Brett Lee, the Australian fast bowler, has dismissed talk of retirement by saying he has four to five years of cricket left in him. "I'm confident in my own mind," he told the Herald Sun. "If I keep doing the right things, if I look after my body, there's at least another four or five years left in me.
"It all comes down to staying away from injury and looking after myself. Being a fast bowler, things will go wrong with your body, it's the nature of the beast. But I've got a great strength program I'm working on. The game has changed a lot in the last 10 years. It's gone to a new level. Blokes are fitter and stronger."
Lee has taken 56 wickets in 2008 - his best return in a calendar year since his entry to the Test arena in 1999 - and he believed he had not lost his drive. "I know I'm 32, but the truth is I have missed a fair bit of cricket with injuries, plus I was 12th man [for the Test side] for 18 months," he said. "I only feel 27 or 28 in bowling terms. I'm still improving. I don't feel I'm ready for that [retirement] just yet."
A disappointing performance in the Border-Gavaskar Trophy in India in October-November saw him bag eight wickets from four Tests at an average of 61.62.
However, Lee came back strongly in the recent two-Test series against New Zealand where he finished as the second-highest wicket-taker behind Mitchell Johnson. He picked up 12 wickets at 21.83, including a nine-wicket haul in the second match in Adelaide.
With 309 wickets at 30.11, Lee is fourth among the Australian bowlers for the most number of Test dismissals, and close to overtaking his idol Dennis Lillee who has 355 wickets.
"To think I'm about 40-odd wickets from going past Dennis Lillee, I find it hard to comprehend," he said. "It feels like yesterday I was playing for the Oak Flats Under-8s. Dennis was the bloke I emulated in the backyard. When I was 16, I met him at a fast bowlers clinic in Sydney. I remember him saying: 'You have good pace, if you stay strong, you never know, one day you might play for Australia.' "
Lee said he dreamt of playing 100 Tests which would help him reach 400 wickets - a feat accomplished by only one Australian fast bowler, Glenn McGrath. And he would be keen to reach the figure by the Ashes tour in July next year.
But he would be looking to make the most of Australia's three-Test series against South Africa at home (December-January) and the three Tests in the return series (February-March) before that.