Brett Lee has to play in The Ashes. It’s as simple as that.
As an Englishman who is all too aware of the damage that Lee can do, I remain fearful of him as he begins his run-up. Yes, the Australian paceman can be erratic at times, but only a foolish man would not be worried to see him enter the bowling attack.
The reason Lee should play, however, has nothing to do with his ability or whether he will be fit enough. It boils down to one simple word. Passion.
The Ashes are unquestionably one of the fiercest and most enduring rivalries in all of sport. Its place in the hearts of Englishmen and Australians, as well as fans hailing from other lands, is no mistake.
Passion on the field breeds passion in the stands. Unless you can see the men in the middle giving it all they have, then it’s nigh on impossible for fans to fully embrace the spectacle before them.
There is certainly a very good case for not starting Lee when the action gets under way in just under two weeks. After all, the pitches in the England have never been his forte.
While Lee’s overall test bowling average is a very respectable 30.81, his record in England is not so good. On English shores his average is 45.44 and an economy of 4.22 in England is his second worst rate anywhere in the world.
But this is sport. Talent is only part of the story. Another trait, and quite possibly the most important, is your will to win. Brett Lee is always over-flowing with that desire to overcome his adversary.
That’s not to say that the likes of Ben Hilfenhaus, Peter Siddle and Stuart Clark don’t have passion for the game. Unlike Lee, however, they don’t show it as much as he does.
Lee’s celebrations when he takes an important wicket are a joy to see. You can tell that he exudes passion, as is evident in the picture above from The Ashes in 2005. In that respect, he is the Australian equivalent of Andrew Flintoff, who Lee is seen dismissing above.
What is often overlooked is that passion can be just as easily exemplified in defeat as it is in victory. When Australia came up agonisingly short in the Edgbaston test in 2005, Lee was clearly devastated. A broken man, he crouched down to the ground in anguish, only to be greeted by his counterpart, Flintoff.
It’s moments like these that make The Ashes great, and the series will already be without Shane Warne, one of the sport's most recognisable and passionate characters. Can we cope with another not playing?
So, Australia faces a real dilemma. On the one hand they can opt for experience, or on the other than can go for promising young bowlers who have yet to come face to face with the intensity of The Ashes.
For the sake of the game as a spectacle, and for England’s chances, let’s hope Brett Lee will be called upon to bowl during England’s first innings.