Peter Siddle has called for Australia’s Steve Smith and David Warner to be cut some slack on their international return, saying: “They weren’t the first people to ball-tamper and they’re probably not going to be the last.”
The pair have been selected in Australia’s squad for the World Cup in England after completing year-long bans for their leading roles in the plot to tamper with the ball using sandpaper during the Cape Town Test against South Africa last March.
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The scandal exposed what many perceived to be a toxic team culture under the leadership of Smith, the former captain, and Warner, his deputy. Many, including the former Australia captain Mark Taylor, have also openly questioned whether the team had tampered with the ball before, including against England during the 2017-18 Ashes.
Siddle, a bowler who has a good chance of sharing a dressing room with Smith and Warner during this summer’s Ashes if he continues his good form for Essex, believes it is time to move on.
“What they’ve done is done and dusted,” he said. “Half the time people keep worrying about it because people keep talking about it. I think there’s not much to be talked about. They weren’t the first people to ball tamper and, I hate to say it, they’re probably not going to be the last. So I don’t think we should keep going on about it. I’m just looking forward to them getting back on the park for Australia and performing the way we know they can.”
Siddle’s form for Essex last summer, when he took 37 championship wickets at 16.40, saw him recalled for Australia’s Test series against Pakistan in the United Arab Emirates last October. He was also part of his country’s Test squad during the last Australian summer so has a good idea of how Smith and Warner will be received by teammates on their return.
“I think it’s not going to take them long to move back into the fold once they get back around the boys and get those competitive juices flowing,” he said. “They’ll be back to their best in not long at all.”
Whether the returning batsmen will get such a warm welcome from the English public during the World Cup and the Ashes is another question. Siddle, though, warned that excessive abuse is likely to backfire.
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He said: “It doesn’t matter what you’ve done or who you are, you cop a lot of stick anyway [as an Australia player in England]. They’re fine with it and I think as everyone probably knows they’ve copped enough stick anyway in the last year so they’ll be able to handle whatever is thrown at them. It’s probably going to come back and bite the spectators on the bum more so than not by pumping them up because the boys have got a point to prove and I’m sure they’ll do that with their bats.”Advertisement
At 34, Siddle is hoping to play his fourth Ashes series in England, having been part of the defeated Australia teams of 2009, 2013 and 2015. Since returning to Essex he has taken 12 wickets in three matches, including a six-wicket haul against the county champions Surrey at the Oval.
Despite Australia’s surfeit of fast bowlers, including Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazelwood and Pat Cummins, Siddle’s experience of English conditions means he is confident about adding to his 64 Test caps.
“The main goal is to be part of that Ashes series,” he said. “I’m always in communication with JL [coach Justin Langer] and the selectors. I had a chat with the chairman, Trevor Hohns, the other day. He said just keep it up because all your form in county cricket will come into play. They know what I can do in English conditions, it’s about me now staying fit and putting in good performances for Essex.”