Brett Lee overcomes pain barrier in pursuit of Glenn McGrath's record

Despite playing 42 fewer games, Brett Lee is just 20 wickets shy of Glenn McGrath’s tally of wickets, which is the highest by an Australian in ODIs ©Getty Images

By Nishad Pai Vaidya 


I’m not keen to rest, period – Brett Lee 


Brett Lee is overcoming the pain barrier to supplant Glenn McGrath’s record as the highest wicket taker in One-Day Internationals (ODIs) for Australia. The paceman who has borne the brunt of a number of injuries, is ready to brush aside those struggles and seize every opportunity to don the Australian ODI jersey. The toe injury threatened to keep him out of the entire Commonwealth Bank (CB) series, but his drive and passion has fought those concerns.


Lee’s bowling stride is a sight for sore eyes; it’s poetry in motion. The rhythmic run-up is a lesson for budding fast bowlers – and not-so-pleasant sight for the batsman at the receiving end! Lee’s pace has made him one of the greatest fast bowlers in the history of cricket and has made the modern game a true spectacle when he is at full tilt.


Lee vs McGrath 


As Lee nears McGrath’s record or the most ODI wickets by an Australian, let’s look at their respective records and assess where Lee stands in comparison to his great compatriot:






Strike Rate



Glenn McGrath







Brett Lee








Lee has played 42 matches fewer than McGrath but has taken more four and five-wicket hauls. Despite playing 42 fewer games, Lee is just 20 wickets shy of McGrath’s tally which reflects in the strike rate column. McGrath has a better average, which is understandable as he was the master of accuracy and gave batsmen minimal opportunities to score. His career economy rate of 3.88 bears testament to that fact. Lee’s economy rate of 4.72 is fantastic considering the batsman dominated modern era, but McGrath’s figures in that respect are majestic. Lee, however, is a more potent wicket-taking force when compared to McGrath.


The prolific wicket-taking ability is enunciated when one takes into account the bowlers with the best strike-rates in ODIs. In the club of 100 ODI wickets members, Lee has the best strike-rate. The bowler in second place on that list is Shane Bond, who picked up wickets at the same rate, but played only 82 matches. Lee’s superior wickets tally would place him ahead of Bond in that order. To maintain that rate of picking up wickets in 200 plus games is absolutely fantastic.


Match hauls comparison


Lee’s career record of 14 five-wicket hauls and nine fivers is clearly better than McGrath’s. The question is: Where does he stand on the world stage in this respect?

Here are the stats:






Waqar Younis




Muttiah Muralitharan




Brett Lee





Muralitharan and Waqar have played many more matches when compared to Lee, but the Aussie is not far behind in the columns in question. Lee has taken four or more wickets in an innings 23 times, which is just two behind Muralitharan’s 25 and four behind Waqar’s 27. The Australian is just a fiver away from equaling Muralitharan’s tally of 10 five wicket hauls.


High percentage of top-order wickets


As a strike-bowler bowling with the new ball, the onus of getting the early breakthrough’s has always fallen on Lee’s responsible shoulders. Stats reveal that he has responded emphatically.


A break-up of his wickets:


Batting Numbers


Numbers 1-3


Numbers 4-7


Numbers 8-11





Frontline batsmen form a major chunk of Lee’s victims. Batsmen who have batted at positions No 1 to No 3 form almost 45% of his wickets and if one adds the middleorder, that number almost touches 80%. This indicates that he has not only made early inroads, but has also been pivotal in denting the middle order.


The facts and numbers discussed in this article illustrate Lee’s value to the Australian set-up in ODIs – even at 35 when he is bowling at speeds touch 150 kmphs. Right from a comparison to the great McGrath and other modern masters, Lee stands out with the sheer weight of his numbers. Who would deny that he is Australia’s greatest ODI bowler?


(Nishad Pai Vaidya, a 21-year-old law student, is a club and college-level cricketer. His teachers always complain, “He knows the stats and facts of cricket more than the subjects we teach him.”)