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October 9, 2012
Peter Siddle has embraced his classification as a Test match specialist, reasoning his exclusive use in the game's longest form will give Australia their best chance of emerging from a hectic 18-month schedule with major series victories and the ICC's No. 1 ranking.
Recalling the career of his childhood hero and fellow Victorian Merv Hughes, 27-year-old Siddle was labelled "Test matches only" by the Australian selectors last summer after they recognised his worth as a high energy impact bowler and partnership breaker.
To earn that mantle, Siddle had refined his methods and discovered how to move the ball consistently under the tutelage of Craig McDermott. Now harnessing a greater shrewdness alongside his former aggression, Siddle will be the heartbeat of Australia's pace attack over a period that begins with Tests against South Africa and Sri Lanka at home before the rigours of an India Test tour and back-to-back Ashes series.
"I want to play one-day cricket, but there's a lot at stake at the moment for the Test team, with the 18 months we've got coming up, it's going to be very busy," Siddle told ESPNcricinfo. "I think we've got about 20 Tests in that time, so there's a lot of cricket to be played, and to get back to No. 1 we need to be ready, we need to be fresh and playing some consistent cricket. The best way forward for that is the approach we're taking.
"You'd like to play all forms, but the amount of cricket that gets played now it is hard to fit all that in as one player. I'm happy with it and I haven't had too many injuries, so the best thing for me to concentrate on Test cricket and staying out on the park is to get everything right and have a good crack at the next 16-18 months in the Tests and see how we go after that."
So focused has Siddle become on four and five-day matches that he was kept out of Victoria's first two domestic limited overs fixtures against Western Australia and Queensland. Siddle said this was done by mutual agreement between the Cricket Australia, the Bushrangers and himself, as part of a plan to have him play as many as four Sheffield Shield fixtures before the first Test against South Africa at the Gabba.
"Both parties worked together along with myself to work out what's going to be my best preparation for the summer lead-up," Siddle said. "So it was just a matter of by missing those games it didn't get my schedule too cluttered, and it meant that I can have decent recoveries and get ready for the next Shield game.
"I think I can play three, maybe four Shield games before the first Test, which gives me enough opportunities to get good rhythm, lots of overs under my belt and get that body ready and hardened at the start of the year for what's going to be a big summer here and a big 18 months internationally as well."
Australia's pace bowling roster for the Test summer ahead is likely to see the mature duo of Siddle and Ben Hilfenhaus shoulder a considerable load, leaving the younger trio of James Pattinson, Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins to be used more judiciously. The recovering Ryan Harris should factor in the second half of the summer against Sri Lanka, while beneath them is a strong reserve brigade including Mitchell Johnson, Jackson Bird, Ben Cutting, Nathan Coulter-Nile and Josh Hazlewood.
"By the sounds of it that's what they're talking about, and the one positive with that theory is that the blokes around the group other than myself and Hilfy have played at the high level, which is a massive positive for us as a team," Siddle said. "If James Pattinson goes down with a niggle or does get rested, a bloke like Mitchell Starc comes in or a Pat Cummins, those types of guys have played at that level and they do understand the work that goes into winning a Test match.
"All in all it is going to be a positive, and as long as we can all stay fit and strong and it works well for us in the results we can keep moving forward. It's going to generate a stronger bowling unit and a stronger side in coming years."
Bowling for Victoria in Perth and Brisbane at the outset of the season has provided Siddle with a useful reconnaissance ahead of the South Africa series, as the first and third Tests are scheduled for those venues. Siddle excelled on both grounds last summer, but said he was glad to have the chance to reconfigure his sights for the new season.
"Especially being a fast bowler they're probably two venues which give you a bit of assistance, which does help at the start of the season when you're working into things and getting into a bit of rhythm and consistency," Siddle said. "So it is a bit of an advantage in my sense that I get a bit of an easier run into the season, but it does give me a chance to get out on those grounds before the summer and just get a chance to play on them and get a feel for them again."
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets hereFeeds: Daniel Brettig
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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