When paying homage to one of the greatest contemporary bowlers in my tribute to the legend, I said he was lion-hearted. Today, I’ll take the liberty of labelling him a trooper who never quit, irrespective of the situation, and against all odds, scripted a career that evokes awe. He is a uniquely talented person, who, along with cricket, set foot into the music and fashion industries too.
Brett Lee is regarded as one of the fastest bowlers in the world, but he has not had the smoothest of excursions throughout his career. Having faced numerous roadblocks in his injury-ravaged career, he has come out a winner every single time; he has raised the bar of competitiveness in cricket.
Despite not being a player driven by statistics or records, his numbers are hard to overlook: 380 ODI wickets at an average of 23.36, 310 Test wickets at an average of 30.81. Lee is the kind of player any captain would love to have in his team on any given day because of his selfless and staunch nature. “You knew he was busting his backside every ball. Most of the time, you knew he was in a bit of pain, but he kept charging in and doing whatever I wanted him to do, whatever any captain wanted him to do,” Ponting once said of Lee.
As the Australian speedster drew the curtains on his career earlier in the month, it brought an end to one of the greatest careers in modern times. In an exclusive interview with Sportskeeda, Lee gives us an insight into what cricket for him was like and what he endeavours to accomplish following his life-altering decision.
Q. How do you feel having announced your retirement from international cricket? How difficult/easy was it for you to have made that decision?
Lee: I feel relieved having announced my retirement. I had been having discussions with the selectors regarding this for a long time; initially, we were working towards announcing my retirement after the T20 World Cup. But I just knew that now was the right time, so I called it a day.
Q. How much of a role did the gravity of your injury have to do with the decision?
Lee: To play international cricket you need to be mentally and physically at your 100%. I just didn’t think it would be fair to the team or to myself if I tried to play on when I wasn’t in that space.
Q. What according to you is the reason so many of the fast bowlers today end up injured so often?
Lee: That is what sport is about; when you put your body on the line every single time you bowl a ball, of course your body is going to take some injuries.
Q. Do you think a change in the fitness regime of bowlers needs to be brought about, or is the present regime being followed good enough?
Lee: In my opinion, fast bowlers understand the need for fitness more than any other type of cricketer. Players today already have access to great support staff. All they need to do is work with the support team constantly; they need to have a plan in place and work at what is best for them.
Q. Did being a wicket short of McGrath’s record of most ODI wickets by an Australian make you think twice about retiring?
Lee: It didn’t come down to that; again it was more about how I felt physically and mentally. To sit alongside the great Glenn McGrath on 380 Australian ODI wickets is like Mark Taylor declaring on 334 while being tied with Sir Don Bradman! For me, it is a wonderful honour to be at that place alongside him.
Q. Have records or statistics spurred you on to achieve greater things in cricket?
Lee: No, I have never been inspired by records or statistics. For me it has always been about winning and giving my best – that is what has spurred me on throughout my career.
Q. How important is aggression for a fast bowler like you?
Lee: I think aggression, pace, passion and accuracy work hand-in-hand for a fast bowler. It has always been important for me to possess all of the above.
Q. Do you think Australia’s current team has the potential to win back the Ashes next year?
Lee: Never underestimate the Australian team. There is no doubt that they will have to put in a big effort, but there is a lot of talent in the side and there is still another year before the Ashes series begins, so there’s enough time to work towards making a well-prepared team.
Q. What has been your greatest achievement in all these years of playing for Australia?
Lee: I’m really proud of the longevity of my career. Despite a number of injuries that hampered my run in the bargain, I have always fought back and retained my place in the side. I kept going back, playing as though I was never beaten – that I think is my greatest achievement.
Q. On a personal note, what has been your greatest achievement outside of cricket?
Lee: My son Preston – he has brought so much joy to my life and I look forward to spending a lot more time with him now that I’ve got so much time to myself.
Q. If you had to give a message of advice to young aspiring bowlers, what would those be?
Lee: Go out and learn as much as you can about the game; make sure you are physically fit and strong and then go out there and enjoy the game.
Q. What are the three things in your life that are/have been of utmost priority to you?
Lee: To me, my family has always been of the highest priority, after which comes music and cricket.
Q. Having lived your dream for so many years now and being an inspiration to many, what is the one thing you would say to people who have dreams but don’t know how to fulfil them?
Lee: Anything is achievable, but you have to do what you love and you need to give your one hundred percent to it.
Q. What now, after cricket?
Lee: I will still continue to play T20 cricket for the IPL and the Big Bash series. I would like to get involved more in my fashion business, work on my music and continue my TV work with Channel Nine during the Australian summer. I would also like to spend more time working with my Mewsic Foundation in India.
Q. Do you see yourself being associated with the coaching side of the Australian cricket any time soon?
Lee: I don’t see myself getting involved much on the coaching side, but I would like to mentor a few of the young bowlers.