Monday, April 27, 2009

Lee hints at county stint as Ashes warm-up

Brett Lee is desperate to work out a gameplan.

Brett Lee would consider a brief county stint to complement his IPL involvement in a bid to increase his bowling workload ahead of the Ashes. Lee will today leave the Kings XI Punjab camp and join the Australian limited-overs squad in the UAE, where he hopes to take his first competitive strides in his comeback from ankle surgery.

Provided he is cleared by Cricket Australia's medical staff, Lee is aiming to play in the final Twenty20 match against Pakistan in Dubai on May 7 and the final stages of the IPL thereafter. Should the Kings XI fail to make the final, Lee would have a 15-day window before the start of the ICC World Twenty20 and the recovering fast bowler is considering all his competitive options.

"My aim is to try and play as much cricket as I can before the Ashes and the Twenty20 World Cup," Lee told Cricinfo. "There is no point me going back to Sydney and resting for two weeks; I may as well be playing competitive cricket.

"We have to work out a gameplan from here. I will speak to [Australian coach] Tim [Nielsen] and [physiotherapist] Alex [Kountouris] to see what the best course of action is. My whole goal right now is to play in the Ashes, and also the World Twenty20. The IPL will give me an opportunity to continue to improve my skills and is a stepping stone to my major goal, which is the Ashes.

"There could be an opportunity to play some kind of county cricket ... but I'm not sure how that would work out. For me, it's about trying to get as much cricket as I can under my belt once I'm fully fit, and the IPL is a perfect way for me to start stepping up my workload."

Lee has not played a competitive match since hobbling off the MCG with foot stress fractures during the Boxing Day Test against South Africa. He has completed a rigorous training regime since undergoing surgery, which has seen him add 10 kilograms in lean muscle mass, and is confident a return to the field is close at hand.

"I bowled off my long run-up in Cape Town before the [Kings XI] game on Sunday for a full 45 minutes, and I felt really good afterwards," Lee said. "That gave me confidence that I am close to being ready to play. If I didn't think I was a chance of playing that Twenty20 [in Dubai] I wouldn't go [to the UAE]. But I have done a lot of work in the last few weeks with the physio, I have worked to a plan, and things are pretty close to my timeline.

"It will be great to be back in the green and gold colours. But that will be determined by [Australian team doctor] Trefor [James]. I'll be seeing him in the UAE and he will make the assessment. If he gives me the all clear, then it's game on as far as I'm concerned.

"I'm pumped. I am heading over to the UAE this afternoon. It will be awesome to see the fellas again. It's supposed to be very hot, so those will be great conditions to train and play in. I am aiming to play in the final Twenty20 match, and if I am able to play earlier then that, then I'll be over the moon."

James said Lee would join the Australian s before the fourth one-day international in Abu Dhabi, and be free to to train with the squad. "Brett Lee has progressed well in his recovery from ankle surgery while in South Africa over the past fortnight," James said. "Should his progress be far enough advanced, he may be considered for selection in the remaining matches of the one-day series and the Twenty20 match in Dubai."