Lee turns down New South Wales contract
Brett Lee has declined a contract with New South Wales, declaring he wants to leave room on the state's list for a younger player while he aims for an upgrade to a Cricket Australia deal. Lee was not among the 17 men handed national contracts last week, the first time since 1999 that he has failed to win a central contract.
Despite the omission, Lee, 35, remains in Australia's immediate limited-overs plans and is part of the one-day squad about to take on England in a five-match series. On Saturday, he showed his hunger for international cricket has not diminished, seaming the ball at pace to pick up two wickets from the first three deliveries of the ODI against Ireland, a match that was eventually abandoned due to rain.
He has spoken of his desire to keep playing the shorter formats at international level and believes he can be a valuable mentor to Australia's younger fast men, including James Pattinson and Pat Cummins. Although Lee was one of the men to suffer from the central contract list being cut from 25 to 17, the upgrade system means he will be handed a deal if he plays six ODIs during the 2012-13 year, or a suitable combination of one-dayers and Twenty20s.
"I truly appreciate Cricket New South Wales' offer but given the unique position I find myself in under the new contracting model, it makes sense to give this opportunity to a young player," Lee said. "I am still very much focused on earning a Cricket Australia contract over the next two months and will continue to help Cricket New South Wales where I can this season."
Lee, who no longer plays first-class cricket, will play one-day cricket for his state on a match-by-match basis, but his availability could be restricted by his national commitments. As a Twenty20 player, he is likely to remain a valuable member of the Sydney Sixers outfit after helping them to the Big Bash League title last summer.
The state associations are all finalising their contract lists for next season, a process that was unable to begin until last Friday afternoon due to the lengthy delay in Cricket Australia and the Australian Cricketers' Association signing a new pay deal. The states have each been given extra money and room on their lists to help with the return of men who had previously held Cricket Australia deals.
Lee was not the only New South Wales player who did not have his contract renewed; Steven Smith and Doug Bollinger were also dropped, along with Nathan Hauritz and Phillip Hughes, both of whom have been linked with potential interstate moves. Meanwhile, Cricket Tasmania has confirmed that the batsmen George Bailey and Ed Cowan, who missed out on Australia contracts, have both signed with the Tigers this week on two-year deals.
Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here