Brett Lee: India's very own 'smiling assassin'
Dean Jones started running at full spate, but no one was even chasing him. As the commentary panel tried to break out of the end-game commotion at Mysuru’s first game of KPL 2017, a section of the crowd spilled onto the ground, making a collective dash towards one of the two Aussie legends trying to cut through the crowd.
Brett Lee might not be in action anymore, but he seems to be forever in the limelight.
After a successful stint with the Tamil Nadu Premier League, Lee has moved one state to the north, reuniting with Jones for the Karnataka Premier League that just concluded its Mysuru leg.
The craze for the 41-year-old pacer is more than noticeable, it is infectious. He doesn’t look one bit a retired cricketer, the physique is still menacing, the posture upright and the face still bright as ever, carrying a small, shy smile as he walks around.
On the first day of the Mysore leg, Lee’s approach to the commentary box was met with wild applause. Just like a Mexican wave, sections of the crowd were on their feet as he passed by, chanting different variations of his name: “Lee!”, “Brett!”, “Brett Broo!”.
Someone even yelled “Binga!”, and Lee quickly retorted with a yell back.
He knows how to acknowledge the crowd. Out came the familiar bowling action as he hurled an imaginary delivery, bending his back not an inch less than he used to. He followed it up with his trademark finger-in-the-air celebration, sending the crowd into a frenzy.
Before the start of the match, an attentive Lee saw one of the ball-boys hesitantly asking his coach to get his cap autographed from the Aussie. He gently called out to the boy and granted his wish, receiving a mile-broad smile in return.
The end-game commotion was due to a minor security lapse, a bigger crowd could have been a serious issue, but Lee managed to tackle them easily, sprinting to overtake the crowd approaching him. He then dodged into the park, where two attentive guards ended the chase.
Jones, 15 years senior to Lee, has been playing second fiddle in the popularity game. On opening day at the Chinnaswamy, the two were standing on the ropes when a group of guys yelled out Lee’s name from the stands. As their shriek cut through the noise, Lee, so used to the drill, instantly turned back and waved.
Deano, forever the showman, pointed at himself and then to the crowd and asked, “Hey, what about me?"
Lee seems to be itching to get some game time, during the mid-game warm-up session, he chucked his microphone aside and joined the slip cordon for some catching practice. Even during the dry drills of his shoot, Lee could be seen shadowing his action on the sidelines.
By the time the Mysuru leg ended, Lee had grinned for a selfie with almost everyone in the city, interacted with both the young and old, all without breaking a sweat whilst looking fresh as a daisy, even till the wee hours of the night.
The organisers learnt their lesson, stationing two security men at all times around Lee, who never seemed to get tired of waving back to the enthusiastic spectators, tracking every move of his.
In the age where security for cricketers matches those given to the elite, the free-mingling of Lee with the crowd gave a new life to cricket in the city, and showed the real side of the pacer, who used to send shivers down the spine of batsmen.
A song album with Asha Bhosle, a lead role in a Bollywood movie, and countless Indian television appearances later, Lee can very much settle down in the country.
Back in the day when he thundered in with the ball in hand, the Indian crowd could not look, their eyes were forced to wander, the Indian batting was forever under the pump, Lee was hurling in those grenades. Back in the day, Lee still managed to smile and wave at the audiences, never to be greeted back...
Not anymore, the once feared rival has transformed into an adored icon, and all those accomplishments are just a testament to the amazing game we are all a part of. He was feared, he is now loved...
Brett Lee loves India, yes, but India now drools over him!