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January 4, 2013

Sri Lanka in Australia 2012-13

Cowan's 7.3 seconds of pain

Jarrod Kimber
A dejected Ed Cowan after being run out for 4, Australia v Sri Lanka, 3rd Test, Sydney, 2nd day, January 4, 2013
Ed Cowan's run-out for 4 involved several schoolboy errors  © Getty Images
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In 7.3 seconds at the SCG, Ed Cowan went from intelligent cricketer and author to a cricketing dunce.

Cowan's a man who can read, and understand books. He likes the West Wing. Quotes from Charles Darwin. And he pressed keys on a laptop to make an actual book appear.

That brain has served him well in cricket.

Cowan also works really hard. There are several more talented batsmen playing in Shield cricket who would be where Cowan is if they had his work ethic and desire.

This combination has been used to plan, implement and refine a career that really should have been over in his mid-20s. Anyone who bought his book will know the effort he puts into his cricket, whether in training and preparing, and just how much time he spends analysing himself. And over analysing. He wasn't suddenly picked because of a mass of talent, but rather working hard, and thinking more critically about himself as a cricketer than most people can, or would feel comfortable doing.

Sometimes, by his own admission, his brain gets the best of him.

There are times during his more onerous innings when he almost stops batting. You can see it in his face, or, if you are at the ground, sense it via the scoreboard. He'll bat himself into some depressing cave of doubt, and suddenly the smile happy Ed is replaced by a Cowan face of intense worry and too many thoughts. Instead of playing each ball as it comes, you can almost see him trying to second-guess what the bowler is thinking. He becomes Mr Theory, and his progress, and the team's, slows down as he bats against himself.

You get the feeling on occasion that he actually has to tell himself to stop thinking too much. It's why Brett Geeves once referred to him as the Woody Allen of cricket. Which is unfair, and untrue, he's much more Jim Jarmusch.

At the moment he is using his brain to overcome his problem of slightly over balancing when playing the straightening ball. It's a common flaw in even the best left-handers. He's spent hours with coaches and analysts to make sure he isn't an LBW candidate for a canny seamer.

Thinking and working, that's what has made a New South Wales reject an Australian opener. It's also those things that have made Cowan a hit with many fans and writers in spite of being a turgid plodder in these slap happy T20 times.

To win over any Australian fans the way Cowan plays is a big achievement. Australians don't do defensive-minded batsmen. I've never been at an Australian cricket game where someone didn't shout "get on with it" at least once an hour with at least one expletive added in. And I've often felt a brain used outside of cricket is often a superfluous requirement in Australian cricket.

The reason Cowan is in the side is because he's the opening batsman Australia need right now. The batting line-up, even when it had six proper batsmen and legends in certain positions, has been misfiring since 2009. Batsmen who are prone to waft outside off stump or plant their foot in a macho style, were simply not getting the job done when it was needed.

In this current squad Phil Hughes is, according to the selectors, not mentally strong enough to take on the South Africans. Despite a decent current average, David Warner's technique and temperament style will mean many cheap outs. Wade is an unpolished street fighter. Michael Clarke's magic super voodoo form may not last forever. Mike Hussey is no more. It's possible that Shane Watson's Test career is over. And Usman Khawaja may not be a top-order player, or even an Australian player.

So Cowan is needed.

But Australia don't need a batsman who is stuck averaging in the mid-30s. Not even ones who can bat on grassy knolls and survive cracked up fifth day wickets.

His sins, in what should have been two simple runs, include:

A yawn of a back up. Running the first one at skipping pace. A vision impaired treacle turn. Hesitating like Satchel Paige. Not screaming "no" like he saw a wolfman.

That is a lot of mistakes to cram into less than ten seconds. And every easy cover drive, or ball clipped off the pads from Hughes and Warner would make those seconds on rotation in Cowan's head.

If Ed Cowan goes on to be the Test player he and the Australian team believe he can be, this is just a funny chapter in his unghosted autobiography "Op Ed - tales of a hirsute leaver". If not, it'll be a far darker introspective chapter full of self-loathing.

