Peter Siddle: A tireless workhorse and Australia’s go-to Banana Man

Peter Siddle © Getty Images

The Victorian-born fast-bowler Peter Mathew Siddle has made his name in the world of cricket for lion-hearted performances. Bharath Ramaraj looks at the pacer from Australia.

Back in 2007-08 season when Australia and India was embroiled in a spiraling controversy over the infamous ‘Monkeygate controversy’, a 23-year old Victorian fast-bowler by the name of Peter Mathew Siddle with a bustling run-up, compelled the columnist to follow his career with keen interest. By then, he had taken a five-wicket haul in the Sheffield Shield for Victoria against Tasmania and to make it even better for him, a few keen cricket-enthusiasts just couldn’t stop praising Siddle’s gladiatorial-like intensity. There was even a comparison made to former Australian pacer ‘Billy the Kid’ — Craig McDermott.

Since painting the Bellerive Oval at Hobart with his memorable brush of taking five wickets against Tasmania in 2007-08,  Siddle has come a long way and is now one of the lynchpins of Australian pace-attack. He has scaled imposing mountains and towering peaks and has helped Australia to make sterling comebacks in the Test arena. He is undoubtedly nowadays, the go-to-man whenever Australia is in dire-need of a wicket.

Siddle makes his Test debut and makes an immediate impact on the Test scene

Siddle’s indomitable spirit could be seen in the very first Test he played at Mohali against India in 2008 itself. During the first ball of his first spell, he hit Gautam Gambhir flush on the head with a superbly directed bouncer. The icing on the cake was he took four wickets in the innings, including the prized scalp of Sachin Tendulkar. Incidentally, he didn’t play another Test in that series, as Australia preferred Stuart Clark over him for the next two Tests played at Delhi and Nagpur respectively. It has to be said that Australia perhaps picked Clark on the basis of reputation, as by then he seemed to have lost that extra bit of nip in his bowling.

Siddle though, was picked for the first Test played against South Africa at the WACA, Perth in 2008. On an unusually benign WACA track, Siddle just didn’t seem to have the artillery to stop the rampaging South African batsmen from chasing down a daunting target of over 400. However, during the Boxing Day Test match at MCG against the same team, he ran through the opposition’s batting line-up by taking a four-wicket haul. It was only JP Duminy breaking well-defined boundaries with a super-humanly effort that helped South Africa to engineer a remarkable turnaround in the Test match. Even during the dead-rubber third Test match played at Sydney, it was Siddle who bowled incisive spells to take eight wickets in the match.

Later, when Australia toured South Africa in 2009, it was Siddle with his partner-in-crime, Mitchell Johnson who troubled the famed South African batting line-up. He took 12 wickets in the series at an awe-inspiring average of 22.5.

Peter Siddle: A tireless workhorse and Australia’s go-to Banana Man

Peter Siddle’s approach to fast bowling is to charge into the crease like a crazed bull, with an energetic-industrious stamina, make the batsmen play and use the bouncer as a surprise weapon © Getty Images

In that series with his pace, bounce and the slingy left-arm angle, Johnson was the battering-ram of the Australian pace-attack. However, Siddle too played a key role in Australia’s triumph by bowling a fuller length and making the South African batsmen play in the one square-foot window outside the off-stump. What impressed the columnist most in the series was, for the first time, he noticed Siddle extracting prodigious swing.

Siddle’s incandescent performances in South Africa made cricket pundits feel that he would trouble the English batsmen in the all-important Ashes series played in the Old Blighty in 2009. Despite succeeding at Leeds in the third Test with a five-wicket haul in the first innings, he was largely a picture of inconsistency in the series. Even at Leeds, it can be argued that it was Clark who blew away England’s batting line-up. Siddle came into the picture only when he burst open the opposition’s lower-order.

Siddle’s crowning glory moment came in the next Ashes series played at home in 2010-11. It turned out to be a disastrous Test series for Australia, as they lost 3-1. Yet, Siddle won’t forget in a hurry his spell of six for 54 during the first day of the first Test match played at the Gabba in Brisbane. His six wickets included a wondrous hat-trick too.

