Brett Lee has confirmed his retirement from international cricket, but he has declared his intention to play on in the Big Bash League and the IPL. Lee, 35, had originally planned to retire after the ICC World Twenty20 in September, but after flying home early from the ODI series in England due to a calf injury, he decided the time was right to make way for Australia’s young fast bowlers.
He will depart the game as the equal leading wicket taker for Australia in one-day internationals, having moved level with Glenn McGrath on 380 victims, although McGrath also took one wicket for the ICC World XI, taking his career tally to 381. Lee retired from Test cricket in February 2010, but remained a valuable player in the shorter formats, for his country and his various domestic teams around the world.
Lee’s final appearance for Australia came in Durham last week, when he hurt his calf while bowling the third over of his 221st one-day international. Lee said he wondered as he was clapped off whether it would be the end of his international career, and he made his decision on Friday morning before making the retirement official with an announcement at the SCG.
“I guess you ask yourself a lot of questions when you’ve been injured or been through a tough time,” Lee said. “It’s been the last two or three nights I have thought about it a lot. I woke up this morning and I knew this was the right day to do it.
“In a team environment you have to be committed 100%, both mentally and physically. Looking at the next two months I just didn’t have that desire any more. It wouldn’t be fair on me or the rest of the team if I was to go over there with that attitude – not lack of commitment, but you just get to a point in your life when you decide enough is enough.
“The great run must end. It was going to be post-World Cup [Twenty20]. We had spoken about that with the selectors and that was the time I was going to walk away from the game. But I woke up this morning and just felt like I was ready. It was time to go.”
Lee made his debut for Australia in the 1999 Boxing Day Test against India and he will retire as international cricket’s tenth leading wicket taker of all time, with 718 victims across all three formats. He has been involved in a World Cup triumph in 2003 and three successful Ashes campaigns, and although he will leave on the low of a 4-0 one-day loss to England, Lee said he was confident Australia were heading in the right direction.
“What I can say about the Australian cricket team right now is that we are guided by a terrific guy in Michael Clarke,” Lee said. “I think he’s been a terrific captain. He’s got a great cricket brain. We’ve just got to back the guys we’ve got around us and realise that we don’t make superstars overnight.
“We can’t expect guys to go out there and get five-for in their first match, or a hundred. The guys need to take time to get used to their spot. There’s a lot of unfair pressure coming from all angles on the players these days. Pick a group and try to stick with them I reckon is the best advice.”
One of those young men who will play a key role in Australia’s fortunes over the next decade is Pat Cummins, the 19-year-old fast bowler. Cummins has already been struck down by a number of injuries and has taken advice from Lee, who said he was excited to see what Cummins could deliver over the next few years.
“He’s got so much talent. If I had half his talent that he’s got at 19, you’d take a million Test wickets,” Lee said. “He’s a wonderful guy, he’s a guy that listens, he’s got a great body to bowl fast. The thing I told him the other day is that you are going to get injured, unfortunately. If you put yourself and your body on the line every single time you bowl a ball, the chances are you will get injured.
“You’ve got to learn how to deal with that, learn how to deal with the media saying you’re injury prone, how to deal with people saying you’ve got to bowl 150ks every single ball. It’s tough, it’s challenging. I know that he can do it.”
Lee was in and out of Australia’s side so often due to injury in his career that he said he’d had “more sequels or comebacks than Rambo”. He missed the 2007 World Cup due to a serious ankle injury and also suffered back, abdomen, side, elbow and foot problems throughout his 13-year international career, but he said he had no regrets about the toll his style had taken on his body.
“It may be a little bit crazy to be a fast bowler, to put your body on the line every single time,” Lee said. “I’ve always said that if you’re not living on the edge you’re taking up too much space. That’s the way I’ve always played my cricket. If I’ve done something I’ve done it pretty well [injuries]. This calf tear is the first proper torn muscle I’ve had in 20 years of cricket, so I can’t really ask my body for much more than that.
“There’s still the Big Bash, there’s the IPL. I’m not totally losing my cricket thrill or the chance to play cricket. Hopefully I will get the opportunity to play here [the SCG] again. Obviously it won’t be for the Australian cricket team, which will be sad. But I know I’ve made that right call.”