'Disturbed Lee's outburst out of character'

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Sydney, Oct 22 (UNI) One of Australia's leading coaches Neil D'Costa believes that pace spearhead Brett Lee is under immense pressure following his marriage break-up and said it was unfair to paint him as the bad guy after his reported spat with Ricky Ponting for underbowling him in the second Test against India.

Neil D'Costa, the personal coach of Australia vice-captain Michael Clarke and a long-time supporter of Lee, argued that even Mike Hussey, who has never taken a Test wicket, was given a chance to bowl instead of Lee as the Australians struggled to dismiss India during its second innings.

The Australians were handed a humiliating 320-run defeat by India at Mohali yesterday.

D'Costa believes Lee, who was given a month off to sort out personal issues after his much publicised and painful marriage break-up with Liz Kemp, was likely to snap at some point on the gruelling tour of India.

He further questioned that whether ''the right steps were taken'' to ensure Lee was in the right mental and emotional state for the tour.

''Situations like this are happening in all sports in this country, so I am not throwing stones at cricket,'' D'Costa was quoted as saying by 'The Australian'.

''And I'm not saying Brett should not be there. But I wonder whether the right personal support mechanisms have been in place.

''It is unfair to say that the way he is playing or the way the team has been playing has caused Brett's reaction,'' he added.

The 31-year-old Lee and Kemp separated in August after just two years of marriage. He subsequently pulled out of the Australian team training camp in Brisbane and the three-match, one-day series against Bangladesh in Darwin later that month before rejoining the squad for the tour of India.

''I would assume Brett is enduring an unbelievably difficult time and as anyone who has been in this situation will tell you, irrational and out of character behaviour may follow.

''Before we attack Brett, let's ask him if he is OK. I know it is easy to say after the event, but this was always going to happen,'' D'Costa conceded.

D'Costa, who runs the D'Costa Cricket Academy for juniors, was adamant that Lee's outburst was out of character.

''Answer me this: has Brett Lee ever been involved in anything like this before? Obviously not,'' D'Costa said adding ''So there is something troubling him.

''Brett is the model professional sportsman. He has always been a great ambassador for the game, his country and young people.

''I would like to think that Ricky and Cricket Australia have or will ask Brett the sort of questions about his mental state and wellbeing that need to be asked. And if they haven't they need to.

''The fact that he is a professional sportsman does not change his human emotion. Maybe it's time we helped Brett, as he may need it,'' he noted.

As Clarke's coach and mentor, D'Costa said the pressures on high-profile cricketers in Australia is understandable.

''I have seen things that have happened with Michael over the years,'' he said.

''It's tough out there. I work with a lot of young players and, let me tell you, they are under immense pressure.

''They are asked to perform, give up personal time to strangers, travel non-stop, be nice all the time, be polite when abused and not let personal problems affect the 'brand'.

He added that some of the players do get paid well but ''all the money in the world won't help when you are under intense pressure, especially when it involves personal issues outside of the sport.'' UNI XC RAR AB SP CS1144

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