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Tiny Dandenong plays a part in visitors' downfall

india Updated: Dec 30, 2011 00:45 IST
Rohit Bhaskar
Rohit Bhaskar

The Shepley Oval is a nondescript ground in Dandenong - a tiny suburb of Melbourne. On Thursday, the venue may have worn a deserted look, yet the roar at the MCG could be heard here by one with a keen ear.

When Peter Siddle and James Pattinson were running through the India line-up, it was just their third Test together. However, it's been something they've been doing since the time they were dreamy-eyed teenagers and going through the grind of age-group and club cricket.

Learning the tricks
Growing up in Morwell, 100km from the ground, Siddle travelled 200km every day by train to learn the tricks of the trade.

"He used to commute by train, his mom and dad also drove often," Brendan McArdle, former coach of Dandenong CC, told HT in an exclusive interview.

Joining the club at 16, Siddle rose through the ranks in record time. "He went from the third team to our first team in about a month. Even when he was young, you could sense he had what it takes to be a leader. As he grew confident, he commanded more respect in the club, and was the kind of bloke, who when he talked, everyone listened," said McArdle.

After finding his footing, and eager to save on time, Siddle even moved with a family in the suburb, who were the parents of a teammate.

England connection
By the time Pattinson joined the club, when he was 15, Siddle was already a leader of sorts, having already graduated to the Sheffield Shield. There was, however, one Pattinson even Siddle bowed to - James' elder brother, Darren, who played a lone Test for England in 2008.

"They were both in awe of Darren, he had been a role model for both and played a key role in shaping their careers," recalled McArdle.

James' parents were English and moved to Australia when he was five. Having an elder brother 11 years his senior, helped the younger Pattinson find his way on the cricket field.

"James would finish playing and head straight to our ground to watch his brother play," said Dandenong CC president, Michael Findlay. Darren was honoured last year with a lifetime membership, something James or Siddle haven't got yet.

While Pattinson's bowling prowess was known, with fifers in his first two Test matches, India found out the hard way that he is a useful bat as well.

"I'm not surprised with his fine show with the bat against India. He's got a very sound defensive technique, but also has a few shots, including an elegant cover drive. During last year's Victorian Premier League (the state's club league) he batted at number 6 in the semis and final and won us the game and title. He struck 60-odd in both the matches," said McArdle. Of the over 120,000 who turned up for the first two days of the Boxing Day Test, there were 22 who were the happiest to see 'their boys' steal the limelight. "22 of our club members were at the match, and even met James and Peter after the match," said McArdle.

The two may have less time now, what with their international and state commitments, but they still make it a point to turn out for their club.