Lee predicts worldwide Twenty20 boom
Reports that a Texan billionaire and English officials are planning a $US20 million Twenty20 match does not surprise Brett Lee.
Neither does the suggestion that England will soon field a 20-over competition to rival the Indian Premier League, nor that the IPL is planning on staging two tournaments a year from 2009.
With a front-row seat to cricket's latest revolution, Lee believes Twenty20 cricket will continue to expand globally over the coming years. And the Australian paceman, who will make his debut for the Kings XI Punjab IPL franchise on Saturday, is adamant administrators must make allowances to prevent players becoming embroiled in messy club-versus-country disputes.
"Twenty20 is now a proven form of the game and, as we have seen all over the world in the last few years, it is something the fans love," Lee said from Mohali last night. "It's not too hard to see other people wanting to get on board and competitions popping up around the place, especially if the IPL is successful.
"But the last thing you want to see is players leaving their countries to sign up with Twenty20 competitions. My heart is always with the baggy green cap and that is where my loyalty will always lie, but I can't see why there can't be room for both types of cricket. I think the people who run the game need to allow a window of opportunity for players to play in the IPL to avoid problems in the future."
Lee has been a frequent visitor to India over the past decade, but even he is astonished at the level of hype and enthusiasm generated by the IPL. In an era where tensions have simmered and stirred - ensuring hectic times for the match referees and effigy makers of the world - he believes the international flavour of each IPL franchise could bridge the game's cultural divide.
In the past fortnight, Lee's manager and chief executive of the Mohali franchise, Neil Maxwell, has called on Australian players to use the IPL to mend the fences damaged during tempestuous Test and one-day series in Australia and India. And while Lee disagrees that public sentiment in India has turned against the Australians, he nonetheless feels the next few weeks could go far in improving relations within the game.
"Everyone knows there was an incident or two in Australia last summer, but that is water under the bridge. It's a competitive game and players can occasionally cross the line, and that can get blown out of proportion sometimes with the way the media portrays it.
"From my experiences in India, I genuinely think people love the Australian team, despite everything that's been said. I also think that with players from different countries now sharing the same dressing room, it is a great opportunity for all of us to learn more about each other, about our cricket and cultures, and improve the whole mood of the game."
Lee's charm offensive in India has begun apace. In the past fortnight, Lee has shot a Bollywood movie and is in the process of writing and recording his first studio album.
"We have just been finishing off the movie that was being filmed in Australia during the summer, and there is already talk of a sequel," he said. "I'm actually writing a song for the movie right now, and I want to do a few more in the next year. I would like to really work on my acting and do quite a lot more of it when my cricket days are over."