Brett Lee loves speaking his mind. The former Australia speedster believes that it is important to make the wickets conducive for the fast bowlers in a bid to make Test cricket more interesting.
In the city recently for the UnAcademy Road Safety World Series — which was eventually called off due to the coronavirus pandemic — Lee spoke to Sportstar on India’s bowling line-up, the changing face of Test cricket and more…
You belong to a generation when Australian fast bowlers dominated the world. What are your thoughts about the young Aussie quicks?
It’s always good to see the young exciting fast bowlers coming through the ranks. Obviously, I watch what the spinners are doing, what are the batsmen up to. My real interest, however, lies in watching the young fast bowlers. There are young guys, who are just 15-16 or 17 years of age, and they have that raw pace. Of course, we have got Pat Cummins, who is a superstar now. I have seen him rise through the ranks as a young 17-year-old skinny boy from sort of out western city to come down and become one of the world’s best fast bowlers.
I really hope that we find some young, upcoming bowlers not only for Australia, but also for India.
So, what’s the way forward? Do you plan to unearth a few pace talents from India as well?
Yeah, I want to make sure that we find fast bowlers around the world. Every single country should be able to provide fast bowlers. I want more from India. We have seen fast bowlers from Australia. Pakistan has got some really good fast bowlers. India have got the right make, the right build-up; I want to see some medium fast bowlers too, because they have the potential to bowl well over 150 kmph.
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What are your thoughts on the current Indian pace attack, spearheaded by Jasprit Bumrah?
The current Indian pace attack is very, very good, led by Jasprit Bumrah. He is the guy who can also increase his pace. A few little things…you know he is working on with his action, with shooing with that arm pulling down harder and pulling out straighter. He has really improved his action bit. I am really impressed with the way he bowled in the last couple of years.
In your time, the wickets in Australia were quite different. Lately, it is being observed that most of the Test venues across the globe have identical wickets. What do you make out of it?
Wickets these days are a lot flatter, obviously not as bowler friendly. I don’t want to see juicy green tops in a Test match where an innings is knocked out for 90 runs. You want good Test cricket, but you have to offer something for the fast bowlers. So, you want something on offer — a bit of shape on the ball, a bit nibble off the seam. I don’t think the Kookaburra balls have been great. I think that we have to look at potentially of a new ball because the ball hasn’t been swinging a lot. So that’s one aspect. And secondly, as I said, the wickets need to be conducive to fast bowling.
Brett Lee speaks his mind on the way forward for Test cricket – VIVEK BENDRE
As far as Test cricket is concerned, are these kind of wickets affecting the results?
When you play cricket, you have to be an entertainer. So you don’t want a first innings score of 700-plus or 500, and then the game peters out and so it’s a draw type of thing. You want exciting cricket and you want something in there. Back in the day where you saw great fast bowlers run in, and batsmen hooking up for a six — that’s exciting cricket. But the batsman was always put under pressure because there was something in for the bowlers. The bowlers always felt that they are part of the game. I think that there should be something there for the bowlers that can keep them excited.
The ICC has taken quite a few initiatives to popularise Test cricket. Is there anything in particular that should be done?
I think the easiest way is just to make the game a bit more sporty for the bowlers. Make it a bit more exciting. Test cricket shouldn’t be changed. I like the fact that Test cricket is still pure. You can ramp up in T20 as much as you want, even in 50 over cricket as well. But leave Test cricket the way it is, just keep a bit more grass on the wicket for the bowlers.
Do you back the idea of day-night Tests? Also, what’s your take on the proposed four-day Tests?
No. I think Test cricket should be of five days. Day-night Test cricket is fine.
India is scheduled to play a day-night Test in Australia next year. Do you think that the teams should play more pink-ball cricket so that players get used to the format?
Yeah, it’s a good point because we either have to buy into day-night Tests or not. You can’t have one game a season with a pink ball, which is not fair for the batsman. So you either buy in, you have a certain amount of matches per season that you have to play, or you don’t do it at all.
These days, almost every bowler aspires to fare well in the IPL. But then, how different does it get for a fast bowler to change formats and deliver?
At the end of the day, you know you are still bowling with the same ball, of the same weight (around 156 grams), playing on the same wicket, in same kind of pitch. With ODI cricket, you’ve got to be patient as a bowler, so it’s hard.
The reason why one day cricket remains exciting is because the batsman have a limited amount of time to score runs, so they have to attack you as a bowler. In Test cricket, they can sit on you till your spells finish. They don’t have to attack. You can be as fast as you want to, they just need to leave the ball or duck them. In 50 over cricket, they have to attack you because there’s a limited amount of time in hand.
How challenging is this shift?
It is always challenging because you could have different mindsets, different game plans, but you can definitely do it.
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You have observed Indian pace attack quite closely. What are your thoughts about the changing phase of India’s fast bowling department? In your playing days, India was more of a spin-heavy unit…
I think it’s great. I’ve been really excited with the way Indian cricket has progressed. Back in 2001, when (VVS) Laxman and (Rahul) Dravid batted for the whole day, that really was a monumental day for Indian cricket in all formats. That really put India on the map, saying that we can compete with Australia and we can actually beat him as well.
Virat Kohli-led India now has a big pool of fast bowlers – AP
Back in the 1970s, 1980s or 1990s, there was a feeling that you could always dominate India. They had good spinners, good batsmen but still you felt they could be dominated. Now, it’s different. Now, India dominates. They can dominate now with a bit of in your face stuff, not over the top. The way India plays its cricket is fantastic — without going over the top. They are respectful, they are being too nice. I think they have got the right balance.
Many feel that the Indian team has also imbibed the Aussie cricketing culture, which says never give up…
I think it is because of the fact that there’s been so many Australian coaches who have come over to India. So many Indian players are mixing with Australian players in the IPL, I reckon that has helped and it has rubbed off. The Australian mindset of never giving up has been rubbed off on new India. It has helped the world cricket and also Indian cricket.
For the last few years, Cummins has really come a long way. With the T20 World Cup lined up this year, what’s your thought on the Aussie pace attack in general and Cummins’ form in particular?
Pat Cummins is an absolute superstar of world cricket. A potential captain in the making, he can definitely be a leader. Cummins can be a captain, further in his career. I think right now it’d be really good opportunity for him to keep focusing on his bowling because the other stuff can come later. So when he’s bowling really well — which he is doing — don’t change what he’s doing. Don’t change the mindset, don’t give him extra responsibilities. The team is doing well, Tim Paine has done a wonderful job. I will stick to what they are doing.
You spoke about Cummins becoming a future captain. You see that happening anytime soon?
Tim Paine is doing a great job. I wouldn’t change anything for now.
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Let’s talk a bit about the recently-concluded Women’s T20 World Cup. The Melbourne Cricket Ground was a full-house for the final between India and Australia. How do you see that?
I wasn’t there for the final. But it’s a fantastic thing. It was International Women’s Day (on March 8) and it was just fantastic to see 80,000 people at the MCG, cheering for the girls. It was an exciting final, and took me back to the 2003 World Cup final, where India played against Australia. Same result, but I am pleased with the Aussie girls, I think they played a magnificent series. A bit of a slow start, but they came through in the end.
Mitchell Starc flew down from South Africa just to be with his wife Alyssa Healy — who was part of the Australia women’s team — ahead of the final. How do you see this?
You can look at this in two ways. To me, it was just a partner supporting a partner and yes, they both play cricket for Australia, which is fantastic. But you know, you’d expect that from other partners too. I’m sure there are other partners that came down and watched the girls play and supported them. But obviously, Mitchell Starc flying home was a nice gesture.
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