Sydney – Australian Brett Lee's fearsome reputation for hostile pace bowling was at odds with his sunny disposition and surprising Bollywood fame.
The 35-year-old warhorse on Friday announced his retirement from international cricket after a 13-year career ravaged by injury.
Lee retired over two years ago as Australia's fourth-highest Test wicket-taker (310), behind contemporary bowling titans Shane Warne (708) and Glenn McGrath (563), and Dennis Lillee (355).
His gunslinging role saw him hurl down the second-fastest delivery on record, after Shoaib Akhtar, clocking 99.9 miles per hour (160.8 kmh) at Napier, New Zealand, in 2005.
The strain of consistently bowling at 150 kmh caused a string of stress fractures and recurring injuries and forced him to alter his bowling action.
The blond speedster had the ability to unsettle the best of batsmen with his sheer pace and toe-crushing inswinging yorkers, but always mixed his deliveries in with a flashing smile and a sporting temperament.
Behind the hostility there was a softer side. In 2005 he was famously pictured being consoled by England all-rounder Andrew Flintoff during Australia's first Ashes series defeat in 18 years.
“My ribs were black and blue. I had a busted arm. He'd tried to kill me like I'd been trying to kill him, but straight after it all we're arm in arm,” Lee said.
“Whoever won, we were going to end up in the change rooms talking about the game. We were mates. That's Test cricket.”
There was an artistic side to Lee too away from the cricket field. He played bass and acoustic guitar for the rock band Six and Out alongside other New South Wales cricketers.
And he became extremely popular in India where he wrote and recorded the song You're the One For Me, which reached number two on the Indian charts and led to a role in his first Bollywood movie Victory.
Although Lee retired from Tests in February 2010, he played on in one-day and Twenty20 cricket amid frequent struggles with injury.
Lee finished with 380 wickets in 220 ODIs, one short of McGrath's Australian record, and 28 wickets in 25 T20 internationals.
“When you're trying to bowl over 155kmh for 16 years straight, it takes a lot of wear and tear on the body,” he once said.
“There's a reason why there's just a handful of people in the world that can do it. It is very tough.”
In 2008, Lee was named Test Player of the Year but took time out following a marriage break-up and struggled for form for a time.
He never scored a first-class century, with 97 runs for New South Wales his highest score, but often played an important role with the bat for Australia with a Test average of 20.15, including five half-centuries.
Australian Cricketers Association President Greg Dyer described Lee as a “lion-hearted performer”.
“Brett Lee has been a wonderful fast bowler whose ability to stay at the top for such an extended period shows an extraordinary level of skill, dedication and determination. He's been a popular and lion-hearted performer who played a key role in Australia's success,” Dyer said.
Although his international playing career is now over, Lee will continue playing in India's lucrative IPL Twenty20 league and Australia's Big Bash T20 series. – Sapa-AFP