Australia November 3, 2009

Siddley the soap-opera star


Siddle: refreshingly toxic © Getty Images

Cricket is like a soap opera and if you don’t watch every episode, you’ll find yourself failing to recognise some of the characters. For instance if you were one of those heathens who put your hands over your ears, closed your eyes and made “La la la la!” noises during the Champions League, you will find yourself at something of a disadvantage during the current 50-over bash in India.

Of course, some of the old characters that you know and love are still around. There’s grizzled old Punter, who is always grumbling but secretly has a heart of gold; saintly Uncle Sachin, who listens to everyone’s problems without ever complaining; and the villainous Bhaji, who is pretending to have turned over a new leaf, but who everyone knows is bound to do something despicable any day now.

But now that our Australian chums are starting to come apart like badly assembled action figures (these plastic Paines, Clarkes and Lees might look sexy but they just don’t have the staying power of those clunky old Aussies you got in the seventies), the selectors are being forced to reach deeper into the back of the domestic-cricket fridge, past the leftovers and those on the turn, to see if there’s anything they can use. As a result, for the casual non-Australian cricket watcher, parts of the scorecard might as well be written in Klingon. Henriques? Bollinger? McKay?

But here’s where the Champions League comes in. Those of us who watched (nearly) every twist and turn of that pilot show are fully up to speed on these new characters and are able to avoid some embarrassing faux pas when discussing the current series with taxi drivers, undercover vice-squad officers or members of Parliament.

We know, for example, that Clint McKay is not the cheroot-chomping, Stetson-wearing sidekick of cowboy Jesse Ryder. Moises Henriques is not the dictator of a small island off the Mozambique coast with a solid gold throne and a personal bodyguard of Amazonian mercenaries. And Doug Bollinger is not a cartoon character devised to help sell champagne to the Australian market.

In fact, these three have something else in common. They all come from the shelf marked, “medium”. We can quibble about which is medium-fast or which is fast-medium, but essentially, they all fall into that large grey area on the bowling speed dial between “Collingwood” and “Steyn”.

Now I have to say that this is one plot development that I have my doubts about. There is always room for one trundler in an Australian side. But it goes somewhat against the laws of cricket nature to see so many yellow-shirted warriors whose game plan is not the reassuringly savage “hit ‘em in the face and make ‘em bleed” but the rather English “kind of put it on a length and wobble it about a bit”.

Thank goodness, then, for Peter Siddle. If he'd been born in Todmorden rather than Traralgon, he'd probably be saddled with some nursery-rhyme nickname like Siddley or Siddles. Instead, he goes by the name of Vicious. He used to tear down trees with his bare hands (probably) and now he hurts batsmen for a living. He is Merv Hughes with a razor and access to a treadmill. Good on yer, Siddley.

Andrew Hughes is a writer currently based in England