As the Australian cricket team end a remarkable summer that saw back-to-back series victories over both the number one and two ranked ICC Test teams, it is safe to assume that Cricket Australia is on the up.
As rewarding as it has been, for many of the Australian cricketers it has been equally as taxing. A schedule during which the team played a total of 13 Test matches in just eight months is bound to take its toll on some players.
Arguably though, the fast-bowling brigade has been the backbone to Australia’s recent success throughout this period, although it hasn’t been the fairy tale that it may look like on the surface.
Sure, Mitchell Johnson has recaptured the flair from time ago, bowling the best he has ever bowled for Australia, but some of the other quicks haven’t been so fortunate, despite posting decent figures.
Ryan Harris was almost completing matches on one leg due to a serious knee complaint, Shane Watson was in-and-out of the test team, and however integral Peter Siddle’s role was during the summer, it was concerning that after playing in every Test, he was dropped for the third and final match against South Africa.
Clearly, the axing of Siddle raised questions as to why he was left out of the team.
But Australian coach Darren Lehmann had nothing to hide in his response as to why Siddle made way for fellow paceman James Pattinson.
“He’s fully fit, we just wanted that extra pace that James gives us,” Lehmann said.
“He’d like some more wickets obviously, but it’s the pace drop. We need him bowling 140 (km/h), and at the moment he’s averaging 131, 132.”
“It’s the pace drop… we just wanted that extra pace.” (Darren Lehmann)
Ironically, it has been Siddle’s pace that has been his weapon throughout his Test career, even being labelled the new ‘white lightning’ by some in 2011.
But Siddle, who turns 30 later this year, may find regaining his speed a monumental challenge.
News Limited cricket journalist Robert Craddock says there is no doubt that it’s going to be tough for Siddle.
“It will not be easy,” he says. “At this stage of his career, he is what he is – a brisk seam bowler.”
But just how did Siddle go from the new ‘white lightning’ to being dropped from the Test team due to lack of pace?
Darren Lehmann has conceded he’s worried about Peter Siddle’s pace dropping away. Perhaps he can start by eating like a normal human.
— Adam White (@White_Adam) March 1, 2014
Give Peter Siddle steak, snags and mash. #feedthemanmeat
— Tim Gossage (@TimGossage) March 1, 2014
In 2012, Siddle joined his girlfriend and became a full vegetarian. Since then, he has noticeably lost a lot of weight.
Craddock believes it may have been the changes to Siddle’s diet that has impacted his bowling.
“Darren Lehmann’s quote that he needed him back bigger and stronger says to me there may be an issue with his veganism,” says Craddock.
The weight loss since becoming vegetarian has had detrimental effects on his strength in his bowling and Craddock says that without strength, fast bowling can be influential.
“As people like Rodney Hogg and Damien Fleming say, it’s all about strength. Stamina is one thing, but you must have strength.”
Siddle’s loss of pace and Darren Lehmann’s great love of fast bowling forecast a very dim prospect of his place in the team for their next Test match against Pakistan in six months time.
With James Pattinson (23 years old), Pat Cummins (20) and Josh Hazlewood (20) all sure to be knocking on the door of selection, at this stage, it is more likely that Siddle will once again be carrying the drinks.
But Craddock holds a different perception.
“You could almost bet your bottom dollar that Peter Siddle will play Test cricket again.
“You can say what you like about the Cumminses coming through and the Starcs, and all those players, and it is true that they are coming through, but he is a bankable Test performer and bankability goes a long way.”
No doubt Siddle has plenty of credits in the bank to play Test cricket again, but he faces a testing and career-defining six months to regain his strength and speed and potentially change his diet in order to once again become Australia’s ‘white lightning’.
Jake Keating is a third-year Bachelor of Journalism (Sport) student at La Trobe University and is the sports co-editor for upstart. You can follow him on Twitter: @JKeats10.