SYDNEY (AFP) - Australian cricket was reeling Sunday after swashbuckling former all-rounder Andrew Symonds was killed in a car crash -- another tragic blow after the recent deaths of fellow greats Shane Warne and Rod Marsh.
The 46-year-old, who played 26 Tests and 198 one-day internationals from 1998 to 2009, was involved in a single-car accident outside Townsville in Queensland state on Saturday night.
Police said emergency services attempted to revive him, but he died from his injuries after the car left the road and rolled.
Pictures published by the Brisbane Courier-Mail showed a vehicle on its roof and skid marks on the road. "We are still in shock -- I'm just thinking of the two kids," his tearful wife Laura told the newspaper, referring to their young children.
"He was the most laid-back person. Nothing stressed him out." Cricket Australia chairman Lachlan Henderson said the sport had lost "another of its very best".
"Andrew was a generational talent who was instrumental in Australia's success at World Cups and as part of Queensland's rich cricket history," he added. "He was a cult figure to many who was treasured by his fans and friends."
Symonds' fatal crash comes just months after the deaths of fellow Australian greats Warne and Marsh, who both died unexpectedly from heart attacks.
"Unfortunately I've been here too often this year under these circumstances. I actually can't quite believe it, to be honest," former Australia captain Mark Taylor told Channel Nine. "Another tragic day for cricket."
The larger-than-life Symonds was hugely popular, not only for his hard-hitting approach to the game but also for his easy-going personality.
He was widely considered one of the most skilled all-rounders Australian cricket has seen, bowling both off-spin and medium pace, while playing many match-winning hands with his explosive middle-order batting.
Symonds was also a top-rate fielder and was a key part of Australia's back-to-back 50-over World Cup triumphs in 2003 and 2007.
Domestically, he played for Queensland for 17 seasons, while appearing for Gloucestershire, Kent, Lancashire and Surrey in the English County Championship and for Deccan Chargers and Mumbai Indians in the Indian Premier League.
- Utterly devastated' -
"Horrendous news to wake up to," tweeted former Australian teammate Jason Gillespie. "Utterly devastated. We're all gonna miss you mate."
Adam Gilchrist, another former teammate who more recently commentated alongside Symonds at Fox Sports, was also in shock, saying: "Simply stunned, I can't believe we're in this space again the cricketing world."
Pakistani fast bowler Shoaib Akhtar said he was "devastated" while former England skipper Michael Vaughan said: "Simmo ... this doesn't feel real #RIP."
Former Kent captain David Fulton, who skipppered Symonds during his time with the English club, paid tribute to "a fantastic teammate".
"He was a brilliant, combative cricketer who could win a game with bat, ball, in the field or with his sheer will to win and presence on the field," he said.
In Chittagong, the Bangladesh and Sri Lankan teams held a minute's silence before the first day's play of their opening Test.
Symonds, who was born in England with one parent of Afro-Caribbean descent, will also be remembered for the infamous "monkeygate" scandal that sent him into a downward spiral.
He accused India spinner Harbhajan Singh of a racial slur during Sydney's 2008 New Year Test.
Singh, who denied any wrongdoing, was suspended for three matches. The ban was overturned when India threatened to quit the tour in a low point for India-Australia cricket relations.
The Australian player later revealed it took a heavy toll. "From that moment on that was my downhill slide," he recalled in 2018. "I started to drink heavily as a result of it and my life was starting to dissolve around me."
His Cricket Australia contract was withdrawn in June 2009 after he was sent home from the World Twenty20 in England following the latest in a series of alcohol-related indiscretions.
Despite the animosity, Symonds and Harbhajan eventually made up and played together in the Indian Premier League.
"Shocked to hear about the sudden demise of Andrew Symonds. Gone too soon. Heartfelt condolences to the family and friends. Prayers for the departed soul," Harbhajan said in India.
After retiring, Symonds forged a successful career as a commentator.