Pitching for Melbourne

“The Melbourne Cricket Ground is Australia’s leading sports stadium and hence it is the obvious choice for the ICC events. In the 2015 World Cup, it will host five matches, including a quarterfinal and the final,” says the former Australian fast bowler Brett Lee. By G. Viswanath.

Brett Lee is quite familiar to Indian batsmen. He made his Test debut against India in the Boxing Day Test of 1999. He dismissed Sadagopan Ramesh, Rahul Dravid, M. S. K. Prasad, Ajit Agarkar and Javagal Srinath, as the Aussie announced his arrival in world cricket with a bang.

Lee went on to take 310 wickets in 76 Test matches, 380 wickets in 221 one-day internationals and 35 wickets in 17 ICC World Cup matches he played in 2003 (South Africa) and 2011 (India). The 37-year-old former Australian speedster is promoting Tourism Victoria and Melbourne, which will be part of the ICC World Cup in February-March 2015. He spoke to Sportstar about Melbourne and other aspects of Australian cricket in recent times.

Excerpts:

Question: Probably the MCG, because of its size, was a straightforward choice as the venue for the ICC World Cup 2015 final?

Answer: The World Cup will be one of the biggest sporting events in 2015. The MCG is Australia’s leading sports stadium and hence it is the obvious choice for the ICC events. The MCG will host five matches, including a quarterfinal and the final. There is nothing better than walking onto the MCG with a packed stadium; it can hold up to 100,000 fans.

You have taken 34 wickets in Tests at the MCG. Which is your best performance there?

My best and most memorable performance was on my Test debut against India at the MCG. I took five wickets for 47 runs in the first innings.

Who is your favourite for the World Cup title in 2015? Also, would you name the likely semi-finalists?

My pick for the title is Australia. The other three semi-finalists would be India, South Africa, and Pakistan.

Would Michael Clarke have a quality team to win the title for the fifth time?

(Currently) Match-by-match, the Australian team is growing in confidence, and playing on home soil is a definite advantage for them. They will only get better from here on, into the World Cup.

The ICC issues guidelines on the make-up of the pitch. One of which is the pitch must offer consistent bounce and not much sideways movement off the wicket?

Australia and New Zealand provide some of the best cricket pitches in the world and they will provide some great stories from the batters and the bowlers.

For Australian cricket fans, it must have been thrilling to trounce England 5-0 in the recent Ashes especially after three Ashes defeats in the last six years and also score a comfortable win in the ODIs.

Winning the Ashes was a great boost to Australia’s confidence and it only showcased the team’s depth and experience.

Did you expect Mitchell Johnson to play such a significant role?

I have always rated Mitch high and knew he had the ability. He played well in the first Test then from there his confidence just grew along with his pace and accuracy.

Has Johnson bowled any other time like the way he did in the Ashes — with speed and plenty of short stuff?

Mitch played very well in the Indian Premier League-6 and for me he was a standout. From there he has gone from strength to strength.

Johnson got all the kudos, but the likes of David Warner, Chris Rogers, Shane Watson, Clarke, Steve Smith and Brad Haddin played their parts so well. Even Ryan Harris, Peter Siddle and Nathan Lyon…

You cannot win a Test match on your own. Every member of the team contributed to the win, including the coach and the support staff. There were some standout performances from all the players during the series; you cannot single out any one player.

And Darren Lehman too. Can you pinpoint the role he played? Of course, it cannot be coaching alone. Would you say some plain speaking?

Darren brings a lot of confidence to the team. His easy going nature allows the players to settle into the game and he gives those who work hard the opportunity to perform well. He brings out the best in the players.

Can anything else be bigger than the Ashes for Australia and England? And why is it so big?

Australia and England have been playing international cricket for more than 100 years. The rivalry between the two countries has always been fierce and the Ashes is the biggest event on the sporting and cricket calendar for both countries.

Given the option of sheer pace, swing and seam, what will you go for?

Being a fast bowler, it has to be sheer pace. However, this won’t win a match on its own, you need to mix them up.

IPL is in its seventh year. Has it come to stay?

The IPL definitely has a place in the cricket calendar. It’s an exciting tournament and attracts some of the best players from all over world.