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Shirin Sadikot in Centurion

I’ve had more comebacks than Rambo: Lee

KKR pacer opens up about his injury-ridden yet illustrious cricket career

One of the most fearsome fast bowlers and an extremely amicable person – somehow, the two qualities don’t make good bed partners. But there’s a man who has enchanted oppositions and fans around the world with his charming smile while sending shivers down batsmen’s spines with his aggressive pace bowling.

Brett Lee is special. He will knock a batsman’s head over with a nasty bouncer and be genuinely concerned about his well-being. “I play my cricket very seriously and always give my 100 percent. But when you’re off the field, you’ve also got to enjoy. I’ve got many friends through cricket and I’m very proud to say that I’ve done that,” Brett says while explaining his dual personality.

It’s a miracle of sorts that with an injury-plagued body like his, Lee managed a sparkling international career for Australia spanning 13 years, 76 Tests, 221 ODIs and 25 T20Is. Anyone who has suffered as many injuries as him – he’s had injuries to his ankle, elbow, back, abdomen, has suffered stress fractures and even had appendicitis – would’ve have given up on the game long ago. But Binga fought on. “My love and passion for the game helped me overcome the tough phases,” he says with steel in his eyes.

“The day will come eventually when I’ll retire from cricket and I don’t know when that day is going to be, but I want to be a good leader to the guys coming through. I want to make sure that I pass a bit of a legacy and the never say die attitude.”

It’s not rare for a genuinely fast bowler to drop a bit of pace post-injury to prolong his career. Even the great Dennis Lillee treaded that path; but not Lee. Every time he returned from an injury – and as he puts, he’s “had more comebacks than Rambo” – there he was, bowling as fast as he could, giving everything that he had. “I don’t want to bowl slow; I want to bowl as quick as I can. Bowling fast is all I’ve ever wanted to do.”

Eventually, when he realised that his body is not responding to his will of going out there and bowling quick day in and day out, Lee decided to say goodbye. Already having given up Test cricket in 2008, Lee called time on his limited overs international career this year. With 718 scalps across all formats, he finished as Australia’s third highest wicket-taker, after Shane Warne (999) and Glenn McGrath (943).

Also, very interestingly, Lee ended his ODI career with 380 wickets, which is the same as what McGrath managed in the 50-over format playing for Australia – McGrath picked one ODI wicket playing for ICC World XI, thus taking his overall ODI wicket-tally to 381. While Lee feels honoured to be named in the same breath as the legend, he says, “It’s pretty fitting I didn’t get past the big man.”

Another champion cricketer that Lee is grateful to have had a few fierce battles with is Sachin Tendulkar. The fiery Aussie pacer has dismissed the Indian maestro more times than any other bowler – 14 times in 42 international matches. When told about this statistic, a surprised Lee asked if the numbers were correct because for him Tendulkar is the toughest batsman he’s ever bowled to.

After recovering from the revelation, Lee downplayed his success against the batting virtuoso saying, “I try to up the ante when playing against the best; it brings out the best in me as well. I’ve been lucky I’ve been able to get him out a few times.”

With his international days behind him, Brett Lee is now living his passion through Twenty20 leagues. As part of the Kolkata Knight Riders, he is in South Africa playing the CLT20. Although his team suffered a huge 52-run loss at the hands of the Delhi Daredevils in their first game, Lee was optimistic the IPL 2012 champions will show their worth in the tournament.

“It’s obviously a very disappointing start for us but it’s not the end of the world. Yes, we got beaten fair and square today but it doesn’t mean that the competition is over for us.

“There’s still a lot of fight left in us,” Brett Lee said, unknowingly summing up his entire career in one line. 

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