Brydon Coverdale
Assistant editor, ESPNcricinfo

Brett Lee's retirement

Often injured, always quick

Brett Lee always maintained his upbeat attitude, regardless of how his body was coping with his demands. And it didn't matter who you were or how you played, he was never easy to face

Brydon Coverdale

July 13, 2012

Comments: 39 | Text size: A | A

Brett Lee clicks his heels after taking a wicket with the first ball of the innings, West Indies v Australia, 2nd ODI, St Vincent, March 18, 2012
One of the few men to break 160 kph, Brett Lee was persistent in his pursuit of pace and fitness © AFP

That Brett Lee has finally retired from international cricket is not a surprise. The remarkable thing is that he lasted this long. Lee made his first-class debut more than 17 years ago. A week earlier Queensland had won their first Sheffield Shield title. Mark Taylor was still in his first year as Australia's captain. For an express fast bowler, it was eons ago.

All that time Lee has had the most physically taxing job in the game. Ball after ball, match after match, year after year, he has run in and bowled damn fast, one of the few men to break 160kph. His workload and his unwillingness to give any less than his all took its toll. He missed Australia's historic tour of India in 2001 due to an elbow injury, the 2007 World Cup triumph because of an ankle problem and the 2009 Ashes because of a side strain.

There have also been, among other problems, stress fractures of the back, abdominal injuries and foot surgery. He even missed a tour due to appendicitis. Most players in his situation would have given the game away years ago. It takes a relentlessly upbeat personality to make so many comebacks and whatever the complaint from his body, Lee never whinged. It was his attitude as much as his skill that earned him 718 international wickets.

Only Shane Warne and Glenn McGrath claimed more victims for Australia. Lee the bowler was not in the class of Warne or McGrath, but he provided wonderful support for them during an era of Australian greatness. Warne personified the artistry of the side, McGrath the precision and Lee the sheer aggression. All were defining characteristics of the team.

Consider the batsmen Lee dismissed the most in international cricket: Ramnaresh Sarwan, Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Andrew Strauss, Virender Sehwag, Chris Gayle, VVS Laxman. The most belligerent and the most obdurate batsmen of the modern era are on that list. Several would feature in discussions about the greatest batsmen of all time. It didn't matter who you were or how you played, nobody found Lee easy to face.

One of his most memorable dismissals was that of Jacques Kallis during the Boxing Day Test of 2005, when Kallis tried to hook a bouncer from Lee and was beaten so comprehensively for pace that his bat had barely drawn level with his right shoulder as the ball smashed into the logo on his helmet. Next ball, a hesitant Kallis was bowled by an inswinging yorker. It was classic Brett Lee, vanquishing one of the world's finest batsmen with sheer pace. If he could rattle Kallis, he could rattle anyone.

Lee the bowler was not in the class of Warne or McGrath, but he provided wonderful support for them during an era of Australian greatness. Warne personified the artistry of the side, McGrath the precision and Lee the sheer aggression. All were defining characteristics of the team

Along with Shoaib Akhtar, Lee kept express bowling alive during the 2000s. It was a passion he honed as a child, playing in the driveway of his Mount Warrigal home, running in hour after hour to bowl to his older brother Shane. The concrete strip that formed the pitch was about 30 metres long. It was also uphill. That didn't bother the young Brett, who used to pretend he was a West Indian quick and would open the front gate and start his run-up from the other side of the road. Eventually the garage door that acted as automatic wicketkeeper became so battered that it couldn't be opened.

But despite the aggressive on-field style that he built up over all those years, from his backyard to stadiums across the world, Lee remained universally popular, both among his opponents and opposition fans. He was a ferocious competitor on the field, but the first to check a batsman's wellbeing after hitting him with a bouncer. It was a trait he often had need to display.

He was never less than a gentleman off the field. He has devoted spare time to good causes, and is the ambassador for a cricket education programme in India, encouraging children to take up the game. During last year's World Cup, Australia had two matches within four days in Bangalore but Lee found time between the games to meet a young child taking part in the programme. They chatted about cricket and life for more than an hour. It was not a media photo opportunity. It was just Lee doing what he likes to do with his time off. He'll have plenty more spare time now, much of which he will spend with his young son Preston.

