Ferocious on the pitch, absolutely unrelenting at his opponents and utterly tireless in the outfield, Brett Lee was more than the fastest bowler on his day, a tag that maybe Shoaib Akhtar would so handily want to object to; Lee was a great gentleman off the pitch.
You almost get to know the conduct of a man by the way he treats his teammates and regards his adversaries. Given all the kind words that Brett Lee has gone on to lavish on most of the talents he played with or against, it could be said that, in some ways, he was much like Rahul Dravid, albeit in fast motion.
And that is when he is someone who claimed no fewer than 718 international wickets. During his time, Australia seemed an even more daunting opponent to face, and hence, seemed more dreadful than ever, given the fact that Lee offered extra force and power to a side that already had the likes of Glenn McGrath, Jason Gillespie, Andy Bichel, Nathan Bracken and Michael Kasprowicz.
When he bowled, he didn’t just bowl at rapid pace; Brett Lee oozed fire.
And some of that fire was reserved for the absolute guns with the bat- think Sanath Jayasuriya, think Brain Lara, Mohd. Younis, Saeed Anwar, Jacques Kallis, Kumar Sangakkara and not to forget, a certain Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar.
And in here rests the greatness of Sachin Tendulkar’s great Australian opponent.
At a time where the New South Wales born could so easily have turned cold or shown, at least, a hint of arrogance, having the envy-inspiring record of being the bowler to dismiss the great Tendulkar on the most occasions, he resorted to simplicity and had nothing but fan vibes for the great Indian batsman famously heralded as the “Master Blaster” of cricket.
In a recent media exchange, Brett Lee, who has been an avid participant in the famous Indian Premier League (currently in the business end of its leg), having starred for many an occasion for the Kolkata Knight Riders explained the famous occasion where, despite being an opposite number of Tendulkar, he almost walked down to the little master to (believe it or not) seek his autograph.
The following is what he told a leading Indian press publication and it’s something that might melt the heart of the most cold-hearted:
The first time I met Sachin Tendulkar was way back in 1999. We were in Canberra and I was playing for the Prime Minister’s XI against the touring Indian team. And of course, Sachin Tendulkar was in that game. He came out to bat and I realised I am bowling to the great Sachin Tendulkar. I actually wanted to get his autograph – I thought I’ll give him the ball and say ‘hey mate, could you please sign this?’ But then realised it wouldn’t look good for my first impression against the great Tendulkar.”
Interestingly, the 45-year-old didn’t just end there; he would go on to further add the following:
“Me as a young kid growing up watching him and here I am with the ball in hand thinking how am I going to get this guy out. I managed to nick him off. We shook hands at the end of the game and I was in absolute awe of this wonderful man.”