Brett Lee played 221 ODIs and 76 Tests for Australia © Getty Images
Brett Lee played 221 ODIs and 76 Tests for Australia © Getty Images

Brett Lee on Thursday announced that he will retire from all forms of cricket at the end of Big Bash League. Lee currently plays for the Sydney Sixers. Sudatta Mukherjee remembers how the Australian pacer enlarged her love for cricket and will leave behind a lot of prized and treasured memories.

My earliest memories of watching a cricket match is lying on my mother’s arms, high on fever. I was terribly sick at that point of time. I remember being sick for almost a month and missing school for a month and a half. I also remember my father handing over me leave certificates and me staring into the diary which stated: Absent from such-and-such-date-1996 to such-and-such-date-1996.
Anyway, it was an early evening time and I remember asking my mother where my father and brother were. She told me that they had gone to get a big teddy bear for me. I never fancied teddy bears, but they made substitutes for real dogs, something I desperately wanted. I sank in my mother’s arm.

I remember my mother watching some random show on television. There were too many people fighting and running in the show; then there were police. In the meantime, my father and brother were back with the biggest teddy bear I still have. It is almost 20 years ago, but it seems almost yesterday.

Days later, I came to know that I actually had been watching the World Cup 1996 semi-final between India and Sri Lanka. The fact that I saw people fighting over an Indian team losing never made me a big India fan, except when they took on Pakistan (for obvious reasons).

Fast-forward four years. I saw a boy made his debut in the Boxing Day Test against India. I was nine. He was 23. He bowled fast and everyone was talking about him in my house. That was it.
Four years later, this boy had graduated to a top-class fast bowler. I remember him crushing the Kenyan batsmen in World Cup 2003. I also remember the hat-trick vividly. I remember supporting Australia against India in the final, and I remember dancing crazily when Australia won.
Brett Lee and his bunch of companions made me fall in love with cricket. They made me adore the gentleman’s game. The never-die attitude inspired me, in basketball, in badminton, even in the classroom, etc. The blonde fast bowler had struck the right cord.

Cricket was never a sport that special for me. I preferred watching tennis, football, badminton, and table tennis, among others, but cricket became special only when Australia played (or, of course, when India played Pakistan). I even remember rushing home to know the result of 2005 Ashes.

Was I sad when Lee retired in 2012? I was, but I was too ignorant and I knew he would still play Twenty20s. I refused to believe there were faster bowlers than him in the world. I refused to believe when Kolkata Knight Riders did not play him in Indian Premier League (IPL) 2014. Even now, if I follow Sydney Sixers or Big Bash, it is because of the Six and Out guitarist.
I woke up to the bitter truth this Thursday. Lee was “old” and it was time he bid goodbye to the game.

I know I will still see him, in a film titled UnIndian. He will probably mentor some team and guide young IPL bowlers for some time. However, can Mitchell Johnson make me glue to the Television set the way Lee did? Probably not. Probably yes. Probably even more. However, it all started with him.

Lee will always be remembered as the blonde-haired guy, the boy whom I once thought to be Bruce Lee’s distant relative, the cricketer whose image of speed bowling and crushing batsmen’s toes accompanied with that customary high-jumping celebration.
I will miss you, Brett Lee.

We will miss you.

(Sudatta Mukherjee is a reporter with CricLife. Other than writing on cricket, she spends penning random thoughts on her blog. When she is not writing, you will catch her at a movie theatre or watching some English television show on her laptop. Her Twitter id is @blackrosegal)