If it isn’t 100%, it isn’t Lee

Suyash Srivastava

Australianism: ‘Single-minded determination to win – to win within the laws but, if necessary, to the last limit within them. It means where the ‘impossible’ is within the realm of what the human body can do, there are Australians who believe that they can do it – and who have succeeded often enough to make us wonder if anything is impossible to them. It means they have never lost a match – particularly a Test match – until the last run is scored or their last wicket down.’

The Kangaroos have had the pleasure of having a dozen cricketers, who fit into the above mentioned details, but if there is someone who is a synonym of the definition itself, it’s none other than Brett Lee.

As the title suggests, I personally like Brett Lee because of his ability and determination to deliver a 100%. Even before making his debut, Lee had made a huge impact on the Australian selectors, who didn’t hesitate to include him in the playing eleven in spite of his lesser experience at the first-class level. The ones he had played, he had broken a few jaws and the batsmen were literally scared to face him. Brett Lee added venom to the then-invincible Australian team and had the pleasure of sharing the pace bowling attack with the likes of Glenn McGrath, Jason Gillespie and Damien Fleming.

Brett Lee would make a youngster run for his money with his never-say-die attitude on the field. We have seen blood oozing from his body parts during live matches on various occasions. One such instance happened during the second quarter-final between India and Australia during World Cup 2011.

While fielding a ball on the boundary, Lee lost his balance and suffered a cut above his right eye, which was extremely painful to watch. But Lee knew the importance of the match and he continued to play till Yuvraj Singh hit the winning runs. Australia lost that match but Brett Lee was once again lauded for his commitment.

The Australian speedster could have extended his career and reduced the number of injuries by compromising with his pace. But ‘Binga’ never did that, as it was the figure on the speed gun after every delivery that kept him going. It was the adrenaline rush whenever he clocked the 150 kmph mark, which made him a relentless athlete, and he played every match as if it was his last.

Brett Lee has mentioned in his autobiography ‘My Life’ that at a very early age he reckoned that he was going to play for Australia some day. His celebrations after every wicket suggested that he was arrogant, which he was not – because it was something he had dreamt of all throughout his life. Brett Lee also writes that he could read the fear in the eyes of the batsmen, especially tail-enders who were frightened to face his express deliveries which had knocked the helmets of many batsmen in the past.

Most of the Australian skippers, including Steve Waugh encouraged Lee in the initial phases of his career, as they reckoned he was one of the fastest they had seen since Jeff Thomson, who had reached the 160 kmph mark in the 70s. He personally liked the media hype as to who was the fastest between him and Shoaib Akhtar, since it helped him maintain his pace.

Lee always loved challenges and there was a day when his friends had asked him to participate in a throwing competition. Binga immediately was game for it, without knowing that it was one of those incidents which would have a major impact on his career later on. In order to outclass the opponents, Lee outstretched to the limits and his arm went sore, which he initially ignored. Thereafter, when he went to see a doctor, his injury was misdiagnosed. It was discovered later that he had fractured his ulna, one of the two main bones in the arm. His injury got worse and consequently, he couldn’t straighten his arm and had lost about 10 degrees of flexibility. Lee regrets that incident because he had to live with the ‘chucker’ tag for most of his career.

He has also mentioned in his autobiography how in one of the matches he heard a crack as soon as he bowled. When he went for his run-up he bent down, pretending to tie his laces, while he had tears in his eyes due to extreme pain.

He might have knocked the heads and helmets of many batsmen, but Lee himself was afraid of being hit by a ball. In that famous Test against England in 2005, Australia needed 107 runs to win on the last day with two wickets in hand. Lee wasn’t as confident as Warne was as a batsman, yet he stayed on the crease for about two hours and took several blows from the England pace attack. Australia lost the match by 2 runs and Lee remained unbeaten on 43, which followed his famous photograph with Andrew Flintoff.

Even before he made his debut, the express bowler had had some serious back injuries. He also went under the knife a few times for recovery. In spite of that, he never compromised his pace. It is incredible to see that he has represented Australia for 13 years in a career which has seen lots of ups and downs, injuries and allegations. Yet, the star speedster consistently clocked the 145 kmph mark and had the ability to scare the best of batsmen with his pace.

The news of Brett Lee hanging his boots has come as a huge relief for the batsmen, but not for the Kangaroos who have been struggling to dictate terms in the world of cricket in recent times. With his retirement, Australian cricket has lost their most experienced bowler of the modern era. There are the likes of Cummins, Pattinsons, but it is yet to be seen whether they can deliver half of what Lee has done in his phenomenal career.

After his official retirement, one might wonder what`s next for the champion bowler. While many might use their out of the box thinking to think what the answer is, I reckon apart from working on a few new albums, Lee might get back to Barclay`s Menswear in Sydney, a place where his heart lies – of course when he is not playing cricket.