A few days ago, Brett Lee was in Dubai, watching India vs Pakistan at the Asia Cup 2022. At noon on September 7, he was in Mumbai, leaning against the bar at Masque restaurant, working his phone and exchanging firm handshakes. In a few days, the Australian pace star will play in the Road Safety World Series to be held in four Indian cities (Kanpur, Indore, Dehradun and Raipur). (More Cricket News)
“I thought after my career finished, I’d be aaram se, aaram se, but I’m busier now,” Lee, one of the affable and Indianised Australian cricketers, told Outlook at a lunch organized by Jacob's Creek, the official wine partner of the International Cricket Council (ICC).
Commentary, promotional activities and family responsibilities keep the Sydney-based father of three on his toes. Preston, Lee’s son, is emerging as a chip off the old block. He is a Virat Kohli fan, Lee says, and Kohli has sent him his used match shirt as a gift. It bears all the scars of battle, including mud stains.
“I told Preston, ‘Don’t wash it’,” Lee said, himself dressed in a spotless white shirt and dark trousers.
Kohli, however, has had better times, and so have India. Their performance at the Asia Cup 2022 has been scrappy. With back-to-back defeats against Pakistan and Sri Lanka, India are out of the tournament. Pakistan beating Afghanistan on Wednesday has officially knocked India out.
Nevertheless, Lee felt India’s chances of doing well at the upcoming T20 World Cup in Australia are “high”.
“It’s [the Asia Cup performance] not ideal for them. Having a loss against Pakistan, having a loss against Sri Lanka. But it’s not through lack of trying,” said Lee, who regularly bowled at the feared 150kmph mark.
“I think they have to continue to play with freedom, back their big players, get behind Kohli, get behind the Hitman (Rohit Sharma), making sure those guys can lead from the front. You read in the press that the bigger [Indian] players are under pressure. Of course they are under pressure. But it’s how they deal with it [that matters]. I think India have a great side and they’ll do very well at the World Cup.”
Lee, however, seemed more confident of Australia’s prospects, and said that the wickets would be a factor in the performance of the top sides.
“The wickets in Australia will definitely suit guys like Bhuvaneshwar Kumar,” Lee said. “The wickets will not be juicy but have some good carry. That will suit some of the Indian fast bowlers, but also some of the Pakistan fast bowlers. Australia’s chances are high as well. Because they would be playing at home, are the previous edition’s winners and are in good form.”
At the Asia Cup, pressure told on India in the different departments of the game. One example is the last delivery against Sri Lanka, where two run-out chances were missed and an overthrow conceded.
Lee, who took 718 wickets across formats for Australia and was a weapon in the nervy stages of a game to deliver dot balls or take wickets, said that the ability to soak up pressure was either in-born, or developed by eliminating mistakes. He also highlighted the importance of fielding, and that good field work rubs off on batting and bowling.
“In this format of the game, one run, a misfield, a missed runout opportunity, a dropped catch, they all contribute to winning or losing,” Lee said. “If there is one aspect that all teams need to focus on, that’s fielding. We always say in the Australian team, fielding sets the tone. If you are good in the field, your discipline with ball and bat will be pretty good too.
On pressure, Lee said, “There are players that love to have that pressure on them to bowl the last four or five overs. I wanted to be that person who bowled the hard overs. Other players are happy to bowl through the middle period, or with the new ball. That’s fine too. It’s about knowing what style of player you are. It comes down to personality, I think.”
And experience as well?
“Yes, but you’ve got to learn from that experience. The times when I missed my yorker at the end, and we lost the game, or I bowled a wide, or stepped over the line or a hit a length that was the wrong option [I learnt from those mistakes]. Everyone makes mistakes, that’s sport. But you have to learn from it and never make the same error again.”