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

RSS Feeds: Brydon Coverdale

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by   on (July 16, 2012, 19:25 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, 16:47 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, 15:34 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, 14:15 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, 9:09 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, 17:59 GMT)

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

Posted by   on (July 15, 2012, 16:46 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, 14:38 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, 14:36 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, 13:01 GMT)

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

Posted by   on (July 15, 2012, 8:06 GMT)

I would say Brett Lee, he was so consistent for a long period while bowling at that pace is extraordinary. Had Shoaib been on the park more it would have been a lot closer because he was a really good test match bowler probably better than Lee (178 wkts at 25). Some people say that Shoaib was more talented etc.But they are only looking at his quick swinging deliveries.But what they do not realize is that a player come along as a package which requires other talents as well which we do not take into count.In Shoaib's case these things were missing from his package:

1) Ability to remain patient 2) Ability to look after his fitness like a good night sleep, proper diet and routine exercises 3)Absorbing the pressure of a BIG match.

Posted by   on (July 15, 2012, 6:01 GMT)

salute thee.u have been a treat 2 watch over the years.

Posted by cricketcritic on (July 15, 2012, 5:56 GMT)

Everyone who knows him says he's a great bloke, so that must mean something. But from a non-Aussie spectator point of view his on-field antics, particularly the exaggerated celebrations, always seemed a bit stupid. I'd have hate to have faced him but I felt he wasn't the same force without Warne and McGrath alongside him and he never really stepped up to lead the attack. Indeed when that became his job Australia dropped into a steep decline. There's also a suspicion in me that he's a guy whose stats benefitted from pressure built by the greats around him and plenty of easy wickets against Zimbabwe and Bangladesh (compared to the prior generation of Aussie quicks). But no-one can take a great career off him

Posted by Meety on (July 15, 2012, 4:13 GMT)

@RyanHarrisGreatCricketer - sorry I have to chuckle. @Peterincanada/pholpin - it was debatable whether Lee could have "won" the 09 Ashes for Oz, what I do believe is, that had Lee played, the pressure on MJ would not have been as intense & he would of been more effective. Not to mention Clark was returning from injury in that series too. Lee was in good form, but his test record in England was not great, so who knows, just a good pub arguement! == == == Lee also put his money where his ethics were too, declining appearances in Beer adverts, as he wasn't happy about the message as a role model.

Posted by Rajeev129 on (July 14, 2012, 12:16 GMT)

We all miss you Binga. I had seen atleast 5/6 international matches until 2007. I had a feeling that the bowlers are not much threatening so can easily be defended by any specialist batsman. But that day in 2007 Hyderabad, after watching your run-up to bowl to Sachin then time it took to reach Sachin from your hand seems like a real bullet for me. I was simply clapping for every delivery which has missed the stumps since i sat across the pitch i was easily able to observe how faster those deliveries were. From then after i started booking tickets in that particular stand only just to observe the bowling speeds. I promise you, even Dale Steyn didn't bowled that faster in his 10-12 matches in our city. Everybody in our city wanted to bowl like you. You have made such a big impact in fast bowling. All the best Lee, hopefully you will continue to entertain us through IPL/BBL.

Posted by Silverbails on (July 14, 2012, 6:31 GMT)

A superb player, a true all round competitor, who gave his time so much off the field to cricket. He'll be sorely missed by the Aussie team. He was a much - needed balance to the often-snarling Ponting, and had a true appreciation of his opponents. I didn't see him sledge or make any comments to his opponents EVER, in any form of the game. He let his 150 - 160 kph very fast and intelligent bowling do ALL the talking, as it should be for a fast bowler!! He really reminded me of those great Windies quicks from the '70's and early '80's in that respect...brilliant player, and his records will stand the test of time. I'm sure that Preston will be glad to see more of his dad now, and there'll be many more opportunities to pass on his skills off the pitch...plenty of opportunities from all over the cricketing world..pity about all the injuries. Glad to have seen you at your best, Binga... and glad that the BBL and IPL will still have your sterling services for a few more years yet...

