India in Australia 2011-12 December 21, 2011

Cowan thanks Roebuck with runs

Ed Cowan reflects that he has been scoring runs out of gratitude to Peter Roebuck, who coached him at Sydney's Cranbrook School then mentored him in the years since
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Ed Cowan started making runs this summer the day his mentor, Peter Roebuck, died. In the afterglow of his call-up for the Boxing Day Test, he still does not know exactly why.

A little more than five weeks ago, Cowan was about to go out to bat for Tasmania against South Australia in a domestic limited-overs fixture in Burnie. A pair of text messages, hinting at bad news about Roebuck, flashed across his phone. Choosing not to pursue the matter immediately but knowing something was wrong, Cowan walked to the middle and made an unbeaten 91 to help the Tigers establish a score they would defend.

On his return to the dressing room, the world had been informed of Roebuck's death, and it was a solemn Cowan who took the field for SA's chase. Since that day, Cowan has been scoring runs with such unstoppable volume as to win a place in Australia's Test side to face India. He now reflects that he has been doing it out of gratitude to Roebuck, who coached him at Sydney's Cranbrook School then mentored him in the years since, as much as anything else.

"I assumed he was sick, or put myself into a state where it wasn't the worst case scenario, and then I came off at lunch and heard the news. It was then a tough couple of hours in the field to say the least," Cowan told ESPNcricinfo. "I felt like I was playing pretty well at the start of the season without results and really needed to keep the faith that the results would come if I keep preparing well.

"Sometimes it is a trigger event, just that moment of inspiration that can lift you from hitting the ball well and getting starts to really kicking on, and I guess the passing of Peter probably did that. I've certainly thought about that as well.

"That week I was really heavily focused on performing well, not that you are any other way, but it was an added incentive as a 'thank you' I guess, for his kindness towards me over all the years. That did kick things off, the day he passed away was the day I got 91 not out in Burnie and really kick-started my season."

A run of subsequent scores has vaulted Cowan over numerous other suitors for a place in the Test team, and he said the experience gained across a state career that began in 2003 had taught him about how tightly he had to hang on to the habit of scoring runs once he had found it.

"It may be an experience thing, but I have learned that when you do start scoring runs it is such a habit that it is important to make sure that habit sticks for more than just one innings," he said. "That's the difference between good players and really good players, consistency. Everyone can have their day out, but to try to make yourself that kind of run machine that can churn them out when you are in good form is a really important attribute.

"I'm a big believer, not just in Test cricket but at any level of cricket, in picking guys when they're in form, because confidence in cricket can be hard to come by, but once you have it, it is such a valuable commodity. So it is so important to let guys play when they are playing well. I'm in that fortunate position, so in terms of the bat and ball contest come Boxing Day, if I play, I feel really confident that I can contribute."

Cowan's mind is among the most erudite in Australian cricket, but he sought the refuge of cod psychology in the days leading up to his selection in the Test team. Reasoning he would do better for the CA Chairman's XI against India without the weight of expectation, Cowan told himself that Shane Watson was a certainty to play on Boxing Day. Thus unencumbered, he stroked an attractive 109 in Canberra to more or less seal his place.

"I think that was partly my attitude to just ensuring there was no pressure," he said. "I was taking the pressure off myself going into this game and even yesterday, I felt really relaxed batting as though it was just a free hit, a game against the Indians and there was only upside for me, and scoring runs was that.

"It is hard, when people are talking and Twitter's going crazy and people are telling you should be in the team. That was the way I was doing it to distract myself, talking myself into the idea that Shane Watson was going to be fit."

Instead, Cowan will be batting with David Warner, who was his opening partner for Australia A in the tour game against New Zealand in Brisbane before the first Test of the home summer. Their union would appear perfectly complementary.

"Particularly with the form he's in, it is a case of letting him try to face as many balls as possible, which suits my game of trying to sneak my way up the other end," Cowan said. "People are saying it is reminiscent of [Mark] Taylor and [Michael] Slater, and it is that kind of opening partnership of a bit of a stodge and a guy who can really light up any session of a game. So, in that sense, I think we are pretty complementary."

The Australia dressing-room is also a place where Cowan will provide a useful counterpoint, as a debutant who has spent nearly a decade across two states sorting out his best methods for success and happiness, in life as well as cricket.

