Kohli is world’s best right now but Sachin is No. 1: Brett Lee

MUMBAI:As India’s brand ambassador of F45, Australia’s top functional training system, you will be training upcoming fast bowlers in India on fitness. Fitness is something that is still close to your heart, isn’t it?

I’ve had my fair share of fitness issues, but that’s all being a part of a fast bowler. But, I’ve always prided myself on being the fittest in the team. Even now, I’m fitter than what I was when I was bowling (smiles). I feel great, I’ve been doing the F45 for long now, and every time I’m home, I train every single day. It just makes you feel good and makes you feel really fit.

But in order to bowl fast, you need the right training, right fitness training, right mental training. So, there’s a whole lot of things that go with it. And the issue that I’ve got with a lot of people around the world, certainly from the coaching point of view, is that they put kids 17-18 years of age into the gym, and they get them all bulked up. So, suddenly they look at the kids and they think they’re going to be muscular, big, and have big legs. And what happens is that the kids get into the gym and they do a very heavy weights programme, which is non-specific to bowling fast. Thus, the bowler puts on weight. And then they get muscular, bulky, and that slows their pace down.

They can’t actually bowl the way they want to bowl. We’ve seen that happen to a lot of bowlers in Australia. Also, we see them getting injured. You see a lot of bowlers getting hamstring injuries, calf injuries because they’re carrying excess weight. I’ve always said that when I was bowling my fastest, I was lean, I was flexible and I was training like I wanted to be a fast runner and move my momentum to the crease.

That’s why I know F45 is going to work for a lot of kids and young adults here in India, and also all around the world.

A lot of modern fast bowlers including Lasith Malinga and Mitchell Starc break down with frequent injuries. Why do you think that is happening?
I believe that bowlers are getting injured now because they are not bowling enough. It’s funny because when you look at what all the boards around the world have done, they’ve limited the amount of overs a bowler can bowler. They’ve put them under heavy weights programme, they’ve said you cannot let them bowl more than X amount of overs as they’re coming up. Thus, all of a sudden, everyone gets injured. Whereas before, we bowled the whole season. And yes I’ve got ankle issues as well, but that’s just from landing. But other than that, I’ve had two soft muscle tears in my life. Just two. And for the millions of balls that I’ve bowled, to me it justifies that the way I trained was right for what I had to do. You just need to keep bowling, bowling and bowling, but in a controlled manner. I don’t like it when a coach says ‘you bowl 24 balls and then get out’. I don’t agree with that, because you have to train your body hard in terms of bowling fitness.

Do you reckon that someone like Jasprit Bumrah, with his unique action, can sustain the rigours of Test cricket?
Well, I reckon if he uses his front arm, he can get 10kmph quicker. Simple. Bowling is about physics, it’s about mathematics. The straight line is the quickest distance between two points, not like a parabola. So, that’s why the front arm is so crucial. But I like him.

I think he’s great. He’s a very good bowler. And he’s got a lot of wickets to take at the Test level, definitely.

You’ve been following IPL closely. Is there any upcoming Indian bowler who has caught your eye?
I don’t like naming out people. You mentioned Bumrah, he’s a guy that I think is on the radar. But the concern I’ve got is that no one is bowling 145-150 kmph. And, when the commentators see 135 kmph, they go like ‘oh, that’s quick’. That’s not quick! I’m sorry, but that’s not rapid pace. 150 kmph is quick. And why can’t an Indian fast bowler bowl at 150 kmph? I want to change that. And that’s why we go back to F45, because we’re going to open up hundreds of franchises across India, and make sure that everyone’s got an opportunity to get into the gym and train the way they should be training.

So, is coaching something that would interest you?
Maybe, yeah. I’ve been very passionate. I’ve always said that my dream is to find India’s fastest bowler. That’s what I want to do. In terms of would I want to be a coach for an international team for 12 months, probably not.

So, if BCCI were to call you tomorrow and say we’d like you to be India’s bowling coach, would you be game?
I mean you’d have the conversation. But in terms of being away from home for that long – you’d take each phone call as it comes, obviously – but I’m not looking at being a long-term bowling coach. If I have to do something in the IPL, I’d think about it. If I have to come in and do stuff with some local young guys, 100 per cent.

