Melbourne:Australia coach Tim Neilsen has backed injury-prone fast bowler Brett Lee to reclaim his place in the squad for the Ashes series against England in July, saying "you don't throw the baby out with the bath water".
Nielsen feels Lee's long injury lay off and Australia's success against South Africa in his absence would not make his return to the national team difficult given his past credentials but agreed it would be a tough call for the selectors to make choices.
"Binga (Lee) is a 300 Test-wicket bowler. We've only got four of them in Australian history. You don't throw the baby out with the bath water," Nielsen said.
"He had a pretty bad ankle injury and has taken a fair while to get over it. I think in his 70-odd Test matches he has shown... when he's bowling at his best and he's fit physically he can be as dangerous as anybody can," he was quoted as saying by the Australian Associated Press.
Nielsen feels that despite the strong pace bowling department, the team is endowed with following the 2-0 series win over South Africa, the 32-year-old Lee's experience would be valuable when Australia attempt to retain the Ashes.
The inexperienced new-ball pair of Mitchell Johnson and Peter Siddle took 23 wickets to guide Australia to a 2-0 lead in the three-match Test series in South Africa and swing bowler Ben Hilfenhaus has done well in his debut series.
Lee has recovered from a foot injury and is looking forward to impress the national selectors whose major headache would be whom to drop now to accomodate the speedster. Though Nielsen is known to reward his bowlers, the coach feels Lee at his best would be a valuable asset.
"One of the real bonuses now is that we've got better depth than we thought we had two Tests or three Tests ago, because we've seen young players come in and play well," Nielsen said.
"And we know the standards that the likes of Lee and Stuart Clark and Andrew Symonds and all these players who have been successful for long periods can deliver for us.
Nielsen said with Lee looking positive, it can only mean good news from Australia's point of view.
"To have Binga back in the mix bowling 150km/h outswingers, any team is going to take that. It's exciting to hear him being so positive about it and just looking forward to getting back into it and being the leader of the attack. So there's lots of players to come back in and it's pretty exciting for us at the moment.
"As long as they are fit and can bowl or bat at their optimum, they probably have deserved their opportunity," he said.
The coach also expects the selectors to show respect to senior pros like Lee who have performed over a period of time.