He will leave international cricket with Australia's attack showing considerable promise. Pat Cummins and James Pattinson are both causing the same ripples of excitement that Lee brought to Australian cricket a decade and a half ago. If they display anything close to Lee's longevity, Australia's fast-bowling future will be in good hands.

Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here

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Posted by   on (July 16, 2012, 20:25 GMT)

thank you Brett Lee - in my opinion you are the best fast bowler because you never gave up. you're never be forgotten

Posted by ooper_cut on (July 16, 2012, 17:47 GMT)

My favourite cricketer along with Dravid, both have the same personalities, only LEE enjoyed his game much much more and also showed it on the field. The dashing smile is something that cannot be erased from my memory.

Posted by gudolerhum on (July 16, 2012, 16:34 GMT)

One of the great gentlemen of the game and a fierce but fair competitor. His presence will be sadly missed by the Aussie team and the crowds around the world whom he has entertained so well over the years. Happy retirement, Brett Lee.

Posted by cmw2175 on (July 16, 2012, 15:15 GMT)

Nothing more than a routine trundler. Tim Bresnan is a far better bowler and a more complete player overall.

Posted by anuradha_d on (July 16, 2012, 10:09 GMT)

I looked at Brett Lee'stest records......1500 runs nearly at an average of 20+ and 310 wkts in 76 tests at nearly 31.....

a good bowling SR of 4+ wkts per test and nearly 53 balls per wkt........impressive consdiering he played for the better part in team that had Warne, Gilespie and McGrath...

average and RPO are high......but that means he had a license to attack all out with pace and get wickets......and the 1500 runs are a bonus making him a bit of a lower order bowling allrounder.........

a good test match record to look back at inspite of being cut short because of injuries.

Posted by   on (July 15, 2012, 18:59 GMT)

Farewell to a charismatic bowler, a fascinating entertainer and above all, a true gentleman!

Posted by   on (July 15, 2012, 17:46 GMT)

How many bowlers could bowl outswinging yorkers at will with the new ball?? I hadn't seen anyone do it apart from Waqar and Wasim (inswinging because he's a left armer, he could bowl any ball practically), before I watched Lee shattering left handed openers in one-dayers in the first over of the innings with unplayable yorkers coming in sharply after looking like they're going across from over the wicket. That's Brett Lee for you, even Shoaib, who was the heir apparent to the two W's relied on seam movement with the new ball, until the ball would start reversing!!

Posted by indianpunter on (July 15, 2012, 15:38 GMT)

ask any non australian who their fave aussie cricketer is .. Binga, Gilly or Mr Cricket would be the likely answer. That speaks volumes about the man. As an Indian, i always loved his style. There was an endearing quality about everything he did..( even though he wreaked havoc with the ball). Somehow, i wanted Binga to do well, but India to win. You will be missed, Brett. You were sheer joy to watch. I have watched him a few times at Perth, and the crowds loved him the best. Good luck, mate !

Posted by   on (July 15, 2012, 15:36 GMT)

His greatness lies in the fact that he was hated as an on field opponent and was loved in equal measure off the field as a good human being. Best wishes for whatever he decides to do in future.

Posted by Vilander on (July 15, 2012, 14:01 GMT)

not one of the few men, one of the two men legally breaking the 160. Pls.

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Brydon Coverdale Assistant Editor Possibly the only person to win a headline-writing award for a title with the word "heifers" in it, Brydon decided agricultural journalism wasn't for him when he took up his position with ESPNcricinfo in Melbourne. His cricketing career peaked with an unbeaten 85 in the seconds for a small team in rural Victoria on a day when they could not scrounge up 11 players and Brydon, tragically, ran out of partners to help him reach his century. He is also a compulsive TV game-show contestant and has appeared on half a dozen shows in Australia.

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