Talking of IPL, one guy who has taken it by storm is Virat Kohli. Purely from a bowler’s perspective, what do you think sets him apart from everyone else?
Kohli, he’s at a different level. Just at a different level. And yes, he missed out the other night (against Gujarat Lions on Tuesday), but that just proves that he is human, which is great (laughs). Even then, a lot of people think he’s not human with what he has done this year. I mean he’ll pass 1,000 runs for the first time ever in IPL history (Kohli is on 919 right now). But what Kohli has done over the last two years is that he has tightened up his technique, where he used to feel for the ball outside off stump and get nicked off. He’s so good with the short ball, so powerful in the ‘V’, so powerful down the crease. He plays traditional cricket shots in an IPL set-up. He’s not Chris Gayle hitting big sixes, although he’s got more sixes than anybody in IPL 2016 (AB de Villiers overtook Kohli by one six on Tuesday). He is the classic, beautiful, perfect technique player. I’ve been so impressed with what I’ve seen of Kohli.

If you were bowling to Kohli right now, how would you try and get him out?
In T20s, I’d have my first slip moved towards more of a fifth slip, sort of a fine gully, because he loves to work the ball down to third man. So, I’d block up that, make him try to come down the wicket at me and hit me over covers. But, total respect for Virat Kohli. I take my hat off (gestures). One, he’s a terrific fit person. He’s a great guy. He’s one of the hardest workers in world cricket. He’s mentally strong. He doesn’t like losing, and I mean that in a nice way. He goes out and gives it his best shot. So you’ve got to give the guy credit, but there are a couple of techniques I’d work on.

Comparisons are inevitable, and many see Sachin Tendulkar of the old in Kohli. Just in the way Kohli dominates bowlers, do you see any merit in those comparisons?
They’re different players, and it’s too hard to compare eras. We can’t compare (Don) Bradman to Steve Waugh or Bradman to Sachin. We can’t compare Sachin to Kohli. Sachin didn’t play a lot of T20 cricket. You know, with 200 Test matches to his name, Sachin to me is obviously No. 1. In terms of what Kohli is doing, he’s certainly the world’s best batsman right now in my opinion. And he’s hungry, hungry for runs. When we talk again in 10 years’ time, we might say that yes Kohli is sitting on 108 Tests or 150 Tests, and he is certainly making his way towards Sachin. We don’t know. Time will tell, but it’s too hard to compare eras.

You say Kohli’s the best right now, but there are three other young batsmen who are making the cricket world sit up and watch every time they bat: Steve Smith, Joe Root and Kane Williamson. Out of the four, who would cause more worries to a bowler?
All different players. Kohli: Hungry, passionate, perfect technique.

Kane Williamson: Beautiful technique, very sound, likes spending time at the crease. He’s done really well for his country.

Steven Smith: A bit more loose the way he plays, bit more flamboyant, but very, very strong mindset. Great leader, loves scoring runs. His technique, which is not everyone’s bread and butter, is working for him, and he’s very effective in what he does.

Joe Root: His technique on seaming English wickets has proved that he can play on any surface around the world. He’s a guy that’s a very attacking batsmen, and yet has a beautiful technique.

So, you’d say three of those four have got classic techniques. Probably Smith’s the one that’s got a different technique, but it’s working for him. Where Smith can score very quickly, the other guys might be more technically in the ‘V’. Smith can score behind square. So, everyone’s got their pros and cons, but these are four amazing batsmen in the world right now.

Another guy who’s doing amazing both as a batsman and captain this IPL is David Warner. Australia seems to have a tendency to churn out natural leaders with ease. What’s the reason behind that?
I think it’s the Australian mindset, the whole never-say-die attitude, the never giving up mindset. It was instilled by Allan Border, which was passed on to Steve Waugh, which was passed on to Ricky Ponting. So with these great leaders of Australian sport – certainly cricket – it’s about the mindset of never, ever giving up. And when you look at someone like David Warner, who I’ve been mighty impressed with, he’s matured over the last 12-18 months. He’s very settled off the field, he’s got a beautiful family. He’s playing his best cricket, he’s a great leader. And I think he’s going to be a fantastic leader in the future. He’s got a chance to be the vice-captain for Australia. So, he looks really good.

F45, which is short for Functional 45, is a functional training system from Australia. It launched its first fitness centre in India in Hyderabad and is planning to spread to 300 other cities. It’s a 45-minute workout that is based on high-intensity, interval training and comprises a 15-minute rest period. Brett Lee, who as brand ambassador of F45 in India, will train young, upcoming fast bowlers with F45 training. “If somebody wants to put on a huge amount of muscle, F45 gym isn’t for them. This is about functional training, about working at a higher rate in terms of getting your heart rate up very high for 45 minutes. So when I came on board, I thought what I’ve done throughout my career as a fast bowler, I’ve trained the exact same way that this is set up. So, I know for a fact that with the training F45 will provide, it will make a lot of difference in making young fast bowlers get to their peak here in India,” Lee said.

Posted by on May 27, 2016. Filed under Sports World. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.