Resting can help, but not essential - Siddle
Peter Siddle believes the days of a fast bowler playing every Test of the home summer are not a thing of the past, despite the ongoing changes to Australia's attack this season. Jackson Bird looks set to become the seventh fast bowler to wear the baggy green this summer, with reports that Mitchell Starc might be rested from the Boxing Day Test in an effort to manage his workload, and that would leave Siddle as the only fast man to hold his place after the Hobart victory.
A side injury has ruled Ben Hilfenhaus out of the Melbourne Test and should the selectors decide to save Starc for the New Year's Test in Sydney, it will mean Siddle, Bird and Mitchell Johnson will share the pace duties next week. Already this summer, Australia have used Siddle, Hilfenhaus, Starc, Johnson, James Pattinson and John Hastings over the course of four Tests, a far cry from the days when the same attack was used for every Test, as occurred during the 2006-07 Ashes series.
Over the past 18 months, Ryan Harris, Pat Cummins and Trent Copeland have also moved in and out of the Test attack, along with the spinners Nathan Lyon and Michael Beer. Whether the changes have been due to form, injury or workload management, it has meant learning about team-mates and developing bowling partnerships on the run, and Siddle said the bowlers had become adept at working with whoever was on duty from Test to Test.
"That's been the big thing that we've done well in the past 18 months is that whoever has come into the squad knew what they had to do," Siddle said. "The guys who have come in in that time have shown that they can execute their skills and work with the rest of the players in that squad to maintain that pressure. The squad has changed a lot with the bowlers but we've stuck together and worked well as a team and we can keep doing that. That's a big positive."
Siddle pulled up well after bowling 51.3 overs at Bellerive Oval, better than he did after the Adelaide workload that forced him to sit out of the next Test against South Africa in Perth, and he is in no doubt for Boxing Day. There is less certainty over Starc, who sent down 52.2 overs in Hobart and according to some reports is set to be rested for either the Melbourne or Sydney Test due to his age and workload.
Last summer, the Australians were told by their sports scientists that Pattinson would break down during the Sydney Test and they played him anyway, only to lose him to a foot injury mid-match. Siddle said while no bowlers wanted to sit out of any Test match, the key was to be open and honest with the team management about how their bodies were recovering, as Siddle was when he stayed on the sidelines at the WACA.
"[Starc] has had a big workload but he has had time to rest now back at home, he's got another three or four days until we have to be out there playing," Siddle said. "Everyone wants to play. I don't think anyone ever wants to rest. But there does come circumstances where personally you don't feel right and you might need to, like myself in Perth. I wasn't right so I didn't play.
"The last two summers here I played all 11 Test matches, so it can be done. The same thing would have happened this summer. I did not want to miss Perth but personally I made the right decision. I knew that if I had have been selfish and gone out there and got injured I would have put a lot of pressure on the rest of the side. After what we had in Adelaide I didn't want to do that.
"You get plenty of say. It's your body. No one knows your body. It doesn't matter whether it's the physio, the doctor or the selector, they don't know how you're feeling. It's about being honest with them. That's the big part of it, being honest with them about how you are feeling and how well you think you can go."
Now Siddle is preparing for his fifth consecutive Boxing Day Test at his home ground, and he enters it in fine form, having collected 15 wickets at an average of 19.93 in his past two Tests this summer. His MCG record is also strong - 18 victims at 22.44 - and it's something he shares with Bird, who in two first-class appearances at the venue has collected 5 for 35, 5 for 61 and 4 for 73.
"It's a very patient ground. Our game plan works beautifully here," Siddle said of the MCG. "I've had my success a similar way to him [Bird], you bowl nagging lengths and be patient, you bowl tight lines. That's the go-to here for us. Sometimes it hasn't been about the big swing, it's more about being patient and working the batsman over and setting the right fields ... He's a very similar type."
Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here