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The Rediff Cricket Interview
/ Brett Lee
'Fast bowling is hard work but enjoyable'
September 09, 2003
Australian fast bowler Brett Lee has taken Mumbai by storm.
On a four-day trip to India, he had a busy schedule in Mumbai on Monday, shooting till the evening and turning out for a promotional event for watch manufacturers Timex, with whom he has signed up to endorse its products in India, Australia and SAARC countries.
The second amongst brothers Shane [elder] and Grant [younger], Brett made his debut in the Boxing Day Test against India in 1999. Though he made it to the Aussie team after Shane, he cemented his berth as the most consistent fast bowler. Now he is more famous for his toe crushing yorkers, fast bouncers and the post-wicket celebrations.
After the hour-long promotional event and interviews with the television channels, Harini Rana and Harish Kotian spoke to him:
What goes into the making of a good fast bowler?
I think you have got to have a big, strong heart, a pretty good and strong body and able to survive the setbacks. Whether it is in cricket, life or any sport, people do have setbacks. What makes you a great fast bowler or a cricketer is to overcome those setbacks. I have had a broken back twice, I had ankle and elbow surgery, I had a few problems growing up, but that made me a lot hungrier to wear the baggy green cap.
Each time you go out there and wear the cap you are out there playing for your country. There is so much tradition. And to be out there knowing that so many people there are watching you just play with passion and love for the game, it just gets the best feeling ever.
What does it take to stay fit, knowing that fast bowlers are more prone to serious injuries?
It comes with practice and with the right mindset, a lot of hard work and backing yourself. Hard work is the most important thing; nothing happens without it. If you expect something to happen without putting the hard work, be it in sport or business, it won't happen. There is no short cut in life and it is something that I know.
If a person wants to bowl 150mph consistently, he is going to be strong thorough his abdomen, his muscles. Without being too big, he has to be very fit and have a very healthy lifestyle.
We heard you have stopped drink.Yeah. I have stopped alcohol for the last 18 months. We had a study which says athletes who play sport and drink are 100 times more likely to get injured than those who don't drink alcohol. My fitness coach said 'for the last two years you haven't had injuries. You had a lot of injuries so let's keep it that way.' I haven't had alcohol since September 8 last year. I have another 12 months to go without alcohol.
Were you ever in the 'pace race' with [Pakistan fast bowler] Shoaib Akhtar to be the fastest bowler in the world?
The pace race has been apparently happening for the last 4 or 5 years and the media do hype it up a lot. It is good for cricket. All the kids want to try and bowl fast now. He [Akhtar] claims he wants to be the fastest bowler and he has got the total [speed] right now. I want to be known as a bowler who wants to bowl fast but takes a lot of wickets. That is the most important thing!
Has it affected your pace?
Definitely, it affected my pace. A lot of people say there is a huge pace challenge between Shoaib Akhtar and myself. We are really good mates. If he wants to bowl the world's fastest ball, I am happier taking wickets for Australia.
Do you fancy your chances becoming an all-rounder knowing you have pretty decent batting skills?
Shukriya, hopefully! Look, I have made a few goals. While growing up, it was to bowl 160mph. I am lucky I have achieved that. My goal was to take a hat-trick for Australia in the World Cup; I achieved that in World Cup 2003. My goal is also to become an all-rounder. Let us see how things work out.
Coming back to the World Cup hat-trick against Kenya, could you take us through the three wickets?
I bowled the first ball and it came off his [Kennedy Otieno] elbow and went on to the stumps. That was a great wicket to get, but unfortunately, I think it broke his elbow... and it is sad when such a thing happens in cricket. So I first made sure he was okay.
The second wicket [Brijal Patel] I got through a decent catch, which went to the slip area.
Third ball, I just tried to bowl a nice, full, fast straight-pitched ball to see if I could get through him [David Obuya]. I actually thought I had missed the stumps. I was looking around to see where the ball had gone, and someone said the bail is off. After hearing that, for some stupid reason I went straight to fine leg to chase Glenn [McGrath]. I felt I had that much energy and I didn't know where to run.
If you were to assess the captaincy of Steve Waugh and Ricky Ponting, what are the differences?
There is a lot of difference in their captaincy. But they are both excellent captains. I have played under Steve Waugh in Tests. Since the tradition of separate captains was made, Ricky has done a great job after taking over the one-day side. It was always going to be tough knowing that our captain has been stood down and a new captain has been made for each team. But Steve has been sort of fantastic; he knows he is the Test captain and will be the Test captain till he hangs his boots. Ricky has also been a great one-day captain and he is growing. I think the way they both have handled themselves is outstanding.
Have you chalked out any plans for your upcoming tour to India?
We haven't really looked that far ahead. We have had a great six months, starting with the World Cup. There are things in mind which cannot be given away; we have got in place a few things. I think we won't try and change things much; we have prepared very well. Obviously, we got a huge high by winning the World Cup, and then we won the great series against the West Indies and now we won against Bangladesh. So we have had a few wins.
We have to make sure we don't become complacent and that definitely won't happen within the Australian team. It's a great feeling playing for Australia. It was like having your 21st birthday trying to get the World Cup for Australia. So playing against a great nation, India, and New Zealand too, I think it is going to be a great spectacle, a great challenge.
What are your thoughts on the Indian team?
Sometimes teams go through hard points. But I think the way they have structured the team... they have got a great captain; they have classy, world-class batsmen. Sachin [Tendulkar], [Virender] Sehwag, [Sourav] Ganguly, [Rahul] Dravid, V V S Laxman -- they are great world-class players and players whom we find very hard to bowl to. Playing with Sachin Tendulkar is like a dream come true. I have grown up watching him play on television and everytime I bowl I hope to take his wicket.
Tell us about your band 'Six and Out.'
I find that working keeps my feet down on earth; it is really good for me. I do it when time permits me away from cricket. As far as the band goes, that's after cricket. We hopefully will bring the band to India. We want to come here and hopefully raise a lot of money for charity. I am very lucky to play for Australia. There are a lot of people who cannot play for the country and there are a lot of people who are not fortunate as we are. We support a lot of charities around the world. I feel proud of helping people who are less fortunate than us.
Is fast bowling as glamorous as it seems?
[He shrugs, ready to move on] Fast bowling is hard work, but enjoyable.
Lee ends the interview, saying, "Shukriya, I have to go back to Australia; jaldi-jaldi, but will come back again."