Posted by   on (July 14, 2012, 5:36 GMT)

Brilliant article Brydon. I was lucky enough to see one of Brett's early Test Matches against India at the SCG back in Jan 2000, was great to see him in full flight and bowling at full pace.

Posted by whoster on (July 13, 2012, 21:24 GMT)

@Polphin. That's a nice story and sums Brett Lee up well. You could always sense his enjoyment, and he was an entertainer. He proves that you can smile and play the game with humour, but also play it really hard. A real credit to the game and Australia. It took him a while to fully establish himself in the Aussie Test team, but he was a regular for the last 3-4 years of his country's domination, and that shows he was real quality. He was just as exciting to watch when he was batting, and I remember a few massive sixes he hit during the 2005 Ashes. It's also incredible that his professional career has spanned 17 years. To keep battling through the injuries caused by constantly bowling flat out shows his incredible determination too. It's hard to think of any other player who is so well liked and respected. Cheers Brett, a fabulous cricketer in every way!

Posted by   on (July 13, 2012, 20:35 GMT)

congrats Brett. The best of the best, you were a treat to watch. and not to mention you batting abilities, great man on and off the team.

Posted by pholpin on (July 13, 2012, 20:19 GMT)

@peterincanada. You are correct - it was 1 July 2009. Doesn't time fly!. For the record, Lee's bowling figures in the first innings were 27-6-76-6 and he was fantastic. (Contrast with Mitchell Johnson in the same innings 26-1-118-1 who was far from fantastic). I recall that Lee was injured bowing in the second innings, not during that spell.

Posted by vrn59 on (July 13, 2012, 19:42 GMT)

Three cheers for Brett Lee!

Posted by Cpt.Meanster on (July 13, 2012, 19:03 GMT)

Brett Lee encompasses the BEST features of being an Australian cricketer: aggression, competitiveness, compassion, respect, kinship etc. He was one of those guys who was PROUD of being Australian but also respected and admired his opponents. This is the reason why Brett has way too many followers around the world. He is one among his fans and loves to give back. I will miss you for sure Brett !!

Posted by   on (July 13, 2012, 17:17 GMT)

He seems like a nice of luck mate on your future endeavors

Posted by   on (July 13, 2012, 16:43 GMT)

I always like Bret lee, the way he runs in and put 100% and true sports man with sweet smile and also the off field activities...especially the song with Latha mangeshkar,made me give lot of respect...But only time I hated him is when he got sachin runout getting in his way....BUT YOU ARE A CHAMPION \m/

Posted by bigdhonifan on (July 13, 2012, 15:26 GMT)

India loves Brett lee!!! Legend!

Posted by Peterincanada on (July 13, 2012, 15:25 GMT)

@pholpin I think you mean 2009. Lee was injured in that game, possibly during that spell. That was the end of his test career and quite likely caused the loss of the Ashes for Australia because he was certain to be the leader of the attack. His fitness record demonstrates the stress of bowling really fast and captains should not be using bowlers like Lee in long spells.

Posted by crackers134 on (July 13, 2012, 15:12 GMT)

Brilliantly written piece Brydon! One of the most durable express quicks ever. Could well be Australia's best ever ODI fast bowler. Good time to call it quits though, plenty of good young Aussie quicks coming through, wish I could say the same for young Aussie batsmen.

Posted by pholpin on (July 13, 2012, 13:31 GMT)

At an Australia warm-up match at New Road Worcester in 2010, Brett Lee took some banter from the crowd when fielding on the boundary after a fairly ineffective opening spell. It was hugely impressive how he responded - first with some intelligent and good humoured comments in reply, then with a hostile second spell to remove several of the England Lions batsmen. The boundary crowd were won over, and we were all - myself included - hugely impressed. Well done Brett Lee - the more cricketers like you there are, the better the game will be.

Posted by Krooks on (July 13, 2012, 12:49 GMT)

Brett Lee you beauty... well done and god bless you

Posted by shailendra.raghuwanshi on (July 13, 2012, 12:49 GMT)

congratulations bret lee for Wonderful carrer. World will miss the genuine fast bowler who never compromised with the his pace despite his various injuries, All the best for Your Future.

