I still remember the days, not all that long ago, heading to Alan Border Field at Albion to see the Australian One Day International (ODI) cricket team in action when they occasionally played a practise match there before the international series began. On one of those occasions, mini autograph bat in hand, I wandered down to the fence where one of the players was standing at the fence, ready to field.
That player was Brett ‘Binga’ Lee, at that time a relatively new addition to the then extremely dominant Aussie team. Between deliveries Lee would wander to the fence, not a worry in the world and sign the bats, shirts, caps and balls of the thankful young fans of the team and its players.
That’s one of my first memories of a man that despite injuries has had a career better than most who have and will ever don the green and gold colours which today lean more toward the green side.
That stellar career today is over now, another injury closing the book on the international cricketing life of a great player and someone with a real interest in the fans.
Another memory was of that immense pace and aggressive delivery action which early on in his career saw him sending down missiles consistently near or above 150km/hr. Even in his more recent playing years he wasn’t that far off the 150km/hr mark. His speed put him at or near the fastest in the game in the early years of his career and up there with the quickest in the later years despite injury and an ageing body.
Selectors were so keen on the firebrand pace-man that they had wanted him to continue his career until the Twenty20 World Cup due to be held in Sri Lanka in just a few short months. This is testimony to the impact that the aggressive quick bowler has had on the game in Australia, that at 35 a fast bowler is still playing and still able to prove a vital part of the team fabric.
From 76 Test Matches, thanks largely to injury setbacks, Lee took a solid 310 scalps at an average of 30.81. In the ODI arena Brett Lee played a total of 221 matches, taking 380 wickets with an average of just 23.25.
In the test match domain ‘Binga’ bagged 10 five-wicket innings and almost as many (9) on the one day paddock.
For a tail-end batsman too he wasn’t exactly a slouch and was capable of some serious hits and stroke playing that would put some lesser top order players to shame. In tests Lee averaged 20.15, scoring five 50’s and a top score of 64. In ODI’s he managed three 50’s at an average of 17.00 with a best score of 59.
Brett Lee’s enduring success can be partly put down to realising that if he wanted to prolong his career as the fastest of the fast bowlers he would need to alter his delivery action from a high impact slinging action to a more controlled and balanced process, yet of course even with this altered technique injury still took its toll on his body.
Fear not, his final delivery in cricket was likely not the last one that cricket mad Australians saw him bowl over in England on our television screens, Brett Lee still has the intention to play on in the Big Bash League and the Indian Premier League and it would be brave selectors to deny him those opportunities.
Brett Lee will be missed by the Australian cricket team and the cricket watching public for his aggressive, attacking bowling which he tempered down a little to preserve his body and to allow for more control. His departure from the game will be a sad one for many, especially for those of us with such great childhood memories.