Wearing a white beaded chocker necklace, zinc creamed smeared on his bottom lip and a 25 meter run-up, Peter Siddle had all the characteristics of a menacing pace bowler. The year was 2008. Siddle was making his debut for Australia against India in Mohali. His first ball was a sharp bouncer that thudded into Gautam Gambhir's helmet.
Eleven years later, the once firebrand, woodchopper, meat loving country boy has decided to retire from Test cricket as a smiling vegan with 221 Test wickets in 67 Tests. Siddle’s quite retirement was perhaps a perfect reflection of his vital but unglamorous role in the Australian bowling artillery.
In the past decade, Siddle was never a leader of the attack, but he would often be referred as the man that was bound the bowling unit. He started as a raw quick that could touch speeds of 150km/h and ended as a wily pacer that could choke a batsmen with his sublime line and length.
In those early days, Siddle broke through the ranks due to his pace. Like many cricketers, his career was in phases. The initial four years, he relied on his ability to hit the deck hard and lure the batsmen into false strokes. He was always the workhorse of the attack and a player that was prepared to put the team ahead of personal milestones. He never had to be told to be the nightwatchmen — he would volunteer to be one.
In his first 22 Tests, Siddle had 74 wickets at an average of 33. The figures were fine, but to take the next leap, Siddle needed to add another string to his bow. The appointment of Craig McDermott as the bowling coach in May 2011 allowed Siddle to work closely with the former Australian quick and by the end of 2012, Siddle had become the No.2 bowler in the world.
One of the key aspects McDermott drilled into Siddle was to ensure he bowled a fuller length. Siddle also adopted a slight change of grip on the ball, a technical tweak that enabled him to swing the ball, a trait that was missing from his bowling in the early stages of his career. May 2011 to September 2013 was arguably the peak of Siddle’s career. The raw bustling quick was now a craftsman and in 24 Tests, he picked up 93 wickets at 26.74 with a strike-rate of 55.3.
Coincidentally, it was his off-field diet plans during this successful phase that generated most of the attention. The Victorian became a vegan in 2012 and famously adopted a diet that involved him eating as many as 20 bananas a day.
JUST IN: Aussie champion Peter Siddle has just informed his teammates of his retirement from international cricket.
What a career pic.twitter.com/TToiVkjfZ0
— cricket.com.au (@cricketcomau) December 28, 2019
Criticised by many including Dennis Lillee for his non-meat diet Siddle said at the time “It has got me into a more professional body than I was previously. I was carrying a bit too much. I didn’t have as much muscle and I wasn’t as strong. I’ve converted that and turned it all around to be a lot more of a fine-tuned athlete.”
Under the coaching regime of Darren Lehmann, Siddle was told he needed to add 'that' yard of pace to be in reckoning for Australia again. So for six months, he went away, fine-tuned his body and started touching speeds of 140km/h again. The raw pace mentality of Lehmann probably cost him a few Tests, but he never complained. Instead, he spent season after season in English county cricket sharpening his skills with the Dukes ball.
To ensure he mastered the English conditions he spoke in lengths with Alistair Cook and Stuart Broad. As Justin Langer said before the Ashes campaign earlier, “Sidds is such a professional, even at 35, he wants to get better with each outing”.
When Siddle was picked as part of the Ashes squad this year, he became the only Australian fast bowler to be part of four Ashes tours to England. Importantly, he played a vital role in regaining the Ashes. Neither was he the leading wicket-taker, nor did he lead the strike-rates, but as Paine said, “Sidds is just the type of guy you always want around the dressing room”.
Even Siddle preferred to keep the retirement simple: "I'm very happy but a bit sad".
Siddle will always be remembered as a fighter, someone who kept plugging away and probably didn’t get the accolades in the media like his fellow peers. But if you ask any of the four captains (Ricky Ponting, Michael Clarke, Steve Smith or Tim Paine) he played under — who would run through a brick wall for the team? The unanimous choice would be Peter Siddle.
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