There was a feeling of disappointment mixed with inevitability for me at the announcement of Brett Lee’s retirement from Test cricket.
For me, Brett Lee epitomized what playing and watching Test cricket is all about, he played good hard, aggresive, fair, competitive cricket, always with a smile on his face, and always in the right spirit. Whenever he ran in, he always did so with total commitment.
I watched a bit of his last Test against South Africa in December 2008, when he showed immense (sporting) courage, while attempting to run in as hard and fast as he could with a broken foot in a vain effort to help Australia in a lost cause.
At the time you couldn’t help but think what damage is he doing to himself in the long run? He wasn’t thinking of himself though, and did the best he could for his team and country, as he always did.
As we now see, Lee has decided to go with the limited overs formula in a similar way to Andrew Flintoff. I don’t blame him for his decision, as I don’t blame Flintoff either. After years of putting their bodies on the line, I don’t see why they both shouldn’t cash in while they still can.
It would be fair to say that both (at times) have had serious doubts over the last 6-9 months whether they would ever play competitive cricket again, either of them could potentially be one game away from their last, so make hay, or cash, while you still can.
With the current demands of international cricket it is hard to envisage too many more Brett Lee’s coming through and maintaining a high standard for 10 years, as Lee has done. If we are lucky enough to see bowlers of his pace and class, the chances are that their lifespan in the sport will be very short lived, such is the current schedules.
At the age of 33 it seems very young for Lee to be giving up the 5 day game, will it act as a wake up call to the treasurers at the ICC though? Bond and Flintoff are already gone, and we are seeing Dale Steyn bowling flat out in Tests, 50 over matches and T20’s, how long is he going to be able to keep that up for?
We can only hope that common sense prevails somewhere within the ICC and that the current levels of cricket being played is addressed, also the batsmen friendly pitches that put further strains on the fast bowlers needs to be sorted out too.
If they choose to ignore this and do nothing, then I fear that the art of fast bowling will become an even more rare sight.