The selectors believe Ed Cowan is their man, and Cowan believes it too, but he is a man who has to be at the top of his game at all times just to survive at Test level. He can't afford too many more 7.3 seconds of lazy stupidity.

Cowan knows that. And his batting diary probably says something similar.

Jarrod Kimber is 50% of the Two Chucks, and the mind responsible for cricketwithballs.com

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© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by Mike on (January 5, 2013, 1:33 GMT)

Yep...well summed up. It was just a terrible bit of lazy running. I can't really work out why he was so detached from what was happening around him. He looked like one the ten year olds I coach that have a tendency to daydream. You'd think he'd be very aware that has to get all the details of his game absolutely spot on in order to keep up with the more naturally gifted players. It's a pity he can't pass on some of his grey matter (which perhaps causes him to think too much at times) to "Glitch" Johnson - somebody who needs to be able to think a bit more!

Posted by Paul Spencer on (January 4, 2013, 23:18 GMT)

I'm always rooting for Ed after he tweeted me back, on the eve of his test debut, to say thanks for reading his book! Couldn't believe it..Looking forward to seeing him in England at the top of the order.

Posted by usama waleed on (January 4, 2013, 21:23 GMT)

I think cowan is the best choice opener for test he should work hard and focous on his high aim and on his batting.He can make a batsman like mike hussey or like mike beavan

Posted by auscricfan10 on (January 4, 2013, 19:59 GMT)

Great Article. Not a word wrong in my opinion. Keep up the good work Kimber.

Posted by Ajay on (January 4, 2013, 17:08 GMT)

Australia is going to lose 4-0 against India. their top order has been brittle for quite sometime (saved only by Clarke and Hussey). With Hussey gone, they are not going to score more than 200 in any innings. And their bowlers will not be able to do anything on dead Indian pitches.

Waiting for the revenge series.

Posted by sk12 on (January 4, 2013, 14:58 GMT)

And he was carrying his gloves in his hands instead of wearing them, or atleast dropping them during the critical second run.

Posted by Frank on (January 4, 2013, 14:38 GMT)

There are always at two people involved, but just in this series Cowan has been run out, Warner has been run out and Hughes has been run out ... and by yards! All credit to spectacular fielding, but often that is not what generates the run out.

As a player and a coach, there are 3 simple rules: Rule 1: the striker of the ball in front of the wicket calls, and the non-striker calls when the ball goes behind the wicket. Rule 2: there are only two three calls: Yes/No/Wait. None of this "Hang on mate," "Wait on," "OK, mate" ... just yes/no/wait. Third rule: do not watch the ball when the call belongs to your partner - just respond to his call (Hughes was pathetic in Melbourne). None of this is happening, and - surprise - our Test cricketers looks worse than school boys and girls. Does the batting coach know those three rules? Do the players know them?

Frank.

Posted by Luke on (January 4, 2013, 12:12 GMT)

Very nice analysis, pretty much sums the guy up. I wish more people in Australia could get over our inherent anti intellectualism and give the guy the respect his hard work deserves. Then again, get enough centuries and Australians will like you no matter what. But yeah, saw the wicket fall and just knew he had been thinking too much again.

Posted by Tumba on (January 4, 2013, 9:50 GMT)

Personally I saw the run out as an encouraging sign that Ed is starting to relax at the crease. There he was reading a magazine at the non striker's end when he was called through. He took the time to mark his place, roll up the mag and tuck it under his arm before sauntering to the other end. Once there he politely enquirer after the keeper's health, adjusted his box then turned and came back. Part way back he paused to stamp some mud off his spikes then meandered onwards. When he saw that one of the Sri Lankan chappies had a chance of throwing down his wicket he took the gentleman's option and allowed him to do so without putting him under undue pressure thereby building up his confidence for the future. No stress no bother.

Posted by Stephen on (January 4, 2013, 8:20 GMT)

Great article, Jarrod - will you bring up Cowan with his mate Gideon in your next podcast? The issue needs to be discussed. If we want an opener who averages in the 30s we may as well go with Watson.

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