"When I first started I was probably a boy and I've, over the years, become a young man, so it has been a learning experience," he said. "The great thing about cricket is you do share change-rooms with different personalities and people with different interests. Hopefully I can bring a different perspective into the Australian change-room. The older you get, the more comfortable you get in your own skin, so I'm sure they can be very accepting with me and I can reciprocate that."

Roebuck would have expected nothing less.

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • POSTED BY on | December 23, 2011, 14:22 GMT

    good to see there rewarding inform players.f its a green top then i would play 4 quicks, Lyons will play a big part this tour, all out pace on a green top. as much as people saying Watson is a fantastic opener but i find it disappointing that he cant convert good starts to a 100+ score more often, defiantly be in my top 4, i feel the aussies will score heavily this test.

  • POSTED BY Simoc on | December 23, 2011, 6:59 GMT

    The reason everyone assumes he will play, skott, is because he has been named to play and Marsh and Christian will compete for the other position. Marsh would be the hottest bet in town. Looking forward to the series. India don't seem to have had the preparation of the professional English team that played here last year. If their bowlers are as good as the English bowlers they will win. Looking forward to day one.

  • POSTED BY pepsi_challenge on | December 23, 2011, 4:47 GMT

    What do some people want from they're cricketers? John-Price and Brian Clifford both want cricketers to have speech writers with them at all times! I know Ed well and he is probably being 100% honest in his replies to the questions given... He could just spout out the same cliches that every other player churns out...

  • POSTED BY jonesy2 on | December 22, 2011, 13:04 GMT

    with cowan warner and marsh aus have the most in form top order going round!

  • POSTED BY on | December 22, 2011, 12:33 GMT

    @Skott - You don't need an all rounder. You need four good bowlers and a batting line-up that can capitalise on the sub-standard Indian attack. You can bat India out of the game these days, it's 2011, not 2004. England didn't have an all-rounder. They had three very good bowlers and six very good batsmen.

  • POSTED BY on | December 22, 2011, 11:39 GMT

    Interesting article, though I'm a bit disappointed with his slipping into "Cricket Australia" speak at times. Hopefully his international career doesn't stop him being an interesting and eloquent writer/speaker on the game.

  • POSTED BY John-Price on | December 22, 2011, 10:01 GMT

    Why can't Australian cricketers manage to complete an interview with using the word 'probably' for no reason at all? I'm sure Roebuck could have told us.

  • POSTED BY Skott on | December 22, 2011, 8:30 GMT

    Everyone seems to be assuming Cowan will play. What if they open with Marsh (if fit) and bring in Christian? I think we need the all rounder, so Cowan might be out of luck.

  • POSTED BY Trapper439 on | December 22, 2011, 5:26 GMT

    I've only just made the connection that he's in fact the same guy who's been writing a few (rather good) articles lately. If he indeed makes his Test debut it will be fascinating to read what he has to say about it.

  • POSTED BY jonesy2 on | December 22, 2011, 5:24 GMT

    that 109 will double come the boxing day test against india's bowlers

  • POSTED BY on | December 23, 2011, 14:22 GMT

    good to see there rewarding inform players.f its a green top then i would play 4 quicks, Lyons will play a big part this tour, all out pace on a green top. as much as people saying Watson is a fantastic opener but i find it disappointing that he cant convert good starts to a 100+ score more often, defiantly be in my top 4, i feel the aussies will score heavily this test.

  • POSTED BY Simoc on | December 23, 2011, 6:59 GMT

    The reason everyone assumes he will play, skott, is because he has been named to play and Marsh and Christian will compete for the other position. Marsh would be the hottest bet in town. Looking forward to the series. India don't seem to have had the preparation of the professional English team that played here last year. If their bowlers are as good as the English bowlers they will win. Looking forward to day one.

  • POSTED BY pepsi_challenge on | December 23, 2011, 4:47 GMT

    What do some people want from they're cricketers? John-Price and Brian Clifford both want cricketers to have speech writers with them at all times! I know Ed well and he is probably being 100% honest in his replies to the questions given... He could just spout out the same cliches that every other player churns out...

  • POSTED BY jonesy2 on | December 22, 2011, 13:04 GMT

    with cowan warner and marsh aus have the most in form top order going round!

  • POSTED BY on | December 22, 2011, 12:33 GMT

    @Skott - You don't need an all rounder. You need four good bowlers and a batting line-up that can capitalise on the sub-standard Indian attack. You can bat India out of the game these days, it's 2011, not 2004. England didn't have an all-rounder. They had three very good bowlers and six very good batsmen.

