Wednesday, November 29, 2006

What Has Happened to Brett Lee?

Brett Lee has been “leading the Australian attack” for too long now. The fact is that on his recent performances, he shouldn’t even deserve a place in the team. He seems like a great bloke and all and I have nothing against the guy, in fact I admire him quite a lot, yet when the performances don’t speak for themselves then questions need to be asked.

Although he has performed well in patches, he has not done so consistently and has not performed any where near what he should have if he was really leading the Australian attack. It has come to the point where opposition attacks do not fear Lee anymore, rather can’t wait to face the bowler, who seems to have lost his swing, bounce and speed.

The stats speak for themselves. I was lucky enough to witness Lee’s first devastating spell In Boxing Day, way back in 1999 against the Indians. That day, it wasn’t only the pace that undid the Indian batting line up (Tendulkar excluded), but rather the swing and bounce. We all thought that one day he would become the best bowler in the world. Although at times he might have reached those dizzy heights, he has not been able to sustain it.

When he first started his bowling average was in the low 20’s, now it is 31.85, hardly anything you would expect from the strike bowler of the best bowling attack in the world. Even more concerning, is that Lee isn’t the strike weapon he used to be. In his last 18 test matches, he has only taken 74 wickets. Now the strike bowler of the best bowling attack in the world should be consistently taking more than two wickets per innings. One of the major reasons, Lee’s average and strike rate have taken such a battering is because of England. In his last 6 tests against them, he has only taken 22 wickets at 44.13, simply not good enough.

Yet one of the key assets of a great team is that they are able to cover for players who are not performing at their best, but for how long can this continue with Brett Lee. What is more concerning is that Australia is sticking with this wayward “strike weapon” even though it has got more than reasonable replacements waiting in the wings. Mitchell Johnson can bowl just as fast as Brett Lee and can swing it just as much, if not more, why isn’t he getting a go? Shaun Tait is arguably faster than Lee and has a killer instinct about him, he frightens batsmen, something which Lee can’t presently do, why isn’t he in the team?

So far the pressure has been on Stuart Clarke to hold his place in the side, but why is that? In his short career he has out bowled many if not all of his colleagues. He ripped South Africa apart in South Africa and tore the heart out of England in the first test with figures of 7/93. The sad thing is that had Shane Watson been fit, Clarke probably would have been dropped for Stuart MacGill, now I don’t think that this is fair.

Like the under performing Indian batting line up, there is only one solution to Brett Lee’s prolonged form slump, hard work and more hard work. He needs to forget about all the technical things which come when one plays for the national side and concentrate on bowling fast, intimidating the batsmen and getting the killer instinct back, which once terrorised batsmen all over the world. If unable to do this, it could spell the end of a career of one of crickets perennial under achievers.

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