Australia v Sri Lanka, 1st Test, Hobart December 12, 2012

Siddle stares down vegetarian critics


Australia's vegetarian fast bowler Peter Siddle has chewed up and spat out the suggestion that the absence of meat from his diet was the reason he was unable to recover from his Adelaide exertions in time to play in the pivotal Perth Test against South Africa.

As he prepared to resume as the leader of the hosts' attack in the Test series against Sri Lanka, starting in Hobart on Friday, Siddle flatly rejected the view - proffered by Dennis Lillee, among others - that meat was essential to the diet of a fast bowler. Siddle backed up his rebuttal with the correct observation that his ability to maintain high pace and accuracy for long periods has in fact been helped by the lifestyle change, which he made earlier this year.

"I struggled to bowl over 50 overs [before becoming vegetarian] so, to bowl 64, I think that's an improvement," Siddle said at Bellerive Oval. "So I'm probably in a better place than I ever was. For people to say that's the problem and that's the reason why [I withdrew], they're the ones kidding themselves. They're not the ones out there having to do it and having to go through it. To still be bowling 140 kmph in my 64th over at the end of the fifth day in a Test match, that probably shows the improvements."

Siddle's pre-season admission that he had foresworn meat has been the cause of some mirth among those who harbour cliched views about the dietry habits of fast bowlers, even though he made the change with plenty of support from Cricket Australia's dieticians and support staff. The team performance manager Pat Howard has previously pointed to the decorated examples of the triathlete Dave Scott, the AFL footballer Brett Kirk and Martina Navratilova's tennis mastery as examples of vegetarian success in elite sport.

But Lillee's comments to ABC radio during the Perth Test fuelled Siddle's irritation that nearly halfway through the summer he is having to justify his choice of diet. "In India [at MRF Pace Foundation], our guys have got to eat protein even if they are considered vegetarian - they have got to eat fish and chicken," Lillee had said. "I think you have to rebuild muscle after you have had a 50-over Test. I know there is more to it than clouds and grass but I have not seen too many (vegetarian fast bowlers) survive. [Colin] Croft tried it for 18 months and couldn't do it. Sidds is trying it and good luck to him.''

Irrespective of the vegetarian debate, Siddle is satisfied that he is ready to push himself again in Hobart, after making the call in Perth that a tight hamstring and general fatigue meant he would not have been up to the task. "At the time we made the right decision. It's one I didn't want to have to make," he said. "It was just going to be the safest option. We didn't want another circumstance like Adelaide that put us more out of the game."

Part of Siddle's own planning for this summer and the tours of India and England that lie beyond it was his decision not to take part in the hustle and bustle of the Twenty20 BBL. "At the moment I didn't want to play in the BBL," Siddle said. "It was part of wanting to concentrate on Tests, the same thing I spoke about earlier in the year leading into the Test matches, I wanted to miss the one-day games and concentrate on the red ball. Just with the 12 months we've got coming up from now, it is such a big time for us as a Test team. The best thing for me was to focus on that, try and bowl as many overs as I can throughout trainings, in games and get the body ready and raring to go for Test cricket. That was my plan and that's the one I want to stick with."

The call to avoid the shortest format may ultimately prove far more significant to Siddle's success over the next 12 months than whether or not he has any chicken with his stir-fry.

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Philip on December 14, 2012, 8:50 GMT

    I would like to add to my previous comment that I use an axe and have an extensive veggie garden. But I don't believe that eating only veggies will save the planet or a fast bowler. In fact it will probably make a fast bowler medium-fast.

  • Philip on December 14, 2012, 8:40 GMT

    So Siddle is a vegetarian and a woodchopper. What's he got against plants?

  • Raju on December 13, 2012, 13:20 GMT

    Well Ishant Sharna is a vegetarian and doesn't seem to be doing badly so far....

  • Jos on December 13, 2012, 13:03 GMT

    I knew there was something funny about him...

  • Yogesh on December 13, 2012, 6:33 GMT

    As far as diet goes, Lillee is so far off the mark it is not even funny! Vegetarians can get plenty of protein from beans, lentils, dairy, nuts, and even vegetables like broccoli. And - vegetarian protein is readily and safely absorbed by the body without the adverse effects on the digestive system that meat has. Siddle is right, and should stick to his diet. I am a professional nutritionist based in the US, so I know what I am talking about!

  • Roo on December 13, 2012, 6:15 GMT

    Good onya Sidds... Where are all the redneck/meetheads that put down Sidds on previous articles???... All hiding - lol...

    From a serious point of view there are a number of vegetarian diets - non red meat, no fish, no eggs, no dairy - so the article doesn't even begin on where Sidds diet starts from... Protein isn't an issue as there are a number of high protein vegie replacements... Red meats are lacking carbohydrates, fiber, many vitamins, minerals, sugars - yet are high in bad fats & often have high salt levels added to its preparation - think junkfood...

    Not carrying all that excess fat is a bonus for a fast bowler, so good onya mate - getl them with athleticism rather than obese sloth...

  • Jay on December 13, 2012, 2:16 GMT

    In India, too many Veggy bowlers already on display which is one of the reasons for India's pathetic history in bowling. No meat = no strength; and without strength, there can be no endurance. Being a herbivore is fine but sometimes you got to be practical. Besides veggy food isn't even good tasting. Can't say more than that.

  • Simon on December 13, 2012, 1:00 GMT

    DK reminds me a bit of the old man in Gran Torino. I half expected him to blame Sid's lack of moustache for his inability to get up for the third test. Brilliant performance Sid, keep at it.

  • kevin on December 13, 2012, 0:50 GMT

    Lillee - you may have been a great bowler but these comments make you seem like a complete idiot. I thought views like these died out in the fifties. I wonder how many Indian bowlers have been vegie since birth ? Don't forget Carl Lewis won all those gold medals as a vegan - he seemed to be able to run fast without a belly full of corpses !

  • Mal on December 12, 2012, 23:51 GMT

    I'm not sure that flatly rejecting any advice from Dennis Lille on fast bowling is a sensible approach for any fast bowler, no matter at what level of the game they are operating ! If anyone knows what he's talking about in terms of workload it's Lillee. Take a look at his figures from the 2nd innings of the first test vs Pakistan in 1976: 47.7 overs, 10 Maidens, 5-163. That's right - 8 ball overs ! & he played 6 more tests that summer.

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