Injury-prone pacer Brett Lee is "very much" in contention for next year's World Cup but he needs more cricket to earn his place back in the team, feels Australian chief selectors Andrew Hilditch.
33-year-old Lee was ignored for the one-off twenty20 international against Sri Lanka though the cricketer made a successful comeback for New South Wales after a six-month layoff with an elbow injury.
Lee was also overlooked in the 15-man squad announced yesterday for the three-match one-day series against Sri Lanka starting next week. "It's not something he's particularly happy with, he thinks he's ready to go," Hilditch told Australian media.
"But we still feel after a very long period off with injury, and then to come back on pretty limited preparation to what is really three one-day internationals in six days, I think is just a bit too much at this stage. "He's making really good progress and seems to be back bowling really well. We're hoping he'll be fully fit and roaring to go for the World Cup," he added.
Lee's agent Neil Maxwell said the pacer was bowling fast consistently but he was not contacted by the selectors. "That can only be an assumption because nobody has bothered to contact Brett," he said.
"Brett wanted to get back to bowling 150km/h and that's what he has been able to do," he added. Lee, however, was backed by Cricket New South Wales chief executive David Gilbert who felt the paceman did enough to earn a selection. "I've seen Brett bowl at Hurstville Oval and at the SCG and I thought he bowled fantastic and surprised me how quickly he has clicked back into the groove," Gilbert said.
"We're talking about a very experienced international cricketer who wouldn't have come back from his latest injury unless he was 100 per cent sure he would be able to perform at the level he has become accustomed to. "I can understand Hilditch saying he might not have done enough, but at the same time you have to pay respect to Brett who has been around the game more than 15 years," he added.
Lee is determined for a final hurrah on the sub-continent, where the World Cup is being held next year. Lee had also been supported by skipper Ricky Ponting, who had expressed his desire to have him in the squad for the World Cup in the sub-continent.