If the Indian Premier League had largely forgotten about Australian Twenty20 stars during the first half of the tournament in South Africa, Brett Lee and Andrew Symonds have forcefully reminded them what they had been missing.
IPL franchises were denied the services of Australia’s best players during their limited-overs series against Pakistan, a blow which grew in magnitude when several were injured in the final match.
But while Shane Watson, James Hopes and Nathan Bracken returned home to nurse wounds, Lee and Symonds have made a major impact since arriving in South Africa last weekend.
Symonds was the most expensive non-Indian at the first IPL auction last year when Deccan Chargers bid $1.35 million for his services, but while he struggled to live up to that billing he has been a real success over the past eight days.
Having signalled his intent with 60 not out from just 36 balls against Lee’s Kings XI Punjab last weekend, Symonds has gone on to average 43.5 over five innings at a strike rate of 151 runs per 100 balls.
His contributions have come at a crucial time for the Chargers as they bid for a semi-finals berth, and they lie third on the table with one group match to play.
However, a team who have beaten Deccan twice since Symonds’ arrival are Punjab, for whom Lee has been a revelation.
The paceman has been making his comeback from an ankle injury that kept him out of action for over four months, and has taken five wickets at an average of 19 in his four matches while recording an economy rate of under six runs per over.
He has also recovered his old zip, with deliveries regularly clocking around 145 kilometres per hour, and Lee admits that he’s feeling really good about his game.
“I lost about seven kilos in India (during the 2008 Test series) and then I got injured, which in hindsight was probably the best thing that could have happened to me,” he admitted.
“I got a chance to go to the gym and get fit again and put a bit more size on. The whole thing is starting to pay off.”
The 32-year-old was speaking after putting in a man-of-the-match performance against competition leaders Delhi Daredevils in Bloemfontein at the weekend.
The speedster recorded 3-15 from four overs as a dangerous Daredevils line-up was restricted to just 120-9 in 20 overs, allowing Punjab to coast to a six-wicket win.
Much like Symonds, Lee’s arrival has given his franchise a timely boost as a closely-fought tournament enters the final stages and Punjab captain Yuvraj Singh is in no doubt about the Australian’s impact.
“Lee made a big difference. Since he came in, we have got better in the bowling department,” Yuvraj said.
“He obviously brings a lot of pace and enthusiasm. He has been helping Irfan Pathan and Sreesanth, too, and that’s very important. So I am glad he is here.”
David Hussey, another late Australian arrival, has averaged 43 in his two matches for Kolkata Knight Riders, but has been unable to change the fortunes of the IPL whipping boys.