Stronger Siddle rediscovers his pace
Most cricketers try not to put weight on during the off-season. Peter Siddle has spent the winter doing exactly the opposite. Dropped from the final Test of Australia's tour of South Africa in March having been a near automatic selection for three years, Siddle was told by coach Darren Lehmann he needed to regain strength and pace.
That translated into gaining weight and muscle. And while it was natural for Siddle to be disappointed at being dropped in Cape Town, he believes that in the long run it has been a plus. From the start of 2013 until the beginning of the Newlands Test, Siddle had a greater Test workload than any other bowler in the world, sending down 3427 legal deliveries.
"Pretty fatigued," Siddle said when asked how he felt in South Africa. "I think we were all pretty shot by then. It's been a long while since I'd had a break and it took its toll. It was showing in the last few games in the Ashes and once we got over there in South Africa. It's always disappointing to miss a match but sometimes it's a blessing.
"It happens to everyone, I could name anyone in world cricket where they haven't bowled as quick as they have in the past. Mitch [Johnson] is a prime example, he bowled for five years straight before he hurt his foot and he was down to bowling high 130s or low 140s at that stage, for a bloke who bowls mid 150s.
"For him to have that break and freshen up mentally and physically and come back and bowling the best he has just shows, a bit of rest here and there, work on a few things, change a few things and [you can] get that rhythm back."
Since the South Africa series, Siddle has put on nearly five kilograms as part of a strength and conditioning programme designed to bring his pace back. During his county stint with Nottinghamshire, he was hitting the gym for weights sessions two or three times a week, which is quite an effort given the relentless schedule of county matches.
A reduction in running was also a key part of his programme, as well as boosting the amount of calories going into his body. But not through egg-and-bacon breakfasts and steak dinners. Notably, his vegan diet has remained in place throughout the whole process.
"It doesn't make any difference at all," Siddle said. "Everyone believes you have to eat meat but I have put on five kilos without changing a thing, apart from a few different training patterns and eating a bit more and watching what I eat. Everyone thinks you have to eat meat but I am the one who has not been injured in the last two and half years, so that probably explains something."
Whatever the case, the results have been encouraging. Lehmann is pleased with Siddle's extra zip, describing his work during the Sharjah warm-up game as "really good". Now, Siddle is ready to resume his position in Australia's pace bowling line-up for the first Test against Pakistan in Dubai.
Often the workhorse, Siddle is expecting shorter spells in the UAE heat, where Australia's selectors may opt for he and Johnson to be the only frontline quicks in the side. But even if the conditions don't offer much for the fast men, Siddle will enter the game with confidence after picking up two wickets and bowling well in the tour game in Sharjah.
"I feel good, that's all you can worry about," Siddle said. "Everything's going all right at the moment. I felt like the ball came out pretty well throughout that match. From the feedback from Hadds, he's always the best judge of how it's coming through, and he was feeling good with how it's going."
Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @brydoncoverdale