It wasn’t surprising to see that Siddle’s parents were ecstatic. It must have been a reality-altering exalted experience for his family. Unfortunately, his parents couldn’t watch him take the hat-trick live in the stadium, Siddle’s father said, “We did not know whether he would be playing the match. Therefore, we could not make it to the venue. It was unbelievable watching the magical moment (hat-trick).”

Despite Siddle following up his heart-stirring spell at the Gabba by taking a six-wicket haul at his happy hunting ground the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) in the third Test of the Ashes series, England’s batsmen seemed to have worked out Australian seamers to the hilt. Those Australian seamers had got into the habit of bowling ‘dry lengths’ and didn’t make the batsmen play often enough. English batsmen took advantage of it by showing good judgement outside their off-stump and left the ball superbly on bouncy tracks of Australia.

Under McDermott’s able guidance, Siddle leapfrogs as the go-to-man in the Australian set-up

It took former Australian pacer, McDermott’s appointment as the bowling coach of Australia for their seamers to again bowl a fuller length and make the batsmen play in the corridor of uncertainty.

Under the able guidance of McDermott, Siddle soon became Australia’s go-to-man in the side. He tasted success with some resplendent performances under the new bowling coach. He ensnared 22 wickets at a crackerjack average of 18.45 in the series played against India at home in 2011-12. In that series, he tested the nook and cranny of Indian batsmen’s defence and the opposition seemed to have no answer to Siddle’s ultra-consistent line and length bowling.

More than anything else, the way he exposed chinks in India’s brilliant technician Rahul Dravid by shaping it back into  right-hander from off-stump to find a gap between bat and pad and shatter his timber caught the eye of experts. Yes, Dravid was coming to the end of his illustrious career yet, it was a monumental achievement for a bowler to expose a chink in Dravid’s armour. Even in the recently concluded Ashes series held in England, it was Siddle for the umpteenth time with perseverance and tenacity who kept the English batsmen on a tight leash.

Siddle and his vegetarian diet

Remember, here is a cricketer who these days bowls quick with a vegetarian diet mainly made up of taking 20 bananas every day. Actually, there is every chance that he may one-day be appointed as one of the ambassadors of PETA.

Siddle told Daily Mail on his vegetarian diet, “I live on a plant-based diet now. That’s my lifestyle. It’s fruit-based, and a lot of vegetables, and it keeps me healthy and strong. It can vary from anywhere between 15 and 20 bananas a day.”

“I’ve had a few niggles throughout my career and did a lot of research about different ways of approaching my game.”

He continued, “My partner has been vegetarian, vegan, all her life and this is the route I’ve gone down. It’s working. I’m feeling fit, feeling strong, and I hope I can get stuck in throughout this series.”

Siddle and career threatening injuries

It also has to be remembered that Siddle has had his fair share of injuries, over the years. Even when he was taking a bucketful of wickets early in his First-Class career, he had to battle with shoulder problems. He had a reconstruction done on his troublesome shoulder that ruled him out for most part of 2006-07 season. Even during the following season, he dislocated it. But he was able erase the fine lines of pain and distress and convalesced from the injury.

Since then, foot problems and a stress fracture on his back in 2010 have dogged him. However, every-time he has suffered an injury, by marrying tunnel-visioned aim to succeed and a ‘never say die attitude,’ he has been able to overcome those major injuries.

Now, Siddle isn’t a divinely gifted athlete who would take cricket fandom to the outwardly high of universe with his celestial genius. His approach to fast bowling is to charge into the crease like a crazed bull, with an energetic-industrious stamina, make the batsmen play and use the bouncer as a surprise weapon. Here is a bowler who has made waves in the international circuit with a tried and tested collection of tools and by keeping it simple. As Australia look to wrest the Ashes-urn back from the hands of England, they need their ‘Banana Man’ yet again to step up to the plate for the entire duration of the series.

(Bharath Ramaraj, an MBA in marketing, eats, drinks and sleeps cricket. He has played at school and college-level, and now channelises his passion for the game by writing about it)