Australia v Sri Lanka, 1st Test, Hobart

Siddle stares down vegetarian critics

Daniel Brettig in Hobart

December 12, 2012

Comments: 43 | Text size: A | A

Peter Siddle celebrates after dismissing Dale Steyn, Australia v South Africa, 2nd Test, Adelaide, 5th day, November 26, 2012
Peter Siddle: "I struggled to bowl over 50 overs [before becoming vegetarian] so, to bowl 64, I think that's an improvement," © Getty Images
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Players/Officials: Peter Siddle
Series/Tournaments: Sri Lanka tour of Australia
Teams: Australia

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

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Posted by ygkd 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.

Posted by ygkd on (December 14, 2012, 8:40 GMT)

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

Posted by Raju_Iyer on (December 13, 2012, 13:20 GMT)

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

Posted by JosRoberts on (December 13, 2012, 13:03 GMT)

I knew there was something funny about him...

Posted by YogifromNY 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!

Posted by zenboomerang 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...

Posted by Cpt.Meanster 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.

Posted by Honeycrackle 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.

Posted by Sqantic-Pilau 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 !

Posted by malomay 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.

Posted by JVA1 on (December 12, 2012, 23:48 GMT)

Dennis Lillee knows crack all about vego diets. There are successful vegan athletes from sports such as MMA(Mixed Martial Arts), cycling, tennis, bodybuilding, weightlifting and ultra endurance just to name a few. See for an idea. Foods like Quinoa and Pumpkin Seeds contain the full spectrum of essential amino acids but as long as you eat a range of plant based foods a vegetarian has no troubles getting enough protein or iron. Ask the strongest man winner in Scotland, yes he is vegan. Meat is a poison pure and simple and it is just not morally acceptable or necessary to kill our fellow creatures to satisfy our taste buds. Do I need to mention the environmental benefits of a vegan diet? Do the research yourselves and make the change and don't listen to ignorant comments from commentators probably more worried about their sponsorship dollars than facts. Good on you Peter Siddle, you are now my favorite cricketer.

Posted by   on (December 12, 2012, 21:33 GMT)

Siddle is benefiting from his change of diet. Eating meat, especially beef has a weighing down effect on athletes. It is heavy food that sits in the stomach and is harder to digest. Siddle's performance in Adelaide was extraordinary. He maintained his top pace over 64 overs and kept his line and length. Meat-free (along with hard work) is the secret weapon. Meat-free also adds conscious intelligence. Those idiots who tell you that meat is responsible for hominid brain growth have been refuted by Dr Alice Roberts who reckons it was cooking that did it.

Posted by   on (December 12, 2012, 21:25 GMT)

There's a lot of research that supports that a balanced vegetarian diet helps athletes perform better.....

I have tried being a vegetarian for 3 years and I can confirm that they were the most healthy days of my life... the cravings/taste buds led me back to the world of a good steak... :)...

PS.. My grandfather is 92 years old and he converted to a full vegetarian diet at the age of 60... a conscious decision he made to live longer...

Posted by MitenD on (December 12, 2012, 20:24 GMT)

I have nothing against people who eat meat but, surely, being a vegetarian should be looked at as a positive thing. There are plenty of vegetarian food options that are great sources of high quality protein (quinoa, greek yoghurt, broccoli, beans, almonds to name a few). Well done to Peter for sticking to his ground. As long as he puts in his effort and works hard, what he eats is none of anyone's business.

Posted by   on (December 12, 2012, 20:21 GMT)


Noun. Lack of knowledge or information: "Did you hear Dennis Lillee's comments on vegetarian diets? Complete ignorance."

Posted by   on (December 12, 2012, 20:16 GMT)

Hear Hear P Siddle! Another blow against the head-in-the-sand meat eaters. Not only will it save the planet and lots of creatures, a vegetarian diet has been shown time and time again to be superior in almost every way. A few anemic people aside, it is a far superior diet. And yet our meat-obsessed culture listens to someone with ZERO knowledge on the subject, Dennis Lillee...

