Melbourne:The frustrating tour of India is beginning to take a toll on the Australian team and the tension in their camp came to fore when struggling pacer Brett Lee had a heated exchange with skipper Ricky Ponting on the penultimate day of the lost second Test in Mohali.
According to reports here, Lee, apparently frustrated at not being used for an entire session on Monday, made his displeasure clear to Ponting, who reportedly did not take too kindly to the fast bowler's outburst resulting in an animated exchange.
"The tension boiled over in the morning session yesterday when Ponting refused to let his out-of-form fast bowler, Brett Lee, have the ball. Lee's frustration was obvious as the pair argued," reported the 'Sydney Morning Herald'.
Noted cricket writer Peter Roebuck devoted an entire coulmn to the blow-up, saying it was a sign of the simmering tension in the team, which is still coming to terms with retirements of big-wigs like Shane Warne and Glenn McGrath.
"Twenty minutes before lunch, Brett Lee's fragility was laid bare before the cricketing public. By 20 minutes after tea his exasperation seemed to reach beyond personal concerns and to reflect the fraught state of the entire side," he wrote.
"The row between the team's fastest leather flinger and a beleaguered captain was the first hint that all was not well in the visiting camp."
Recalling the chain of events, Roebuck, who is in Mohali, said it was understandable for Lee to lose his cool but equally understandable was Ponting's anger, considering the pressure he has been taking upon himself in the face of his poor current form.
"Ordinarily the most good-natured of fast bowlers, Lee had retained his equanimity at the start of the fourth day as his captain threw the ball to Shane Watson and Cameron White, a pair with nine Test wickets between them.
"He had held himself in check as Mitchell Johnson and Peter Siddle followed the newcomers to the crease. He knew he had taken only three wickets in the series, besides which he is not interested in the seniority stakes. And so he smiled and encouraged his comrades," said Roebuck serialising the circumstances that led to the angry exchange.
Roebuck said Lee, who comes into series after a much-publiscised break-up with wife Liz Kemp, perhaps took it as an insult when Michael Hussey was preferred over him in the Test which Australia lost by a massive 320 runs.
"Strong, fast and resourceful, he had taken numerous wickets and commanded universal respect. Alas, his bowling had deserted him in India. He had bowled without conviction, plan or accuracy. Everything was broken, it seemed, except his cricketing heart. And now that was under strain.
"It was not until Hussey was introduced and White was summoned for a second spell that Lee cried enough. By chance his captain was fielding a few yards away and Lee took the chance to remind him that he was fit, eager and had in his time claimed a few scalps - more than the rest put together, as a matter of fact".
"Ponting may have seen the matter in a different light. Conceivably he was trying to protect a friend and ally from further blows to a wounded psyche. Certainly he did not mean to snub him, let alone teach him a lesson.
"In the heat of the moment Ponting responded to Lee's niggle not with a sally but a riposte. Doubtless he felt that his authority had been undermined."
But Roebuck said good sense prevailed after Ponting spoke to Lee at lunch and the duo apparently buried the issue as promptly as it started.
"Happily relations were restored in the interval. After all, it takes more than a spat to rent asunder a strong friendship," the newspaper report said.