 20 sixes in an innings in August, is resigned to the prospect of filling a lesser role for Queensland over the coming months. "As far as this season is concerned, I always looked upon myself as a fringe player battling to get into the side," he said.

Queensland lifted the Shield for the first time last year at the Gabba, ending a run that dated back to 1926-27 and the former Australia captain Allan Border, now 40, has provided a further boost by postponing his retirement for another season.

"Allan is still scoring the runs and his fierce competitiveness and experience are a great influence on younger players," Buchanan said.

Queensland are likely to face a stern challenge from New South Wales, Shield champions 42 times, most recently in 1994, who open their campaign against Western Australia in Perth today.

After finishing fifth in the standings last season, they appointed former Test fast bowler Geoff Lawson as coach to revive their fortunes.

NSW, who provide the bulk of the Australian Test side, will benefit from an international fixture list that frees Test captain Mark Taylor to play more Shield games.

Taylor will be joined in the state's ranks by fellow Test batsmen Michael Slater, Steve Waugh, Mark Waugh and Michael Bevan, and the fast bowler Glenn McGrath.

South Australia, losing Shield finalists last season, and Tasmania, who finished bottom on the table, complete the line-up for the six-team competition.

In a major format change, more Shield cricket will be played at night this season, with five of the six states hosting day-night matches.