  • POSTED BY on | December 22, 2011, 11:39 GMT

    Interesting article, though I'm a bit disappointed with his slipping into "Cricket Australia" speak at times. Hopefully his international career doesn't stop him being an interesting and eloquent writer/speaker on the game.

  • POSTED BY John-Price on | December 22, 2011, 10:01 GMT

    Why can't Australian cricketers manage to complete an interview with using the word 'probably' for no reason at all? I'm sure Roebuck could have told us.

  • POSTED BY Skott on | December 22, 2011, 8:30 GMT

    Everyone seems to be assuming Cowan will play. What if they open with Marsh (if fit) and bring in Christian? I think we need the all rounder, so Cowan might be out of luck.

  • POSTED BY Trapper439 on | December 22, 2011, 5:26 GMT

    I've only just made the connection that he's in fact the same guy who's been writing a few (rather good) articles lately. If he indeed makes his Test debut it will be fascinating to read what he has to say about it.

  • POSTED BY jonesy2 on | December 22, 2011, 5:24 GMT

    that 109 will double come the boxing day test against india's bowlers

  • POSTED BY Dravid_Pujara_Gravitas on | December 22, 2011, 4:18 GMT

    Seems to be a very down to earth person. Good luck to him. Hope he does justice to the baggy green. Our bowlers have a reputation to bring out of form batsmen into form and provide youngsters with some nice debut innings. So, Cowan should make use of our bowlers' reputation and make it count if he gets selected for the final XI.

  • POSTED BY TJ50 on | December 22, 2011, 2:24 GMT

    I don't quite follow OhhhMattyMatty's comment. Cowan didn't play any tests against England, and scored a respectable 31 and 33 for Australia A in Hobart, batting an hour and a half both times. Can you elaborate on his "poor technique" please?

  • POSTED BY Meety on | December 22, 2011, 1:05 GMT

    Can't wait for an article written by him on his Boxing Day experience, should be the article of the year!!!!

  • POSTED BY gularan on | December 21, 2011, 23:55 GMT

    Heartfelt good wishes Ed Cowan. I'm sure you will wow them on boxing day. Just imprint a picture of Peter Roebuck on your mind as u walk up to bat and Peter will do the rest from upstairs. He was a compassionate but tortured soul who always helped the underdog and the unjustly down trodden. May he achieve the ultimate bliss that he so craved for here on earth over there in valhalla.

  • POSTED BY alstar2281 on | December 21, 2011, 22:33 GMT

    I have recently finished reading Ed's Diary of a Season and it was a facinating read and has really struck a chord with me, his articles on cricinfo have also been refreshing in an era of sports people with whom one feels an interviewer would get a more enlightened response from the advertising board behind them. I will be fixed to the set on boxing day wishing him all the best!!

  • POSTED BY OhhhMattyMatty on | December 21, 2011, 19:43 GMT

    Cowan has a poor technique. England exposed him last Winter and will do so again in 2013!

  • POSTED BY trueindian on | December 21, 2011, 18:59 GMT

    Cowan is right-- You need a large heart when faced with adversity and he is in that mould now.

  • POSTED BY kapowie on | December 21, 2011, 18:37 GMT

    Well written article!! Great to see a player so comfortable with his game that he expects to add a sizable contribution to our team. Reminiscent of our fringe batsmen during the 90's. I am already anticipating Cowan will produce something special. Cant wait to crack a tinnie on the 26th and watch it all unfold. Bring it on Aussies

  • POSTED BY Juiceoftheapple on | December 21, 2011, 13:45 GMT

    Nice tribute to Roebuck, shame he couldn't see Cowan's rise to the test arena. Certainly the dogged opener seems to have been missed by Aus of late. Interstingly, if Cowan and Warner succeed this would allow Watson to go down to 5 or 6, which would perhaps be ideal considering his bowling duties.

  • POSTED BY on | December 21, 2011, 13:40 GMT

    I am really looking forward to seeing this man play. His columns are among the most fascinating - especially as it comes not from an ex-player, but someone from the front lines. Unlike other current players writing (with the notable exception of Sangakkara), Cowan doesn't delve in cliches. His column on cricketers and depression is probably the best article I've read on Cricinfo this year. I can't say I am surprised Roebuck mentored him.

    Good luck, Ed. Hope the test career is long and fruitful. Continue writing. Cricket needs voices and opinions such as yours.

