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Australia's rock star gets back to basics

Brett Lee is the rock star of Australian cricket but his recent inability to spearhead the bowling attack is a warning sign that the 27-year-old player has work to do to re-establish himself.

india Updated: Jan 14, 2004 15:51 IST

Brett Lee is the rock star of Australian cricket but his recent inability to spearhead the bowling attack is a warning sign that the 27-year-old player has work to do to re-establish himself in the side.

To say Lee burst on to the international scene is an understatement. He took a wicket with his first Test match over, against India at Melbourne Cricket Ground in December 1999.

Blessed with a tall, lean physique and golden-boy looks, Lee ran in fast, bowled even quicker and was soon duelling with another long-haired sex symbol, Pakistan's Shoaib Akhtar, as the fastest bowler in world cricket.

Bowling in the shadow of Australia's leading paceman Glenn McGrath, Lee took 42 wickets in his first seven Tests against India, New Zealand and West Indies.

However, the easy-going New South Wales bowler, who plays bass guitar in a band called Six and Out with other cricketers, suffered a serious elbow injury in February 2001.

Ever enthusiastic, Lee returned for the Ashes series in England in 2001, perhaps before he was ready, and took nine wickets at 55.11 in five Tests.

ANKLE INJURY

Last year, Lee blasted his way to 22 wickets in the World Cup, including 2-31 in Australia's 125-run victory in the final against India in Johannesburg in March.

The paceman took five wickets for three in 15 balls against New Zealand and a hat-trick against Kenya in the following World Cup match.

But when presented with the challenge of leading Australia's attack in the four-Test series against India in 2003-04, Lee missed the first two matches with an ankle injury, while McGrath was ruled out for the series following foot surgery and Jason Gillespie missed the third Test with a groin strain.

Australia managed to draw the series 1-1 but Lee drew heavy media criticism, taking 8-476 in the Melbourne and Sydney te{ts in December and earlier this month at an average of 59.5 and bowling 37 no-balls.

"I got hit for too many runs but it's not the end of the world," Lee said after the Test series.

Overlooked for Australia's first two matches in the triangular one-day series against India and Zimbabwe last week, Lee wrote in a Sydney newspaper column that he was seeking tutelage from former Australia paceman Dennis Lillee.

TIME OFF

"I admit there are things I need to work on. I feel strongly about this and that is why I am calling on one of the greatest bowlers to help me out," Lee said.

With McGrath regaining fitness from foot surgery and Gillespie back in full stride, Lee faces a return to the ranks of first-change bowler, something captain Ricky Ponting thinks may suit him.

"He's done a lot of bowling. We just thought he was a little bit flat so we gave him a couple of days off to get him to liven up again," Ponting told reporters on Monday.

Ponting, who will lead Australia on a tour of Sri Lanka starting next month, said he was sure Lee would soon be back to his best form.

"This has been one of the most strenuous months of my life, having surgery, trying to get fit and prove it, and coming back to lead the attack, Steve Waugh's farewell, and some tough times in my private life (the death of his grandmother)," Lee wrote in Sydney's Sun-Herald.

"It was an emotional week but brighter times are around the corner," added Lee, who has taken 139 wickets at 31.66 in 37 Tests.