Wednesday, December 9, 2009


"Brett Lee, Brett Lee, give us a wave," chanted some of the England support towards the end of the Boxing Day Test 2002 inside a near-empty MCG, made up mainly of the Barmy Army contemplating yet another Ashes hammering.

The Aussie fast bowler duly responded to the English followers and was met by a further song: "Keep your arm straight when you wave."

A big huge beaming smile developed on the New South Walian. Lee had received some harsh treatment from English supporters during that series with shouts of "no ball" every time he ran in, a reaction to false allegations over his bowling action.

But Lee laughed off the songs and banter. He let his showmanship and bowling do the talking. One of cricket's good guys, Lee is loved throughout the cricketing world.

One of the most iconic images in cricket is Freddie Flintoff consoling Lee after England had scraped home by two runs at Edgbaston in 2005. But what made it such a good image was the genuine belief that Lee would have done the same if roles were reversed.

So the news that the fast bowler could be forced into retirement if his elbow injury does not improve comes as a blow to anyone with a love of the game.

Not only is Lee a great sporting personality, a showman and all-round nice guy, he is also a mighty fine bowler when fully fit.

He has had some great moments in test cricket - in South Africa in 2006 and against Sri Lanka a year later. But unlike predecessors, Glenn McGrath and Shane Warne maybe not the luck that his efforts deserved.

Lee as a character and a cricketer is very English in his approach which is part of his appeal particularly to English fans. Similar in style and character to Flintoff and Darren Gough, Englishmen have wished that he was one of their own.

Lee is a talisman and despite a less than impressive bowling average of 30.81 from 76 tests that does not tell the story on what effect he can have on his side.

But just like Flintoff and Gough the injuries are starting to persist. Stomach, ankle, foot and now elbow problems have hampered his progress and the signs are that he may well call time on his test career at the age of 33.

That would be a great shame. Cricket needs more characters like Lee. And even the England fans that barracked him in 2002 are unlikely to disagree. Perhaps even if he wins the Ashes back for the Aussies next winter.

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