Posted by   on (December 12, 2012, 19:55 GMT)

Stupidest thing I have read. I can't believe how ignorant Dennis Lillee is and shudder to think how much damage he is doing to Indian bowlers in the MRF pace academy by force-feeding them fish and chicken. There are many vegetarian foods which have a lot of protein and are in fact much lower in carbs and fat than meat - beans, varieties of lentils and legumes, soybean soy-based foods (milk, tofu), milk whey, etc. Even an equivalent weight of broccoli contains more protein than meat. Tons of literature on this subject and any nutritionist worth his salt would confirm this. One can see why the MRF pace academy has not produced a single world-class bowler from India so far. Bowlers are being destroyed there with backward, 19th century advice from a total ignoramus. Does he know anything at all about muscle recovery and growth?

Posted by Herath-UK on (December 12, 2012, 19:04 GMT)

I agree with Peter and there is much more harm from Alcohol,drugs and smoking which are prevalent among sportsmen. Ranil Herath - Kent

Posted by Arrow011 on (December 12, 2012, 18:37 GMT)

Veg is best, Dennis is wrong, meats is never an answer it infact is a problem for fitness. Kudos to Peter Siddle & wish him all the success.

Posted by xylo on (December 12, 2012, 18:17 GMT)

Aren't there any nutritionists or dietitians available in Australia to offer any educated suggestions, rather than Dennis Lillee?

Posted by Cricket_Fan_And_Analyst on (December 12, 2012, 17:41 GMT)

Only genuine fast bowler who got into Cricinfo all time best Indian XI was a vegetarian one. He did play for a long time and his name is Javagal Srinath. Siddle should get some tips from Srinath, that might help.

Posted by RandyOZ on (December 12, 2012, 17:10 GMT)

There is no way you can get the protein without meat. Siddle is kidding himself.

Posted by   on (December 12, 2012, 17:00 GMT)

i'm all for healthy living and lifestyle sids. but for fast bowling you need meat my man. simple as that sids.

Posted by Crunchtime1 on (December 12, 2012, 16:46 GMT)

Kudos to Peter Siddle for paving the way for a new era in aggressive vegetarianism. Seriously though, you are an inspiration.

Posted by TheMehssiah on (December 12, 2012, 15:11 GMT)

""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... said." How's that working out for the fearsome Indian pace contingent?

Posted by Alexk400 on (December 12, 2012, 14:21 GMT)

Vegetarian bowler is OXY moron. SImply because vegetarian diet is healthy and live long. It does not help you in bowling. Because the "good stuff" between joints and bones will evoporate and will never get back to that spot. Meat diet and gym routine is only way to replenish liquid and soft muscle around joints. It is sci fi. Not mumbo jumbo. He should be dropped if he does not eat meat. Hahaha.

Posted by BellCurve on (December 12, 2012, 14:17 GMT)

Up to the end of January 2012, Siddle averaged 29.04 with the ball in Tests. Then he became a veggie. Since then he averages 38.08 and had to take time out to recover. These numbers support Lillee's hypothesis. It also helps to solve one of the biggest riddles in cricket: why has India, a country with 1.2 billion cricket mad citizens, never managed to produce as much as one decent fast bowler in 80 years of playing Test cricket. Maybe they need to eat more meat.

Posted by OldAdam on (December 12, 2012, 13:47 GMT)

I am amazed that, in this day and age, Dennis Lillee should be so ignorant. It is easy to ensure that a vegetarian diet includes sufficient protein. Forcing a vegetarian to eat fish or chicken is quite shocking. No wonder Siddle is irritated!

Posted by sportofpain on (December 12, 2012, 13:44 GMT)

Kudos to Siddle. Folks like Lillee mouthing off is crazy - these old guys had one way to do it and think they know better. Next someone will say drinking beer is good for cricketers since Rod marsh drank about 50 cans on the flight from Sydney to London!

Dennis - have you ever tried curd rice? Good for health mate. Try it.

Posted by steve_mcking1 on (December 12, 2012, 12:47 GMT)

There is nothing wrong with a vegetarian diet and elite sports.

Posted by vaidyar on (December 12, 2012, 12:01 GMT)

Can understand saying this in the 80s or even the 90s. Javagal Srinath, a vegetarian since birth had to give it up and start tucking into meat to maintain the stamina. But those were almost stone ages for sport. Now with dietitians and nutritionists monitoring everything, it is not that difficult to be a fast bowler and vegetarian. After all, it is about the amount of proteins, carbs etc that make it into your system which needs to be taken care of. Either way, as a vegetarian myself, glad to see a veggie fast bowler and hope he manages to continue to deliver on the field and dispel some myths. Go Siddle!

