Melbourne: Australian fast bowling great Brett Lee feels that India's number one batsman Virat Kohli is still on a learning curve and he should try and curb his natural affinity for aggressive strokeplay.
Although an admirer of Kohli's batting, Lee said the feisty batsman would do well not to assert himself too much and explained the difference he felt in the youngster's game from the iconic Sachin Tendulkar.
Virat Kohli. Pic/ AFP
"Sachin knew his game better as you would expect with his wealth of experience. He used to play within himself. For me, Virat is a class player but he is still on a learning curve. He has to learn the art of not trying to over-dominate opposition," the 38-year-old Aussie great told PTI in an exclusive interview.
Lee feels that "Indian team could be semi-final contenders, if they can get their act together. My other picks are Australia, New Zealand and South Africa." The fastest bowler in world cricket in his heydays, Lee did admit his bias towards Australian pacers playing in this edition of mega-event even though he singled out Umesh Yadav as a talented bowler.
"For me the pacers to look out for in the World Cup will be Mitchell Johnson, Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood. Keeping World Cup aside, I really like (Umesh) Yadav of India -- he has the pace and the temperament," said Lee, who played 76 Tests and 221 ODIs for Australia.
Asked about what went wrong with the Indian pace attack during the Test series against Australia, Lee was frank in his assessment. "I don't think they (Indian pacers) have been consistent enough. In the Test series, they would bowl good 'periods' but let the batsman off the hook. I also feel that they needed to win the pivotal moments. They needed to get the tail out, that is where Australia won the Tests matches.
Speaking about how he found fast bowling such an engaging aspect of the game of cricket, Lee said, "There is an excitement about fast bowling. Batsmen feel truly tested playing genuine pace bowling and the crowds enjoy the speed of it all. As a bowler, I enjoyed the challenge." Many bowling coaches believe that pace is an over-rated virtue but Lee begs to differ on that aspect.
"I enjoyed pace. I always said if, I couldn't bowl 150 kmph, I wouldn't play cricket. That said, I had learnt that there were times when I needed to pull back and bowl within myself. The length is important but it is better if you are hitting it at 150 kmph," said Lee.
Lee, who has more than 700 international wickets acrossthree formats, believes that it is the length that varies according to the speed of pitch and due diligence must be given to the conditions. "You have to size up the conditions every time you bowl. Yes, you can have your favourite ground. I loved bowling at the WACA (Perth). But one needs to understand that line and length changes are based on the speed of the pitch."
Speaking on world class batsman among his contemporaries, Lee instantly named Tendulkar, Brian Lara and Jacques Kallis as players, who posed serious challenge for him. "Sachin, Lara and Kallis were the three best batsmen I have ever bowled to. When Sachin used to bat, it felt as if he had so much time to play his shots. Brian was a player, who could hit any delivery at any part of the ground, such was his talent. Jacques was also class apart. But the hardest hitter of cricket ball during my time was undoubtedly Chris Cairns," Lee said in effusive praise for his contemporaries.
For him, the most cherished battle was against Lara in a Test match against the West Indies in Georgetown, back in 2003. "I remember bowling to Lara in the West Indies, one year(Guyana, 2003). I bowled a long spell and definitely one of my quickest. It was a fantastic battle of bat against ball. Brian got his hundred but he told me after the game that it was one of his toughest moments and that is why he (Lara) played Test cricket, for battles like that."
Now ready for his stint as a commentator and occasional bowling mentor (he had worked with Ireland for this World Cup), Lee is a content man and grateful for the opportunities that he got. "It's been an enjoyable journey. I appreciate the opportunities that cricket has given me. I am fortunate to have met people and made a living out of the game," he said.
Lee retired from Test cricket back in 2008 with 310 wickets from 76 games and has no complaints about it. He doesn't think that he quit Test cricket early. "No, I retired when I thought it was best. I am indeed very proud of having played 76 Test matches."