Under-pressure Siddle puts UAE behind him
There have been few constants in Australia's Test team over the past five seasons, but Peter Siddle has been one of them. Every year since 2009 the Test summer has started at the Gabba with a changing parade of players wearing the baggy green. Only two men have taken the field in every one of those Brisbane Tests: Michael Clarke and Siddle.
Now, both are entering the home summer under more pressure than usual. Clarke is enduring his toughest year with the bat at Test level since 2005, and Siddle has had a similarly difficult 2014. Though often overshadowed by his colleagues, Siddle has averaged less than 31 with the ball in Tests in 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013. But so far in 2014, his figures are 10 wickets at 53.70.
Dropped during the Test tour of South Africa earlier in the year when his pace fell away, Siddle regained his place against Pakistan in the UAE last month. But on pitches that offered little, he struggled to find any movement in the air or off the surface, and finished the series with figures of 2 for 217.
But a post-tour group debrief with chairman of selectors Rod Marsh gave Siddle confidence that the UAE misery would not be held against him when the panel chooses its squad for this year's Gabba Test against India. The triumvirate of Siddle, Mitchell Johnson and Ryan Harris operated successfully throughout last summer's Ashes clean sweep, and might yet start this season as a group again.
However, the pressure will be on for the fast men to deliver from the outset in favourable conditions. Hovering behind them will be men like Josh Hazlewood, who started the season brilliantly in the Matador Cup and is now in the ODI team in Perth, as well as Nathan Coulter-Nile and Mitchell Starc.
"The three of us stuck together last year and won the Ashes 5-0, so that counts for a little bit," Siddle said. "But the young guys are going well ... Rod was over there with us [in the UAE] so we all sat down after it and had a little bit of a debrief and a chat between ourselves. It's about coming back and just freshening up. You look too much back in the past and you don't go anywhere.
"It's going to come down to how they think everyone is going. I don't think figures are going to [matter] too much. There are other things like rhythm that they see, that in conditions that aren't very conducive are hard to see just looking at figures. That's the thing, you probably cop a lot of flak once when you get back [to Australia] but half the people haven't watched it and have only read the paper.
"If you watched a fair few of those games, we built up pressure, we bowled well, we batted long periods at different times. But it's hard to see when you only read a paper. The people who know it were over there watching and I think they're the best judges. They're making the decisions. They'll know who to pick."
Siddle will be on more familiar turf when he returns to cricket on Sunday in Victoria's Sheffield Shield side to take on South Australia at Adelaide Oval. Starc claimed seven wickets at that venue during the day-night Shield game over the past week and Siddle will be keen to return his name to the wickets column, despite his downplaying of the importance of "figures".
"Everyone needs to perform. After the UAE there's a lot of pressure on everyone," he said. "It doesn't come down to bat or ball, we all know to be a better Test side, everyone has got to perform in all conditions. Coming back home, everyone just wants to prove a point and get out there and put on some performances."
The coming round of Shield cricket will also give a good indication regarding the progress of Harris, who is making his first-class comeback after a lengthy recovery period following knee surgery. Johnson and Hazlewood, meanwhile, will be in the ODI squad in Perth.
Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @brydoncoverdale