London: The training regime, the media demands, sponsorship appearances and interview requests made Andrew Symonds feel "caged" and the former Australian all-rounder claims he didn't regret Cricket Australia (CA) scrapping his contract.
Symonds, who makes his debut for Surrey against Gloucestershire on Tuesday, says he came to hate being an international cricketer.
His contract with CA was dissolved before the World Twenty20 last year, and he was sent home from England. His cricketing career was in ruins but Symonds says he felt relieved.
"The only real regret I have in cricket Signing that contract," Symonds was quoted as saying in the Guardian. "If I had my time again I would have said, 'You know what? There is no way I'm signing that.' No one else had to do it. And let's be honest, under that sort of scrutiny I was always going to bust at some stage."
"Losing my contract didn't hurt me, because of what playing for Australia had become. I wasn't having fun anymore. I wasn't enjoying it. I felt like I was in a cage. Always under the microscope. Once I had got home from England, and everything had settled down, it was a relief."
A year on, Symonds reflects his problems were indeed serious. "I was diagnosed as a binge-drinker. With all the things that went with international cricket there was never enough time for myself. So when I got my day off, I would just guzzle it, guzzle it like they weren't making it anymore, just binge. It was not smart."
His form deteriorated and his behaviour became erratic. He missed a team meeting to take a fishing trip, got into a fight in a Brisbane bar and called the New Zealand international Brendon McCullum "a lump of shit" in a live radio interview.
"I was always someone who needed to have a release every now and then," Symonds says. "I'm passionate about cricket, but it is not the be all and end all of my life. I like the outdoors, and I like having a good time."
"To me life is about fun. You have got to make a living, but not every day is about work. My life became difficult to lead. With the amount of things I had on my plate - cricket, sponsors, media - I just ended up having no time for myself. And that's what wore me down. When I got my chance to have a drink I would let nothing get in the way of it."
"I had obviously put myself in that environment and I had to be smarter about that. I just had to take myself out of that environment completely. I'm glad to be out of that, so glad to be out."
Now Symonds, who was born in Birmingham but grew up in Queensland, is a freelance cricketer.
"Mate, my life right now is just A1. Just great. My mates back home ask me what I'm doing now, and I'm like: 'Well, I'm just going to London to play cricket for a few weeks.' They say: 'What will you do when you come back?' 'I'll probably go fishing for a couple of months.' They can't believe it," he says.