Posted by RyanHarrisGreatCricketer on (July 13, 2012, 12:40 GMT)

australia's 4th best quick bowler after Lillee , McGrath and Harris

Posted by   on (July 13, 2012, 12:31 GMT)

Sheer aggressive bowler with a kind heart on and off the field. Just in the class of C Walsh. ...! Brett was the part of an era, when we loved cricket in our heart.!

Posted by   on (July 13, 2012, 12:29 GMT)

A Great Athlete ,Fast bowler and a wonderful human being,Cricket will sorely miss him.

Posted by   on (July 13, 2012, 12:00 GMT)

Despite the greatness of the austrailian team in the 2000's they were not a well liked team. Two persons stood apart from that group, Adam Gilchrist and Brett Lee, true gentlemen of the sport. Brett Lee has been the tip of the spear with McGrath the shaft plunging through batting lineups for many years, if not for injuries he would have been the all time bowling leader in all formats (a la Ian Bishop). Despite this the joy of watching a fast bowler at work firing in at the batsmen is truly an awesome sight and Lee was much smoother than akthar, both molded on the running through the wicket style of Waqar. Enjoy your retirement and see you again in the IPL, good luck!!

Posted by TheBengalTiger on (July 13, 2012, 11:54 GMT)

One of the few Australian cricketers that the world has any respect for. A brilliant bowler, but also a brilliant bloke. The rest of his team could learn something from how he conductws himself

Posted by msnsrinivas on (July 13, 2012, 10:58 GMT)

Always has been a great sight to watch you bowl, mate. Enjoy your well deserved retirement!

Posted by   on (July 13, 2012, 10:17 GMT)

Terrific Fast Bowler and true gentleman.Been gifted to witness some of his fiery spells.

Posted by chanakyas on (July 13, 2012, 9:24 GMT)

A terrific player and a terrific fast bowler!! I've always been a huge fan of Brett Lee and his bowling action. Never saw anything as streamlined as his action after the great 'White Lightning' Allan Donald! Well Done, Lee..You are a true Champ! :-)

Posted by   on (July 13, 2012, 8:55 GMT)

What a good allrounder he is. I think he should have played until the next world cup or atleast this worldcup t20. He is one of the best bowlers in recent times. Good luck in your future!!!

Comments have now been closed for this article

Email Feedback Print
Brydon CoverdaleClose
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.

    'Everyone stares at you when you're 6ft 8in'

Boyd Rankin talks about giants, playing for the enemy, and being mentored by Allan Donald

    Bravo's withdrawal highlights cricket's stress malaise

Tony Cozier: He and Kieran Powell should follow Lara's example by seeking professional help to resurrect their promising careers

    Four afternoons into immortality

Rewind: In 1899 a 13-year-old orphan at Clifton College established a world record which stands to this day

    A crisis that defines the age

David Hopps: In England, changes in social attitudes, the demands of work, and other factors are contributing to a decline in recreational cricket

The multifaceted Mr Ravi Shastri

Stuart Wark: We might know him better as a commentator, but in his day he was a fine spinner and, when called on, a gritty opener

News | Features Last 7 days

Pakistan should not welcome Amir back

The serene team culture cultivated by Misbah and his men shouldn't be allowed to be disrupted by a player with a tainted past

Contrite Kohli, apoplectic Kohli, and a Dhoni impersonator

Plays of the day from the fifth ODI in Ranchi

'I don't blame Arjuna for my early retirement'

Former Sri Lanka batsman Asanka Gurusinha talks about playing and coaching in Australia, and tactics during the 1996 World Cup

Dhoni's absence a guide to India's future

He's past his use-by date as a Test captain and keeper. India now have a chance to test Kohli's leadership skills

'I'm a bit disappointed not to get that Test average up to 50'

Mahela Jayawardene reflects on his Test career, and the need to bridge the gap between international and club cricket in Sri Lanka

News | Features Last 7 days