Akhtar and Lee were firm friends both on and off the field
Pakistan fast bowler Shoaib Akhtar has paid tribute to his Australian pace rival Brett Lee, who recently announced his decision to retire from international cricket.
Akhtar called Lee, who retired due to a host of injuries sustained throughout his 13-year career, a fierce competitor on the pitch.
Lee currently holds second place in the category of fastest ball bowled at 99.9 miles per hour, which he accomplished at Napier in New Zealand, and has only been bested by Akhtar, who has hit the 100 miles per hour mark twice in his career, once in 2002 and then again a year later.
Speaking exclusively to AFP, Akhtar said: “Lee was a fierce competitor and became an identity for express bowling with his passion and love for the game and for fast bowling.”
Akhtar also retired from international cricket last year after failing to recover from numerous injuries sustained throughout his career.
But the Pakistan pace bowler noted that the retirement of Lee marked a sad day for cricket fans all across the world.
“Friday was a sad day for international cricket because a bowler with express pace has retired, someone who was loved by the fans around the world, and he will be missed, Lee gave everything to cricket and was a true Australian: fierce and battle-hardened. He was always willing to bowl and willing to bowl fast and like all the fast bowlers had injuries, which is part and parcel of fast bowling,” Akhtar said.
Akhtar further noted that cricket would not be as popular as it is if there weren’t any express pace bowlers.
“Cricket had very few express pace bowlers and now after the retirement of Lee we don’t have any bowler who can bowl 99 mph and the terror on the batsmen will be less,” he added.
Looking back on his career, Akhtar remembers all the good times he and Lee shared, and said: “I had very good friendship with Lee and spent some good days with him in Sydney and he was always warm and cordial whenever we met, so I wish him all the best in his future.”
Lee retired from Test cricket in February 2010, and is currently Australia’s fourth-highest Test wicket taker.
Lee continued to play in ODIs and Twenty20 Internationals until he announced his decision to retire from the game.
The Australia pace bowler represented his country in 76 Tests and took 310 wickets at an average of 30.81.
He also played in 221 ODI matches, where he claimed 380 victims at an average of 23.36, which is tied for first place with Glenn McGrath.