An email conversation with Brett Lee: 'England and us have unfinished business to attend to'

Freddie and me swapped jerseys after Ashes; I blocked out Barmy Army when I was bowling; Racism needs to be wiped out of our game; I'd never intentionally bowl a beamer at anyone
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The Independent Online

Australia begin a Test series in South Africa on Sunday. How are you and the squad feeling, and is last summer's Ashes series well and truly out of the system now?

We are feeling good. Our confidence is up as a result of a great summer in Australia capped off with two great performances to win the VB one-day triangular series final against Sri Lanka. I don't think the Ashes series is out of the system yet, we definitely have some unfinished business to attend to next November when England tour here. The Ashes has been great motivation for us to knuckle down and lift our performance so we are ready and firing to win back the Ashes.

As Glenn McGrath is missing the tour to South Africa will you take on a more containing role in the attack or will you still bowl out-and-out pace?

I don't think my role will change. I am in the team as a strike bowler and my job is to take wickets. I will still be used in short sharp spells. We are really confident with all our bowlers going to South Africa. They've proven themselves this summer.

Who do you consider to be South Africa's danger men?

In their back yard they are going to tough competitors. Herschelle Gibbs is a fantastic player and even better bloke. Shaun Pollock is also a key player with all of his experience and great form recently.

Why do your team-mates call you 'Binga'?

I am known as Binga from Bing Lee an electrical appliance chain in Australia.

Was the Ashes series in England the best series you have ever played in and why?

It was definitely up there with the best series I have been involved in. The spirit in which the cricket was played by both teams was great and the level of competition was amazing. The series provided so many match-altering efforts and plays and none of the games were one-sided the whole way through.

Did you think you had won that second Test at Edgbaston when you and Mike Kasprowicz were chasing down the runs?

In those sorts of situations you know that every run is hard to get. As we were getting closer I was confident we could do it but knew there was still so much work to do even though we only needed a few runs.

Do you have a copy of the photograph of the Ashes - when Fred Flintoff is consoling you after that narrow loss in the second Test - on your wall at home?

Yes I do and it's actually been framed with a nice message written from Freddie. I was fortunate enough to swap jerseys with him after the series though and will definitely be getting that framed and up on my wall. It was a great moment that I will never forget.

In the old days there was a gentlemen's agreement that bowlers would not use bouncers against tail-enders. Should you be able to bowl as many bouncers as you want at the lower order?

As a bowler you have to realise that if you bowl a bouncer at someone you have to expect one or two in return from them or their team-mates. Sure I've bowled a lot of bouncers throughout my career but I have faced just as many. Bouncers are part of the game. When used properly they are a very effective tool in setting up batsmen for a wicket.

Before the Ashes began you were 12th man for nine consecutive Tests. How frustrating was that and what have you changed that has turned you from drinks-carrier to leading bowler in 12 months?

I have not changed anything at all. After an injury I did spend a long time carrying the drinks but instead of letting it get to me I was grateful for the position because I was still part of the team. I used the time to do everything possible to have myself in peak condition in fitness and skills so that when my time came around to join the starting XI I would be able to grab it and make the spot mine.

Are there any young up-and-coming Australian cricketers that England supporters need to fear?

There is so much talent coming through in Australia. But for the moment I think it's important to nurture the talent in the squad with guys like Simon Katich and Shane Watson who are maturing as fantastic players. I am also a fan of New South Welshman, Dominic Thornely. He is playing for Hampshire this year and it will be a good development opportunity for him.

Surely McGrath and Shane Warne will have retired by the time the Ashes series comes around at the end of the year?

With those two you never say never! They are both such talented players and I think they are still performing at a level that will easily see them through to the next Ashes if they've the desire to. I believe they are both hungry for it. Glenn has claimed he wants to reach 1,000 Test wickets so he is keen on sticking around for a long time yet.

Do the shouts of 'no-ball' from the Barmy Army when you bowl annoy or amuse you?

Not at all! I block the crowd out when I am bowling and my only concern is putting the ball where I want it. I enjoy interacting and having fun with the crowd when the chance arises - but that's not while I am bowling.

You have your clothing label that "reflects your personal fashion philosophy: It's stylish, contemporary, comfortable and versatile". How much input do you have with the designs?

I am very involved in the designs and direction of the label. Obviously it is hard being away with cricket so much but I have a fantastic boss, Richie Bowman, who assists me. I look forward to when I retire focusing on my label.

You are the bass guitarist in the band Six And Out. How popular are you and are the groupies a problem?

We have a long way to go before we need to worry about being mobbed by groupies. We certainly do have a few regulars that come to our gigs and seem to have a great time.

What have you got on your Ipod?

Every type of music you could think of. Rock, pop and classical with everything in between them. Some of my favourites are Crowded House and Elvis.

Do you play too much cricket?

At times it can be quite punishing on the body but I always enjoy playing. It is the travel that takes its toll. The last 12 months have been hectic but we get four months off from May so I am looking forward to spending some time at home.

Who has had the biggest influence on your career?

Shane, my older brother, who led by example and showed me that it was possible to make it through to international cricket if I wanted it bad enough.

Do you think there is a problem with racism among Australian fans given the abuse the South Africans supposedly received on their recent tour Down Under?

Racism should not be tolerated either on the field, in the crowd or in everyday life. I don't think that it is a major problem because I have not witnessed any of it myself. However, I get the feeling from the coverage this has received that there may be a very small minority of the Australian crowds that are giving all Australians a bad name. It is something that needs to be looked at and wiped out of our game.

Who is the hardest batsman in world cricket to remove?

Brian Lara or Sachin Tendulkar. Their amazing stats talk for themselves. It is something special when you take their wicket.

Did it hurt when some people suggested you had intentionally bowled beamers at batsmen in the past?

Of course. I would never intentionally bowl a beam ball at someone and everyone that knows me knows that is not in my nature. I play hard but I also pride myself on playing fairly. To hear some suggest otherwise was very disappointing.

Would you like to play in a Twenty20 World Cup?

As a cricketer playing for my country I would love playing any game at an international level. However, I think it's good to keep Twenty20 as a spectator sport as a lead up to a series as it does favour batsmen. It is fun to play, though, and the atmosphere has always been fantastic wherever we play.