'I was always about proving people wrong'

"I didn't have a lot of skill, like a lot of my teammates. I always had to work hard and get things right"
"I didn't have a lot of skill, like a lot of my teammates. I always had to work hard and get things right" ©Getty

As a distinguished career finally winds down, Peter Siddle speaks to Cricbuzz about the reasons behind his longevity, why he was proved right after making changes to his game and diet 11 years ago, and playing on Kevin Pietersen's ego.

The injury you picked up during Somerset's T20 game, it looked quite nasty watching it live. Are you doing bit better now?

Yeah, not too bad. Obviously, not a great result and not a great thing. But you know, things could always be a hell of a lot worse. I always look at the positives. I split the webbing and then got multiple fractures in my finger as well. A bit annoying, but I always look at the positives and there's a lot worse things in life than what's happened to me, so all good.

Looking back over your Test career, 221 wickets in 67 Tests, a hugely impressive record. But was that a tough Australian side to break into back in 2008 with Lee, Clark and Johnson ahead of you?

Yeah, it was. I started to break in because of a few injuries that gave me the opportunity. Then I was able to cement my spot in the side with those guys still around. It was tough at the time, but I think those tough times and experiences, where you have to work to really get that spot, definitely made me a better cricketer, a better player. I always look back and have fond memories of those experiences. Playing alongside Lee and Clark, at the back ends of their careers, to be able to pick their brains, definitely helped.

You took 29 wickets in your first six Tests. Did you feel at home in Test cricket quite quickly?

Ah, not really. I think initially, it probably just more surprised me, more than anything. I'd only played eight first-class games before I debuted, so I hadn't really experienced cricket in general much before that either. So, I didn't know what to expect and maybe that's what helped in a way. I was probably a little bit naive. I knew how big the opportunity was and the occasion, but maybe I didn't look at it as big as it was, because I was so inexperienced and maybe that's what helped me settle in, get out there. I've always been a fighter though, wanting to win, wanting to do well for the team and help my teammates to win, so that obviously made me suited to Test cricket.

Not a bad first Test wicket in Sachin Tendulkar!

Yeah, it was it was a pretty good debut in the end, I think! My good friend Cameron White debuted in that series and that's what we were joking about the whole time, like getting out Sachin is a pretty mean feat. It was always spoken about and to get out one of the greats of all time, even though it was at the back end of his career, was still very special and something that I'm definitely very proud of.

The 2009 English summer was your first taste of Ashes cricket. Obviously, not a series that went Australia's way, but was Ashes cricket everything you dreamt of playing as a kid?

Yeah, it was. Just the build-up, the excitement of playing my first Ashes series. As an away one also, you get to experience the away fans, how to deal with it as the touring team. That was probably a good way to start off and just to see what it's all about. And it was unbelievable, just the atmosphere and how competitive it is. It's definitely as an Australian, the pinnacle of Test cricket playing in that series and doing well in a series like that.

Taking a hattrick at Brisbane in the return series in 2010/11 on your 26th birthday - Cook, Prior and Broad. That must have been an incredible moment.

I'd been out for a little while with a stress fracture in my back. So, it was my first Test back. Just to come back in was exciting because it was an Ashes series. You want to be a part of the first Test. But then obviously, being on my birthday and being able to achieve that was just unbelievable. That wasn't a great series for us as a team, but now more so that I'm retired and I look back on that stuff, you look at it a lot more fondly than I probably did when I was still in the thick of the things. It is something that I'm going to remember for forever and it's always going to be around.

David Warner spoke recently about his rivalry with Stuart Broad, the rivalry between players in the heat of an Ashes battle, the occasional bit of chat that goes on. Was that something that brought out the best in you in Ashes battles?

Yeah, I think it was. It was something I did a lot, especially when I first started. I was a very aggressive, fiery, young kid that just wanted to win. And I think it definitely brought out a lot of different battles throughout with different players. The frequency that we played each other, you've played so much cricket against each other that you can form... not hate, but you can form those battles a lot easier than you probably do against other nations, because you don't play them as much.

So yeah, there was always fire in the belly with different players and different moments. At the end of the day, it's just all that emotion that you put into performing, trying to win the matches, sometimes it just flows out. But that makes the series exciting. It makes those moments exciting. That's the joy of being in an Ashes series.

You took your 100th Test wicket against India in January 2012 at the SCG, rising to a career-high of seventh in the ICC's Test rankings. You had become a really consistent performer. Did you feel you'd really arrived as a key member of the team?

Yeah, I think so. I was one of those bowlers though, as strange as it sounds... I was always sort of the first-change bowler. I didn't open heaps and heaps in Test cricket. So, I think when you're that type of player, sometimes you feel that your spot is always on the line. As much as sometimes people say, "yeah, you're there, you're cemented", all that type of thing, I didn't have a lot of skill, like a lot of my teammates. I always had to work hard and get things right. So, sometimes I didn't feel like I was that type of player, which I think probably helped me and made me feel a lot more comfortable in a way that I never took things for granted. I was always working and continuing to work to make sure that I was ready to go. I felt comfortable, but I never really felt like I was always cemented in there.

