Breet Lee, expects to be immediately reinstated to the role of Australian pace spearhead, and believes his new-ball combination with the vastly improved Mitchell Johnson will cause "carnage" among opposition batsmen throughout the Ashes and beyond. Fitter and stronger after his recovery from foot stress fractures, Lee was in a bullish mood when assessing his chances of returning to an attack that has won three consecutive Tests against South Africa since he limped from the scene during the Boxing Day Test.
Australia's selectors face a difficult decision ahead of this year's Ashes campaign. Lee, the 2008 Allan Border medallist, and Stuart Clark are nearing the end of their recoveries from foot and elbow surgery respectively, and will attempt to force their way back into a young and in-form attack. Johnson and Peter Siddle lead all-comers on the current tour of South Africa with a combined 23 wickets at 19.78, but Lee hopes his imposing record of 310 dismissals from 76 Tests will convince selectors to restore him to new ball duties for the Ashes.
"I'm not embarrassed to say that I expect to lead the pace attack and take that brand new ball again for Australia," Lee told Cricinfo. "I think it will add another dimension to our attack to have a right- and a left-hander out there capable of bowling over 150kph and swinging the ball in and out to the batsmen. Australian cricket is obviously in a very healthy state at the moment with the way the likes of Mitch and [Siddle] have been bowling, and I can't wait to be involved again. I hope that my record speaks for itself - I've worked hard to achieve ten years at the top of the game - and I can be out there creating a bit of carnage again alongside Mitch."
Lee, 32, revealed for the first time he was carrying two separate foot stress fractures towards the latter stages of the Australian summer. He required as many as eight painkilling injections to complete 10 second-innings overs at the MCG, with surgery later revealing he had not only broken the fourth metatarsal in his left foot, as suspected, but also a bone in the back of his foot as well.
Lee has employed the services of a six-day-a-week personal trainer since the operation, and has added 10kg of lean muscle mass to a frame that had suffered from the effects of the giardia bug. The illness hampered him throughout Australia's unsuccessful Test tour of India and subsequent home series against New Zealand and South Africa, and resulted in his weight falling to 82kg during the domestic summer.
"The hardest thing was that I had no momentum behind the ball," he said. "I had nothing to drive myself through the crease with and I just wasn't able to consistently bowl fast, no matter how much I wanted to. It wasn't a great feeling.
"I am back up around 92-93kg now, and I'm feeling much stronger and energetic. My strength is up, my skin folds are down and I'm feeling much better for it. I am viewing the time off as a positive, as much as I can. It has helped me get my foot, ankle and general health back, and when you've built a great base like this, it can only create longevity."
Despite security issues stemming from the recent terror attacks on Lahore and Mumbai, Lee expects to make his competitive comeback for the Kings XI Punjab in the Indian Premier League in April. When asked whether the IPL governing body's move to block FICA from the security process would sway his decision in any way, Lee was coy.
"The best way to answer that is to say that we do get guidance every single day as to what is recommended from a safety point of view," he said. "There are several places where that information comes from, and it gives you the basis to make an informed decision about certain places. But I am looking forward to going to India. I have been going there since 1994, and I can't wait to unleash a couple of thunderbolts at the IPL ahead of the Ashes series."