Peter Siddle eager to fill Australia's leadership gap

Australia focussed on Pakistan's spinners - Siddle (0:54)

Australia fast bowler Peter Siddle on the team's preparations for the Test series in the UAE (0:54)

There are a few reasons why Peter Siddle is in Dubai sweating it out with the Australian Test squad, rather than donning a beanie in the last throes of the English County Championship, or firing down a white ball for Victoria in the domestic limited-overs tournament back home. One is his recent performance for Essex, a reminder of Siddle's quality, and another is his vast experience in Asian conditions, dating back to the 2008 tour of India alongside the likes of Ricky Ponting and Matthew Hayden.

Most overwhelming in the factors for Siddle's recall, however, is that the team now captained by Tim Paine and coached by Justin Langer was desperate for senior figures. Not only to replace the missing Steven Smith, David Warner, Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins, but also to help chart a new and better cultural and performance path for the Australian team in their first series since the Newlands ball-tampering scandal.

In recent years it could be argued that Siddle's skills were rather undervalued by Australia, whether it was in his omission from the 2015 Ashes until the final Test, or his being rushed back from injury into the team in late 2016, whereupon he re-injured his back. Now, in the team's hour of need, Siddle is back in favour, and he has a clear idea of why this is so.

"JL's spoken a lot about good people and good characters and coming into the side I think, just from an outside point of view, the side probably in the last little bit maybe lacked a bit of leadership," Siddle said in Dubai. "So I think without having the captain or vice-captain or any of those terms, it's just about being a leader in my own right, just doing what I do to lead by example and just help out the young guys and help out the group ... it's stuff I'd normally do.

"But you want to make sure you get the right things done and the team's preparing well. All in all the whole group is preparing as leaders, they're going out there and leading by example in their own right. That's a good sign for this group going forward and just looking forward to a few more training sessions, but I think everyone's starting to adapt well to the conditions and looking forward to this practice match."

Having been coached by each of Tim Nielsen, Mickey Arthur and Darren Lehmann before Langer's arrival, Siddle said the difference in styles was noticeable. The word most often used to describe Langer was again used when Siddle pondered the approach of Langer to a job he had first applied for as far back as 2011 - intensity.

"He's very intense. I think people could understand the way he went about the game when he played, how switched on and how hard he worked," Siddle said. "I think we probably get a good understanding that's how he's coaching regime's going to be. It started off like that, which is enjoyable. He knows his plans, knows the way he wants the team to go and I think the boys are getting a good feel for that over these first couple of days.

"I've had a few coaches over my time in the role as a player, but it's always fresh when a new coach, a new person comes in, their personality and they way they want to coach and lead the team. It always gives a good vibe around the group and with the younger guys here also it's been enjoyable."

One area in which this adaptation is being attempted in a more rigorous fashion than before is in the calling up of a pair of Indian spin bowlers through the network of the spin consultant Sridharan Sriram - the legspinner Pardeep Sahu and the left-arm wristspinner KK Jiyas. This pair have been hired as part of an effort to simulate the offerings of Yasir Shah, who so confounded the Australians in the UAE in 2014, and Shadab Khan. Siddle noted this was a step up in preparation from what he had experienced on past tours.

"I think in the past we've come into series, worked hard on spin but not specifically on what they're bowling, the deliveries they bowl and the cues to watch as a batter," Siddle said. "We've been lucky enough to get a couple of guys come in that are very good spin bowlers. I think the big focus is they've got two star legspinners, Yasir Shah who we've played before, a great player, and Shadab Khan, who's been playing and we expect to line up.

"So we've got a contest against those two guys, and having good discussions about different deliveries, what to watch, I think it's been good for us tailenders as well to hear from different batters, the way they go about it, the way they watch the ball. It's nice to hear from them and it gives us something to work on when we get in the nets. I definitely think it's helped me personally and the other guys have definitely learned a lot from it."

Pakistan have struggled for traction in the concurrent Asia Cup being played in Dubai, but Siddle noted that the extra volume of cricket being played in the stadium will likely have a flow-on effect for the sort of pitch prepared for the Test match starting on October 7. Namely, it will be likely to take spin earlier in the game than its 2014 equivalent.

"The Dubai wicket has had a lot of cricket played on it throughout this Asia Cup, so you can see the whole square's being used a lot more," Siddle said. "So I think the previous series when we came here, the wicket was a bit flatter, a bit more slate, so it took a few days to actually break up, but this series it looks like it's going to break up a lot earlier so spin is going to play a part.

"I think for me it's going to be similar to what I do in Australia, it's about holding up an end, building pressure and trying to put the batsmen under a lot of pressure to generate those wickets. I don't think my plan changes a hell of a lot from different conditions. But probably more so here it's about hitting the stumps, making them play a lot more and having the fielders in the right positions."

As for whether Siddle's presence and experience will be useful in ensuring the Australian team does not let behavioural and cultural issues get out of hand in the UAE, despite the hot sun and unrelenting conditions, the 33-year-old is hopeful that the lessons of past tours will come in handy. "It's hard to say," he said. "Emotions come out in games and different things happen throughout matches, which you react to.

"Hopefully just being around the group and just giving a bit of knowledge about conditions. I've played in the subcontinent a lot, I've played here once before, and it's just about talking about those experiences. I got to play under some great guys on my first ever Test tour [in India in 2008], Haydos and Punter and Brett Lee, guys like that who've played a lot of cricket.

"I've taken a lot of knowledge from them and hopefully I can pass a bit of that to these guys and watch them go forward. I think these days the boys have played a lot in the subcontinent, even the younger guys, so they've been exposed to those conditions, which is exciting. They're not coming in here in an unknown world not knowing anything, so the young guys are preparing very well in the nets at the moment."