Cover story: Brett Lee on ongoing Border-Gavaskar series, camaraderie with the Indian team and his all-cricketer band, Six & Out
Brett Lee, the Australian cricket icon, had us at ‘Namaste’! The suave, blonde-haired 44-year-old known for his wicket-demolishing pace bowling might have stopped playing international cricket since January 2015, but when it comes to charm, we find that he’s never out of form. Known for that signature celebratory chainsaw gesture every time he took a wicket, Brett Lee surprised us when he suddenly switched to Hindi to greet us as we started our Zoom call with him!
Beyond the 310 wickets in his Test career and 380 wickets in his One Day International career, Binga (as his fans call him fondly) is a great sport off the field too. Besides dressing up in traditional Indian attire at Indian functions, he is known for his friendship with the master-blaster, Sachin Tendulkar.
Lee told us he has always had his eye on Virat Kohli and how the Indian captain led the Men in Blue. The other pick by the Australian pacer is Jasprit Bumrah, who has sufficiently troubled the Aussies this series.
In a detailed conversation, we got chatting with the cricketing legend and Friend of Australia about his opinion of our blue-eyed skipper Kohli, the ongoing Border-Gavaskar series, his band Six & Out and life in lockdown. Excerpts from the interview:
Q: What are some of your memorable moments from the time you have spent in India?
India is an incredible place. I have known it since I first came to India and had the opportunity to meet so many amazing people and play cricket with lovely people. Just the culture, the food and the atmosphere — it is the greatest place away from Australia, and I consider myself very lucky. Australia is my home, but India is my second home!
Video: INDULGE in conversation with Brett Lee
Q: After Dhoni, Virat Kohli is a big hero in India. As a cricketer, how do you view both these cricketers on and off-field?
At the end of the day, they are just normal guys and that’s the greatest thing about the Indian and Australian cricket team. I have known them in person and have had the pleasure to play with them. I know that even though people in our cricket teams are superstars, most of them are normal guys in their daily life, and that to me is really exciting and refreshing too.
Q: Share some of your fondest memories from on and off-field with Indian cricketers?
I share a very close friendship with Sachin Tendulkar. We became friends over the number of games that we played together where sometimes India won and sometimes Australia did. I think the most important thing about a sport is that when you are on the field, you should give your one hundred per cent. But, when you are off the field, you should be out, making friends. As I now know, at 44, cricket won’t last forever! I have retired from it. But, these friendships do. That, for me, is the most amazing memories — from going to different restaurants to 10-pin bowling with him, Sachin is a wonderful guy.
Q: Apart from our shared love of cricket, what else do you think India and Australia have in common?
We both love our families. The way people in Indian culture look up to their parents and respect them, I have been raised the same way. Maybe that’s why I have grown so fond of the Indian culture.
Q: How has the lockdown been for you? Especially, with being away from your family.
To be honest, the lockdown is tough when you spend a lot of time in a hotel, away from your loved ones. I was in India for close to 80 days, so I was away from family and friends. It is a sacrifice, one that had to be made to continue working and to keep everyone COVID-free.
Q: How are things in Australia with regards to COVID? Are you planning to head out anytime soon? What would be your first stop and why?
We are mostly back to normal, in the sense that there is no lockdown. As we speak, no transmissions are being reported from person-to-person. Surely, there are still COVID cases in hospitals, people travelling from overseas are recovering, but there is no transmission from one to another in the state, which is great. That’s one thing I am really proud of — while Australia had some harsh lockdown laws, we are now back to normal business. I can go to a restaurant, a cafe or work and the feeling is amazing. I hope India gets to this normalcy really soon. I really do!
Q: Tell us about your band, Six & Out. What made you form it in the first place? Did the lockdown give you time to go back to music?
It did! There were plenty of times during my last visit to India when I would pick up a guitar and play some song or write some new tunes. The band was formed sometime in the ’90s (1998). It was a cricket band with all of us cricketers — Richard Chee Quee, Shane Lee, Brad McNamara, Gavin Robertson and I. We had a lead guitarist, vocalist, drummer but no bass player. I had no idea about the instrument, but I thought I would learn and bought myself a bass guitar. Soon after, we performed at a gig, which was quite scary, but I taught myself, and till date, we have done about 250 shows in Australia.
Q: You are seen wearing a lot of traditional Indian clothes. Who are your favourite designers from here?
I don’t have any favourite designers, even though there are some amazing designers in India and here in Australia. I have worn traditional Indian ensembles many times, including at a fashion show in India, where I walked the ramp. I have got a couple of outfits at my house that I tend to wear if there is a traditional Indian ceremony to attend here in Australia. It is nice sometimes to dress according to an event. People really appreciate the fact that you have made an effort.
Q: Tell us your secret to staying fit.
I try to get up and do a gym session every morning. It just clears my morning and almost makes me feel like I am one step ahead from the rest of the world. By 6.30 am, I am done with my workout and it feels great!
If you are visiting Australia…
“Once international travel starts, especially from India to Australia, we would love Indian people coming to Australia to visit our shores. It is a very beautiful and safe place to discover, more so now that the situation is back to normal. Firstly, you have to come to Sydney, it is my home town and you must see the Opera House, Harbour Bridge, Sydney Harbour and catch a ferry. Our go-to attraction for Indians is also a walk around our cricket ground. I know a lot of people find it fascinating and it is a beautiful place.”
Favourite spots in India...
“Most of my visits to India are limited to hotels and cricket grounds. But, there have been a few trips where I have visited its beautiful places, including different parts of Mumbai. Besides that, I have been to Goa and walked on its beaches. I have been to Taj Mahal and I am so glad that I did. I have also been to Amritsar’s Golden Temple which is a beautiful and historic place. There are so many places that I have seen in India but there are so many places that I am yet to see, and I am looking forward to seeing them.”