There were a lot of happy batsmen out there on July 13, 2012. That day, one of the world’s most fearsome pace bowlers announced his retirement. Brett Lee‘s retirement from the international cricket was news which spread like wildfire around the world. Due to a calf injury, Brett Lee had to take the hardest decision of his life.
In his retirement press conference at the SCG, Lee said, “I guess you ask yourself a lot of questions when you’ve been injured or been through a tough time. In a team environment, you have to be committed 100%, both mentally and physically. Looking at the next two months, I just didn’t have that desire any more. It wouldn’t be fair on me or the rest of the team if I was to go over there with that attitude – not lack of commitment, but you just get to a point in your life when you decide enough is enough. I knew this was the right day to do it and also the time was right to make way for Australia’s young fast bowlers. The great run must end”. There are many younger players around who will be filling the spot vacated by Brett lee in the Australian team. Pat Cummins and James Pattinson are the favourites who will get this spot.
During his notable thirteen-year career, Lee achieved numerous cricketing feats. For his sheer pace and regularly-clocked 150 km/h deliveries, he was credited by the nickname of “The Speedster”. He was not just quick, but he could swing the ball at good pace – that was his hallmark. He played 76 Tests, 221 ODIs and 25 T20s in which he took 310, 380 and 28 wickets and also had a handy batting average of 20.15, 17.81 and 16.83 respectively. He retires one wicket shy of McGrath’s Australian record of 381 ODI scalps. He has maintained a stunning strike-rate of 29.4, marginally less than Shane Bond’s strike rate 29.2 in ODIs (upto 100 wickets). He is only player to have picked up hat-tricks in both ODIs and T20s, and both hat-tricks came in World Cup matches against Kenya and Bangladesh respectively.
He was also the part of the World Cup winning team of 2003 and ended the tourney with 22 wickets off 83.1 overs at an average of 17.90, a wicket behind Sri Lankan left-arm fast bowler Chaminda Vaas. He hurled down the second highest bowling speed 99.9 mph (160.8 km/h) at Napier, New Zealand in 2005, slightly less than Akhtar’s fastest 100.2 mph (161.3 km/h).
Brett Lee was feted as one of the top-five Wisden Cricketers of the Year in 2006 as well as the Wisden Young Cricketer of the Year and Bradman Young Cricketer of the Year in 2000. He was also included in the ODI Team of the Year at the inaugural ICC awards ceremony held in 2005. In ODIs, he was ranked by the ICC as the No. 1 ODI bowler in January 2006. The year 2008 was the golden year of his life span. In this year, he was a celebrated part of the ICC ODI and Test Team of the Year and also acquired the Allan Border Medal, Australian Test player of the year and McGilvray Medal.
When somebody has been trying to bowl over 155km/h for 16 years straight, it takes a lot of wear and tear on the body. Thus, Lee suffered several injuries but his comebacks each time were really inspiring. His team spirit, enthusiasm towards games and never-give-up attitude make him different from other players. His capacity to play through pain is well known, but if anything, that enhanced his reputation in this regard. He was the bowling through the latter stages of the triangular CB Series’12 and the West Indies tour’12 with a broken toe at an average speed of 145 km/h. The decision to return well before the predicted eight-week recuperation time demonstrated his love towards the game. In the World Cup’11 quarterfinal match against India, when he sprinted round the boundary and dived full length in a bid to save the boundary, the ball hit his face and caused a cut to the side of his right eye, but he was soon back on the field with a plaster covering the cut. That’s the real spirit of the game.
Lee’s contributions are outstanding in world as well as Australian cricket. In his presence, winning rate of Kangaroo team in Tests and ODIs are 71.05% and 69.23% respectively. Throughout his career, Lee played in an Australian team that triumphed in nearly every major tournament. Outstandingly, 297 of Lee’s 380 wickets came in wins. The percentage of wickets in wins for Lee (78.16%) is second only to McGrath, who picked up 301 of his 381 wickets in wins (79%). He had raised the bar for pace bowlers of this generation by bowling consistently at extremely fast speed even during days before retiring. He inspired young kids to play cricket and bowl fast. His sledging and wicket celebrating style were phenomenal. He never indulged in any indecent form of sledging and sledged the rival player with a witty smile. Although his international playing career has over, he will continue playing in India’s lucrative IPL Twenty20 league and Australia’s Big Bash T20 series.
There is an artistic side to Lee too, away from the cricket meadow. He plays bass and acoustic guitar for the rock band “Six and Out” alongside other New South Wales cricketers. And he has become enormously popular in India where he wrote and recorded the song “You’re the One For Me” with Indian legend Asha Bhonsle, which reached number two on the Indian charts and led to a role in his first Bollywood movie Victory. In 2007, he initiated Mewsic, a charitable foundation which aims to ensure that music is widely recognised as a powerful tool to heal, empower, educate, and advocate for marginalized children in India. So he considers India as his second home. It won’t be surprising if Lee is seen removing the dust of his guitar or holding the mike as a commentator in the second phase of his life.
One of the world’s great players of the contemporary era retires but his legacy will live on. Whenever someone says cricket is the game of passion, enthusiasm, spirit and never give up attitude, Brett Lee is the paradigm. Many colts look up to lee and want to follow in his footsteps. He was a good role model to youngsters in all forms of the game. Brett has been an absolute ornament to the game; a fine player, a fierce and brave competitor, a generous opponent and one who always upheld the highest standards of sportsmanship. His charging run up, leaping celebration and flashing smile will be missed by all cricket fans. Truly, Brett Lee is the great ambassador of the game.
MISS YOU “BINGA”