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Fixtures kill pacers, feels Lillee

Perth: Australian fast bowling legend Dennis Lillee on Friday blamed “crippling itineraries” for the breakdown of a succession of pacemen in the Australian team.

Lillee, who took 355 wickets in 70 Tests, said the grounding of star trio Glenn McGrath, Jason Gillespie and Brett Lee was further evidence the modern game had become the scourge of fast bowlers.

“Their long-term survival under intolerable workloads is comparable to playing Russian roulette,” he wrote in the West Australian newspaper.

McGrath (ankle injury) missed both recent home Tests against Zimbabwe, while Gillespie (side) and Lee (stomach muscle) were sidelined from the second Test ending in Sydney this week.

All three were ruled out of the Australian side which left this week for one-day matches in India against the home country and New Zealand.

Allrounder Darren Lehmann was also left out of the squad because of injury.

“The game, as it is played these days, is the biggest culprit,” Lillee wrote. “From once sensibly-spaced tours, today’s well-paid top cricketers have to endure non-stop demands on their services.”

“Crippling itineraries to hostile environments on top of domestic competition involving Test cricket and the helter-skelter of the one-day game have pushed fast bowlers to breaking point,” Lillee said.

Rotating players sounded good in theory, he said. “But in practice, nobody — particularly in the Test arena — is going to put their hand up to have a rest and ‘give a sucker an even break’,” he added.

Australia faced a massive load of 34 Tests and about 90 one-day Internationals at home and abroad to the end of 2005.

Lillee said administrators had never assessed the importance of the rest day in Tests which was standard until recent times.

“As things stand these days, the fielding captain expects his fast bowlers to strive hard to make inroads and then, if everything goes well, back up a couple of days later and work harder on a less conducive wicket in an attempt to deliver a knockout blow.

“And the way Australia play their cricket these days, the follow-on is on the cards.”

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