‘Very happy’ Siddle selfless even in retirement

Had it been solely up to him, Peter Siddle would have quite happily retired at the end of this year’s Ashes series in England. It epitomises why he was so highly regarded in Australian cricket that he did not.

After several years on the fringes of the Australian Test team, Siddle had set himself the goal of going to England with the Ashes squad and contributing to the retention of the urn on English soil for the first time since 2001, having previously been on the losing end in 2009, 2013 and 2015. With some vital spells, particularly during the tone-setting first Test at Edgbaston, Siddle did so, and was delighted to get a final chance to bowl opposite his state team-mate and longtime friend James Pattinson.

With the closing Test at the Oval came the chance for Siddle to go out on his terms, but it was the result of “back and forth” conversations with the coach Justin Langer and Test captain Tim Paine that he did not. The team’s leaders wanted their seasoned warhorse to hang around for a few more matches, as potential cover for the likes of Jhye Richardson. So Siddle tugged the Australian team training ear and polo back on for one more summer, until it became clear that, as he had suspected, there was no longer any need.

“JL, Painey and I, we chatted about it early on in the Ashes series, there was a possibility [of finishing in England],” Siddle said after informing team-mates what he had told Langer on Boxing Day: this was it.

“But there was a bit of back-and-forth about the chances of maybe being able to do it back home if things fall into place. I was pretty content to do it over there, but that small, little hope that maybe I might get a chance back in Australia in front of family and friends, I was happy to take the gamble and see if it happened.

“Obviously it didn’t, but very content with the career I’ve had. As a young kid, I never thought I’d play one, let alone play 67, so very happy. I’ve played 180 first-class games, so the longevity to be able to play long-form cricket over that short time, it’s all about keeping the body right, maintaining a healthy body and doing everything you can to adjust throughout those years. When you start, you’re young and fresh, you can charge in and bowl fast, but as you grow older and as you play more games, the body starts to wear down and you have to change.

“I know there’s been plenty of criticism over the years about being slower and these types of things, but I’ve been able to adjust and find a way. I’ve loved my time, still got plenty of cricket left, still love playing for Victoria, the Strikers and over in England. While I’m still enjoying it I will continue to play, but international cricket, I’ve had my time – time to watch these boys continue to play he way they’re playing at the moment, and enjoy cheering them on.”

Team-focused, lionhearted and fiercely determined, Siddle performed the sorts of roles once taken up by another Victorian, Merv Hughes. But like Hughes, there was more to Siddle than the bluff and bluster, as he evolved into a highly skillful and adaptable seam and swing bowler, who by the end of his career was as much of a mentor to the rest of the attack as the coaching staff themselves.

At the same time, he provided proof of the benefits of healthy living, turning around a “larrikin” and “unprofessional” persona, as described by his former Teat team-mate Michael Hussey, into that of a teetotal, plant-based athlete. This meant that he not only developed greater longevity than many might have expected when he made his debut as a coral necklace-clad enforcer in Mohali, but has also ensured his body will be in fine fettle long after he has bowled his final ball. Given the many injuries and misadventures of fast men, this in itself is no mean feat.

“There’s many different reasons that helped me have a bit more longevity,” Siddle said. “Definitely my lifestyle changes have helped, they’ve played a big part, and who knows. But I definitely count them as a big part of why I’m still playing now. It’s not about how long you can play your career, but after that I’m going to have a long life retired and not play cricket. So I want to make sure I’m healthy then, want to live my life and live it to the fullest.

“As well as it’s helped me during my career to date, hopefully it can continue to help me once I am done. It’s definitely worked for me, it’s not going to work for everyone, there’s multiple reasons why I did make the change to a plat-based diet. I’ve definitely seen the benefits for it. I say to people do the research and have a look at what I did – there wasn’t as much research out there when I made the change and look how things have evolved. Definitely worth looking into.”

Still eager to play for Victoria, the Adelaide Strikers in the BBL and for Essex in England next year, Siddle wants to maintain a balance between red ball matches and Twenty20, while also continuing to serve as a mentor. He is unsure whether this will evolve into coaching just yet, but there is plenty of reason to think, watching Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc and Pattinson utilise a number of the lessons he has imparted over the years, that Siddle may one day go that way.

“Part of the reason I do still want to play is that I love playing with young guys, seeing them evolve, seeing them develop as cricketers,” he said. “If I can play a role even a little bit in helping out the next generation then I want to be able to. I’ve been able to do it with Victoria, I’ve done it a lot with Essex over the last couple of years and I’ve enjoyed it. I won’t put it out of the equation that I won’t coach or anything, but at this stage I still want to play cricket. I still enjoy first-class cricket, still love BBL, it’s only four overs, which is a lot nicer on the body.

“It’s been pretty special to play with someone [Pattinson] who’s like my younger brother, to be able to share those moments. We bowled together in England during that first Test, we got to play together once more before I got to finish up, so plenty of special memories, but great to see a Victorian out there on Boxing Day.”

As for the 2010 birthday hat-trick against England, Siddle never tires of hearing about it or even of being sent the famous footage, and all that it represents about his Test match career for Australia.

“Especially around the birthday time I tend to get a lot of messages especially the clip is always getting sent to me,” Siddle said. “So I have to admit I have watched it a fair few times, and it’s always a good thing. It’s a memory I’m going to have that’s going to be there forever. Different things don’t get remembered as much, but that’s something I will remember for a long time, it’s always on my birthday, it’s never going to change. Ashes hat-trick, it’s quite special.

“All I wanted to do was try hard for the team and do what I could to help the team win. Hard work is a good thing about the way I went about it, my passion to represent Australia. I know individually I wasn’t the most talented cricketer going around. I didn’t have a lot of skills and a lot of natural talent, but hard work, persistence and wanting to succeed. I had the goal of playing for Australia, once I got that, it was about playing for Australia for as long as I can. I’ve given it my all, I’ve given it enough, and I’m very happy.”

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