Lee searches for his lost spark
Brett Lee has started an intense training programme ahead of the third Test amid concerns in the Australian camp that he has lost condition and his fearsome speed. Lee spent a month away from the game following his marriage break-up in August and it has left him under-prepared for the tour of India, where he has picked up four wickets at 59.25 in the first two Tests.
"Because he's been a bit underdone he's been bowling a bit at half- and three-quarter pace at training, concentrating on his technique trying to do everything right," the captain Ricky Ponting told the Australian. "But by doing that he's probably taught himself to bowl slow.
"For the next week he'll be doing that dynamic stuff. When he bowls at training he'll be bowling off his long run to train that back into his body again."
While most of the squad has been given time off to refresh mentally and physically following the 320-run loss in Mohali, Lee will be aiming to lift his strength and his speed. Stuart Karppinen, the team's fitness advisor, is trying to help Lee regain his spark in the five days that remain before the Delhi Test.
"Because of his personal circumstances, he hasn't done the same volume of work and we want to try to build that up," Karppinen said. "He's at 95% and bowling in the mid-140s [kph] but we want him to be able to crank that up. He's lost speed and condition."
Although both Ponting and Lee played down their on-field disagreement in the Mohali Test, where Lee was not asked to bowl until after lunch on the fourth day, Ponting said it was clear Lee had taken time to find his rhythm. He said if Lee could not regain his extreme pace, his responsibilities would need to be tweaked accordingly.
"We'll have to look at how to get him to bowl in the Test if he can't bowl express," Ponting said. "He'll have to play another role for us. If you look at his spells in the game it's probably been his first-up spell that's been his worst. When he's come back he's settled into a line and length."
Lee's experience - he has nearly 300 Test wickets - took on extra importance when Stuart Clark pulled out of the Mohali game with an elbow injury. The fast-bowling line-up at Mohali featured the debutant Peter Siddle and the developing Mitchell Johnson, and with Clark's fitness still uncertain, Ponting is desperate to have Lee firing in Delhi.
"We need him bowling very well," Ponting said. "He's the guy everyone in our attack looks up to. He's a senior player in the team and he's led the attack brilliantly in the last 12 or 18 months. The rest of our bowling attack really fits in around what he does. We need him back and bowling well to be a chance of winning this series."