"When I came onto the scene, I did bowl fast"
"When I came onto the scene, I did bowl fast" ©Getty

Later that year, a back injury saw you fly home from the West Indies early and miss the English summer with Essex. You faced a pretty heavy workload in your first Tests back against South Africa - 53 overs at the Gabba and 63.5 in the second Test at the Adelaide Oval, compounded by an injury to James Pattinson mid-match. That's a lot of overs for a fast bowler. How did you deal with that?

I don't think you really worry about how to deal with it, you just go and do it. That's Test cricket at its best in a way. It's a challenge and you just get it done. You're expected to get it done, but personally, you want to get it done as well because you're always striving to get that win for your team. So yeah, it took a lot out of me, I did miss the next Test match after that, but it's amazing, sometimes you look back and know you've put your body through that, and you can handle it.

There was a lot of speculation in the Australian media after that about your diet, your workload, your weight, your pace. How many bananas you ate every day. All that was going on in the background. Did that become quite tiresome during those years?

No, not at all. I was always comfortable with what I was doing. And I think the funny thing it's more just a media beat-up than anything anyway. The changes and stuff were personal. And I think it's a perfect example now, the longevity that I've had in the game, a fast bowler still playing domestic cricket at 38, I think shows that the changes and the efforts that I've made since then, have been far greater (in terms of their impact).

I was always about proving people wrong, and I think most of my career in the end has been after those changes. I still had loads of success. I took more wickets after those changes than I did before. Like anything, the media need things to talk about and that was just an easy excuse for them to talk about.

Do you think attitudes towards vegan and vegetarian diets among athletes have changed for the better in recent years, as more athletes have talked about it?

100%. I've been vegan over 11 years now and the change in numbers has been huge in that time. It might have been great anyway, just that people didn't talk about it as much. I don't think people have to. Like I said, it's more a beat-up than anything else. What does it actually matter how people live their life? What lifestyle they lead shouldn't actually matter because there are successful people on vegetarian/vegan lifestyles and there are successful people that eat meat. It doesn't matter. So, for it to actually be a talking point, it's probably just a little bit of a distraction for the general public. Because at the end of the day, no-one really cares; people just want people to perform and do well. I think that's what it's about.

You touched on your place in the side. It's important to have that accuracy of a line-and-length bowler in an attack - perhaps a Glenn McGrath, Scott Boland-type figure alongside the outright pace of a Lee or a Johnson?

When I came onto the scene, I did bowl fast. I think that's where people get it mixed up is that, "ah, you've lost pace and you've changed", all this kind of thing. And yeah, I did, but it was for me to have success in Test cricket. I had the initial success, because I could run in and bowl fast and you're a surprise factor because no-one has seen you yet. But then the greater thing that comes with that is, if I want to last, I need to change because batters are going to work you out, teams are going to work you out. You need to have something different.

I didn't have a lot of skill when I first came on. So for me it was about finding that accuracy, consistency with line and length, learning how to adjust and bowl a few different deliveries and all those types of things. That's what came of it in those years. I know it got spoken about a lot and people tried criticising me with it. But I knew I did it for a reason, for longevity, to make me a more successful player. And it's definitely shown that the change has worked in all aspects, from longevity to success.

Of course, the other thing that's talked about more nowadays is rotation. England are talking about rotating their seamers in the Ashes. Lots of other nations do that as well. So, that's something that helps with longevity.

Yeah, definitely. It's something initially, we probably thought we didn't want to do, years ago. We refused to do it. We didn't like it, and we're like, "nah, we're not being a part of that". But the schedules have got tighter over the years. I think that's what people have got to understand. There's not as big a break between Test matches, between series. Bringing in someone that's very talented and fresh (later in the series), like Mark Wood... Australia's going to do exactly the same thing. Whoever sits out in the first Test, they're going to be a star, they're going to be a very experienced Test cricketer. So yeah, rotation is going to play a part and it worked beautifully for us in 2019, so I can see it definitely happening in both teams this summer.

Talk me through the back-to-back Ashes series in 2013/14. You were the only Australian bowler to play all 10 Tests in those two series. Defeat in England followed by immediate revenge with an emphatic 5-0 win at home.

It was weird in a way, the fact that we were playing these series back-to-back was unheard of. The preparation for it all was just totally different. I put a big focus on wanting to be a part of both series. So, to do that I knew that I had to be fit, so I concentrated a lot on staying fit and being ready to go. The 5-0 was the icing on the cake and probably one of the biggest highlights of my career.

You dismissed Kevin Pietersen six times during those two series. No other bowler dismissed him more times in Test cricket than you (10 times in 17 Tests). How did you go about bowling to him?

I probably just played on his ego a little bit. I was always the slower bowler out of our attack against him. So, I think he'd always think he could be aggressive and take me down once I came on and I could play on his mind a bit, build pressure, play on his ego, talk a little bit of trash, and then I was the one that came out on top.

What's next for you now that your time with Somerset was cut short by injury?

Before I came back to Somerset, I'd agreed to spend some time back home as a player and assistant coach with Victoria. My playing days are slowly dying down. Although I still want to play a bit, I'm aware that's slowly coming to an end. I'll move into doing a bit of coaching, but whether or not I want to do that in the long term, I don't know. I want to spend a lot of time on my bike out on the road. It's been great to be able to get out in the countryside here and go on a bit of a cruise on the bike. I'll stay around cricket to an extent because I love helping the next generation and seeing the young guys progress.



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