DUBAI // Brett Lee, the Australia fast bowler, has warned next year's World Cup on the subcontinent might not only be his personal swansong, but could also represent the last rites for the 50-over game. The 33-year-old paceman announced his retirement from Test cricket last week in order to prolong his limited-overs career.
Yet, while he believes cricket's longest format will endure, he foresees a time when the one-day game will be consumed by the craze for three-hour, 20-over competition. "I hope it is not dying, but, unfortunately, you have to listen to what the crowd are going to," said Lee, who is "working overtime" in order to be fit to play for Kings XI Punjab in the Indian Premier League (IPL) this month. "In Australia, we had 11,000 people going to games of 50-over cricket, but then you saw Melbourne and Sydney packed for the 20-over games.
"It is an amazing game. It has brought a new demographic to the game, which is what the shorter form needed. I would like to see 20-over cricket, 50-over cricket and Test cricket all hold their own. Unfortunately, these days people are saying, 'Why are we watching 50-over cricket if we can get the same fix in colours, and it only goes for three hours?' "People can go down after work or after school and watch it, and just have three hours of pure excitement. For me, Test cricket is what it is all about. "It is where the cream of the crop is, where the biggest challenge is, but I had to draw a line in the sand somewhere, in order for me to achieve my other goals through one-day cricket for Australia.
"I would love to be at the 50-over World Cup in India. For me, that would be the perfect way to go out. "If I could look into a crystal ball, what a way that would be to go out - with my love of India, playing in a one-day World Cup for Australia." Lee was joined by three of his other Kings XI teammates - Yuvraj Singh, Irfan Pathan and Yusuf Abdulla - for the launch of the new cricket grounds at The Sevens in Dubai yesterday.
Kings XI were due to be among the first professional sides to play at the new venue, during the four-team Emirates Airline Twenty20 later this month. However, the 20-over festival, which also involves Surrey and Sussex from England, as well as the Fly Emirates domestic club side including Shahid Afridi, the Pakistan all-rounder, overlaps with the IPL. As such, the IPL commissioner, Lalit Modi, put a block on the Punjab side, who were only planning to send a development team anyway, from playing in Dubai.
Cape Cobras, the South African franchise, have since taken their place for the March 19-20 tournament, leaving Lee and Co to focus on success in the IPL. "We made it to the semi-finals in the first IPL, but last year we had a few important players missing through injury," said Yuvraj, the destructive India batsman, who has been deposed as the franchise's captain by Kumar Sangakkara this season. "To have players like Brett Lee only available towards the end was a disappointment for us, but hopefully, playing back at home this year we can improve our results.
"The bits and pieces that fell apart last year, hopefully we can get them together this time and have a good season." @Email:firstname.lastname@example.org