'Binga' was the ‘blonde’ sensation when he debuted in 1999. Born in Wollongong, Sydney, New South Wales, he loves playing the guitar and he also has a music album with Asha Bhosle – for being a genuine superstar, these credentials would have been more than enough. Now, add to it the trait of a speed demon who clocked 155+ kmph with the cherry regularly and his very own aggression ridden ‘chainsaw ‘celebration. That is Brett Lee for you - a 24-carat
bona fide cricketing superstar.
With a bowling run-up akin to the start of a 100m dash and an action dead ringer to the winding up of a pump action shotgun, Lee ruled the roost of that elite brand of athletes who were emulated very often by many.
With a ‘5-star’ debut on ‘Boxing Day’ Test match against India at the MCG in 1999, the younger brother of Shane Lee had announced himself in a tearaway fashion and now, at the age 35, ‘Binga’ announced his retirement from ODIs, a rather sedate one, more like a
notification. And with this fallback, the era of the dominant Australians’ long list of quality fast bowlers has officially ended.
Along with the legend Glenn McGrath and a certain Jason Gillespie, Lee held his own. With raw pace he shattered stumps at will and in comparison to another cynosure of his generation, Shoaib Akhar, the Speedster demolished the field.
He was plagued by injuries throughout his career, but like an occupational hazard for any fast bowler he played on overcoming each of his injury lay-offs. Lee claimed 380 wickets in the ODIs, just one short of McGrath’s Aussie record of 381 at an enviable avg. of 23.36 and he is 3rd on the list for claiming maximum ‘five-fors' in ODIs. I can dish out all kinds of stats from ‘wiki’ and other related sites to claim that his was an illustrious career and can paraphrase his achievements one by one, but that would not do justice to what I am writing. What I remember of Lee is what I like the most about him. So here it is...
Lee, during his career has given a lot of memories to cherish, and for me, specially as a ‘fan’ -- more of a cricket fan than the individual’s, three moments or three vital games involving Lee underline the career of this speedstar.
World Cup Hat-trick: Kenya were doing unbelievably well in the 2003 World Cup and in the Super Six, they had to face Australia. Brett Lee picked up a hat-trick and that probably was the first such achievement I was able to see live. Kennedy Obuya tried to leave an incoming short-pitch delivery, the ball hit his elbow and onto the stumps, Obuya squirmed in pain - it was nasty. Brijal Patel walked in next, he got a peach of a delivery, 153 kmph, just outside off, moving away, Brijal had to poke at it and Ponting completed a diving catch at second slip. David Obuya came in to face the hat-trick ball, and boy, what a ball that was, as if shot right from a shotgun, 155 kmph darting into leg and that was the hat-trick. The opposition might have been Kenya, but each of those three balls would have been good enough to get rid of any top flight willow-wielder.
Edgbaston loss: If a picture is worth a thousand words, a sports picture sometimes is worth a thousand emotions. Brett Lee crestfallen in the middle of the Edgbaston strip with ‘man of the moment’ Andrew Flintoff consoling Lee is such an image. England won the 'Greatest' Test match by 2 runs in the 'Great series' ever played. Lee remained unbeaten of 43. The way Lee and Warne grinded their way to a possible victory from a hopless situation exemplified the spirit of the game, and Lee’s personal determination to succeed.
Manoj Tiwary debut: 2008, Brisbane Cricket Ground, Manoj Kumar Tiwary finally got a long awaited debut, flown in just hours before, he walked to the middle and played out 16 deliveries for just 2 runs. He played seven deliveries from Lee to get one run. Lee had banged in short and Manoj had been ducking and evading. He saw Rohit Sharma get out at the other end. After playing out Mitchell Johnson’s over, Manoj faced Lee second time around, short one again aimed at ribs, Tiwary was in tangles, next one, a perfect yorker, off stump rattled, Tiwary froze to his crease. It was gut-wrenching to even see that, and on debut, Tiwary would not have got a sterner test. Brett not only cleaned up the debutant but in my view would have left a mental scar on the Bengal star. That was his effect, that was not only Brett Lee’s effect, but the legion of great fast bowlers over the generation had that kind of effect on batsmen.
That was and is Brett Lee for you, cricket’s 24-carat />bona fide superstar.
(The views expressed by the author are personal)