Posted by   on (December 12, 2012, 11:53 GMT)

Hard to criticize him from my viewpoint. He looks to be doing everything right and it certainly wasn't Siddle that cost Australia the series against SA. While he may never become one of the greats he is certainly a very worthy and serviceable member of the Aussie team.

Posted by FitzroyMarsupial on (December 12, 2012, 11:27 GMT)

Good on P Siddy.

If he continues to bowl quick and bowl long it will also knock another nail in the coffin of those who claim India not having any quicks whereas Pakistan produce them in droves is down to eating meat. It's always been a lazy excuse. The lack of basic fitness and in some cases the downright fatness of the Indian team is embarassing. Other teams are stretching sports science and nutrition to get peak performance from their team; India have to spend cash on extra elastic for the waistbands of the team's whites.

Posted by   on (December 12, 2012, 10:55 GMT)

Fast bowlers need to have non veg especially meat. Look at India , we have failed to produce a single fast bowler of repute, while neighboring pakistan has produced truckloads. There was a joke going around when srinath and prasad used to open bowling that they were the best vegetarian fast bowlers. Ultimately srinath have to give in to eating chicken, prasad was never fast anyways .

Posted by Mervo on (December 12, 2012, 10:50 GMT)

As a vegetarian he is doing it the hard way. Like many other vegetarians he will need injections of vitamin B from time to time. Vegetarian mothers also need that or their children can be born mentally deficient. Still it is his choice.

Posted by Marcio on (December 12, 2012, 10:20 GMT)

It has to be noted that, according to the speed gun, Siddle has been bowling 10 km/hr slower this season than last - and he looked it, too! He was bowling 131-135 in some spells, and that is just well below what he was doing last year. Hilfy was also about 5 clicks slower, and it was VERY obvious. In Hilfy's case he just hasn't played enough cricket, and his action has dropped off again. Siddle is, I reckon, just too skinny. Basically when he's hitting 140 (which seems to be his max now) he is bowling at the same speed as Starc, when Starc just ambles up to the stumps and rolls his arm over! Having said that, Siddle was getting excellent reverse swing in Adelaide, and that is a big addition to his game. During the Ashes series he could barely swing the new ball, let alone the old. I'd still pick him on heart alone - you need those kinds of fast bowlers, esp in AUS conditions. And he doesn't snap in half at the slightest breeze, like some of these others we have around the team.

Posted by RednWhiteArmy on (December 12, 2012, 10:20 GMT)

I didnt realize Lillee was a nutritionist

Posted by Meety on (December 12, 2012, 10:12 GMT)

"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. " - here here! Although a Quarter Pounder wouldn't go astray!

Posted by t20-2007 on (December 12, 2012, 9:42 GMT)

Please give a call to indian team and tell them the benifits of leaving t20-20 for test matches...siddle we owe you atleast this as the indian team resurrected your career early this year.

Posted by Webba84 on (December 12, 2012, 9:04 GMT)

Plenty of vegetarian sources of protein available, especially for professional athletes. Nice to see Siddle sticking it to to those who, against all scientific evidence, still believe meat is somehow necessary to prevent people turning into anemic hippies.

Posted by kabe_ag7 on (December 12, 2012, 8:56 GMT)

Amazingly dedicated guy. Kudos.

Posted by giri2888 on (December 12, 2012, 8:52 GMT)

siddle is real hard worker in AUS team

Posted by SamRoy on (December 12, 2012, 8:51 GMT)

Btw, is Siddle a vegeterian or a vegan? If he is just a vegeterian and takes plenty of milk and yogurt I don't think he will require any meat. Otherwise, he will have to take a lot of beans or soya, but milk is the better option for muscle wear and tear.

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Daniel Brettig Assistant editor Daniel Brettig had been a journalist for eight years when he joined ESPNcricinfo, but his fascination with cricket dates back to the early 1990s, when his dad helped him sneak into the family lounge room to watch the end of day-night World Series matches well past bedtime. Unapologetically passionate about indie music and the South Australian Redbacks, Daniel's chief cricketing achievement was to dismiss Wisden Almanack editor Lawrence Booth in the 2010 Ashes press match in Perth - a rare Australian victory that summer.
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