  • POSTED BY plod on | December 21, 2011, 13:26 GMT

    Good Luck Ed, thoroughly deserve a go. Love the way you play the game, you will be a success if you keep believing in yourself. Get a big hundred on debut!!!

  • POSTED BY CricketMaan on | December 21, 2011, 10:49 GMT

    Man he talks lot!!! is he part time journalist elsewhere?? I can surely see him writing a book much before Mike Hussey does..I like the confidence/arrogance about his comment on Zak and Ishant on thier fitness, lack of pace and India's over dependence on these two..thumbs up for that..hope he can back his talk and not let Zak whak his stumps

  • POSTED BY Naresh28 on | December 21, 2011, 9:55 GMT

    I enjoyed reading Peter Roebucks articles. He was one of the best. Roebuck has left a big void on cricinfo and he had many fans all over the world. His death reminded me of Bob Woolmer also left the cricket world behind. Ed Cowan has dedicated his runs to someone who would be fondly remembered.

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  • POSTED BY Naresh28 on | December 21, 2011, 9:55 GMT

    I enjoyed reading Peter Roebucks articles. He was one of the best. Roebuck has left a big void on cricinfo and he had many fans all over the world. His death reminded me of Bob Woolmer also left the cricket world behind. Ed Cowan has dedicated his runs to someone who would be fondly remembered.

  • POSTED BY CricketMaan on | December 21, 2011, 10:49 GMT

    Man he talks lot!!! is he part time journalist elsewhere?? I can surely see him writing a book much before Mike Hussey does..I like the confidence/arrogance about his comment on Zak and Ishant on thier fitness, lack of pace and India's over dependence on these two..thumbs up for that..hope he can back his talk and not let Zak whak his stumps

  • POSTED BY plod on | December 21, 2011, 13:26 GMT

    Good Luck Ed, thoroughly deserve a go. Love the way you play the game, you will be a success if you keep believing in yourself. Get a big hundred on debut!!!

  • POSTED BY on | December 21, 2011, 13:40 GMT

    I am really looking forward to seeing this man play. His columns are among the most fascinating - especially as it comes not from an ex-player, but someone from the front lines. Unlike other current players writing (with the notable exception of Sangakkara), Cowan doesn't delve in cliches. His column on cricketers and depression is probably the best article I've read on Cricinfo this year. I can't say I am surprised Roebuck mentored him.

    Good luck, Ed. Hope the test career is long and fruitful. Continue writing. Cricket needs voices and opinions such as yours.

  • POSTED BY Juiceoftheapple on | December 21, 2011, 13:45 GMT

    Nice tribute to Roebuck, shame he couldn't see Cowan's rise to the test arena. Certainly the dogged opener seems to have been missed by Aus of late. Interstingly, if Cowan and Warner succeed this would allow Watson to go down to 5 or 6, which would perhaps be ideal considering his bowling duties.

  • POSTED BY kapowie on | December 21, 2011, 18:37 GMT

    Well written article!! Great to see a player so comfortable with his game that he expects to add a sizable contribution to our team. Reminiscent of our fringe batsmen during the 90's. I am already anticipating Cowan will produce something special. Cant wait to crack a tinnie on the 26th and watch it all unfold. Bring it on Aussies

  • POSTED BY trueindian on | December 21, 2011, 18:59 GMT

    Cowan is right-- You need a large heart when faced with adversity and he is in that mould now.

  • POSTED BY OhhhMattyMatty on | December 21, 2011, 19:43 GMT

    Cowan has a poor technique. England exposed him last Winter and will do so again in 2013!

  • POSTED BY alstar2281 on | December 21, 2011, 22:33 GMT

    I have recently finished reading Ed's Diary of a Season and it was a facinating read and has really struck a chord with me, his articles on cricinfo have also been refreshing in an era of sports people with whom one feels an interviewer would get a more enlightened response from the advertising board behind them. I will be fixed to the set on boxing day wishing him all the best!!

  • POSTED BY gularan on | December 21, 2011, 23:55 GMT

    Heartfelt good wishes Ed Cowan. I'm sure you will wow them on boxing day. Just imprint a picture of Peter Roebuck on your mind as u walk up to bat and Peter will do the rest from upstairs. He was a compassionate but tortured soul who always helped the underdog and the unjustly down trodden. May he achieve the ultimate bliss that he so craved for here on earth over there in valhalla.