Peter Siddle. Critics of rotation Michael Whitney, left, and Geoff Lawson in 1991. Photo: Steve Christo
Australian stalwart Peter Siddle has defended the resting of fast bowlers ahead of a busy Ashes Test schedule, saying that critics of the decision don’t understand the demands on modern pacemen.
Former Test greats Geoff Lawson and Glenn McGrath have attacked the resting of promising NSW paceman Josh Hazlewood from the just-completed Sheffield Shield match against Victoria, continuing calls from past players for quicks to bowl more in order to avoid the injuries that have sidelined fellow quicks Pat Cummins, James Pattinson, Jackson Bird, Doug Bollinger and Mitchell Starc.
Siddle and fellow Ashes lynchpin Ryan Harris will be rested from this week’s shield games ahead of next week’s first Test in Brisbane, and the 28-year-old Victorian says that makes sense.
“That’s been the plan for a long time and . . . touch wood everything goes alright. It is a five Test series so to be backing up continuously throughout the summer . . . (you need) a bit of a break. Have that now and get ready.”
Siddle says it is “disappointing” that Lawson, the NSW fast-bowling coach, does not understand why such rests are necessary.
“The simple thing is that the games have increased. There’s a lot more games now than Geoff Lawson would have played,” Siddle told SEN on Monday morning.
“That’s the thing that annoys me a little bit. He’s had a long run of injuries throughout his career. It was said that his career lasted 10 years and Mitchell Johnson played Geoff Lawson’s career in three and a half. That’s a comparison of the games difference and where we’re at.”
In June, Cricket Australia chief executive James Sutherland said “you won’t see any of that rotation policy” during this summer’s Ashes series, although selectors would still “give players opportunities” in international limited overs cricket to see how they responded.
Criticism of the policy reached a fever pitch last summer after Siddle and Ben Hilfenhaus were left out of a series-deciding Test in Perth against South Africa, days after nearly bowling their team to victory in Adelaide, and Starc was stood down from the Boxing Day line-up the week after bowling Australia to victory against Sri Lanka in Hobart.
The same day that Sutherland made his comments, CA’s high performance manager Pat Howard seemed to contradict his boss. “The workload management policy is still in place,” he said. “The Ashes is obviously an extremely important series for us and the selectors will select the best players available for every Test.
“However, if players are injured or we are not confident a player will finish the match, the selectors will consider this. Ultimately a player needs to be able to perform for an entire match.”
Whether it is labelled “rotation” or “workload management”, the only thing that is agreed upon in the debate over fast bowlers is that they are vulnerable to injury until they are 24 or 25.
A recent Cricket Australia study found that “large increases in acute workload are associated with increased injury risk in elite cricket fast bowlers”. It stated that “injury risk increases significantly in the week following sharp increases in acute workload”.
Supporters of workload management see this as evidence for resting players who have recently experienced a large workload. Critics say it means fast bowlers have to be conditioned well enough to handle “spikes” in workload. And the only way to do that is to bowl lots of overs.
“We’re limiting how much they can bowl because in the past the odd fast bowler was getting injured,” fast-bowling legend Glenn McGrath told News Corp at the weekend.
“Now I think we’ve created problems by taking it too easy and not allowing the guys to bowl enough.
“At the start of the season you need to get overs under the belt to get up to the level you want.
“We’re seeing the effects to a degree of trying to manage them.
“If you bowl 20 or 25 overs to me that’s a good day in the office. I’d expect any bowler to be able to front up the next day and do the same. That’s what Test cricket’s about.
“I think they’re going too far with this resting.”
Earlier this year, a Victoria University journal article by Dr Rob Aughey and former Victorian and West Australian fast bowler (and PhD candidate) Mathew Inness concluded that “athletes tolerate constant workloads better than workloads with large variations over short periods”.
“The ideal situation for an athlete would involve a steady progression in workload, combined with periods of slightly lower activity, thus allowing adaptation and therefore greater fitness and resilience to injury” Inness said when the report was released in January.
“We acknowledge the increasingly packed international schedule makes this extremely challenging – but the current rotation policy does not allow for this,” Mr Inness said.
“The challenge for Cricket Australia is to strike a better balance between rest and regeneration and ensuring adequate and consistent load to build capacity and resilience in players young and old,” he said.
While the debate rages around him, Siddle remains confident that going into the Ashes with a week off is necessary after a solid grounding in Ryobi Cup and shield matches over the past six weeks. “I’m feeling good,” he said. “The bowling’s coming along well and I’ve had good rhythm during the last couple of shield matches.”
But he doesn’t believe there is any quick answer to the fast bowling injury scourge.
“It is hard. I guess we’re just probably blessed in a way that we’ve got such a young group of bowlers at the moment that one day hopefully will become superstars. But they’re all around at the same time, so instead of having one player injured like a Brett Lee early in his career, we’ve got three or four players at the same age that are having those troubles.
“You’ve got blokes over in England – you’ve got Tim Bresnan and Jamie Overton – two young players that have both got stress fractures for them as well.
“We’re not the only country and we’re not the only people in the world having these troubles, it is worldwide, and hopefully one day we can eradicate it, but in the meantime it’s just hard work.”
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