Brisbane: Australia’s fastest bowler, Brett Lee, has been dropped for Thursday’s first Ashes Test against England after a prolonged form slump.
Captain Steve Waugh, announcing a surprise selection, told a news conference on Wednesday that Lee had lost his place to veteran Queensland paceman Andy Bichel.
Lee and Bichel were left fighting for the last fast bowler’s spot when Jason Gillespie was cleared to make his return after missing the last two tests against Pakistan through injury.
“It was always going to be a tough decision but we just feel that Andy Bichel is bowling better at the moment and deserves his chance,” said Waugh of Lee’s omission.
The captain added, in an unusual move, that although Lee had been officially included in the squad as 12th man, he has been excused from carrying drinks so he could return home to get some match practice instead.
Waugh said it was decided after a meeting with the Australian Cricket Board that it was a waste of time having their 12th man sitting in the stands when he could be playing a first-class match somewhere else.
Two promising young local players, Mitchell Johnson, 21, and Daniel Payne, 24, were named as the substitute fielders with Johnson carrying the drinks for the first two days and Payne for the rest of the match.
“We thought it was a little bit unfair as players so we talked to the board about it and we’ve come to a flexible arrangement where we think if a player needs a good hit-out then he’s available to play four-day cricket or grade cricket,” Waugh said.
“We’ve always considered the 12 should stay together but times have changed a bit and it necessitates a change of thinking.
“We just thought it was unfair for the guys who were continually not playing cricket.”