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March 15, 2013
There are plenty of professional cricketers who live with their heads in the sand. Most followers of the game would argue that the well-rounded Ed Cowan is not one of them. But Cowan has forced such a mindset upon himself since becoming a Test cricketer, trying his best to ignore criticism from past players and journalists, avoiding Twitter and the often mindless condemnation that it facilitates between player and spectator. It is his self-imposed head-in-the-sand approach.
Cowan's critics have been many and varied. Ian Chappell has regularly argued for Shane Watson and David Warner to be reunited as Australia's opening pair, and Shane Warne also left Cowan out of the preferred Ashes XI he published this week. After scoring a gritty 86 from 238 deliveries against India in Mohali, a strong effort considering Australia's batting struggles in this series, Cowan was asked if he could see himself changing the mind of people like Chappell.
"I'm going to have to score a hell of a lot of runs before that happens," Cowan said. "One of the things with Test cricket is you work out pretty quickly that everyone has got an opinion, everyone is entitled to an opinion. Often it's not the same opinion as what you have. I've taken a bit of a head-in-the-sand approach in relation to guys when they pick a team and you're not in it. So be it. I've got the opportunity now and it's important for the team now that I keep playing more innings like today.
"I'm the first to put my hand up and say I haven't been good enough in terms of making sure those 50, 60-ball innings become 180, 200-ball innings. That's one area where I can really kick on and if I can turn a few more of those starts into long innings then I don't really mind what Ian Chappell has to say. But I doubt that I'll ever see myself in his team."
After Cowan scored his first Test century against South Africa at the Gabba, Chappell said he was impressed by the attacking mindset Cowan had shown at times during the innings. In India, Cowan has discovered that his best approach is to occupy time and force India's bowlers to work out other ways to get him out, and by surviving for so long in the first innings in Mohali he ensured the rest of the batsmen had something to work with.
That Australia finished the second day in another shaky position at 273 for 7 was not the fault of Cowan. He and David Warner provided Australia with a very solid platform, a 139-run opening partnership that was their second-highest in Tests. Their partnership average is now 48.07, which by Australian standards is above par for an opening pair. By comparison, David Boon and Geoff Marsh averaged 46.77, Bill Lawry and Keith Stackpole averaged 44.89 and Matthew Hayden and Justin Langer aren't that far ahead at 51.88.
Personally, Cowan still wants to see his big innings' getting even bigger. He still has only one century, but his role in Australia's team of stroke-players is that of anchor. There were plenty of jokes about Cowan's so-called homework task for the coach Mickey Arthur during the week - it would win the Nobel Peace Prize, one theory went - but the truth is his personal goals were pretty simple.
"What I said to Mickey was I want to be accountable to bat a long period of time and I put a figure on that which is between me and Mickey," Cowan said. "My personal accountability is to bat a long time. I didn't bat for as long as I would have liked but I felt I did fairly well today.
"For me, today wasn't about runs, it was about time and soaking up balls and soaking up pressure. It felt like that's what the team needed in this particular game considering what has happened the last two. At no stage did I think, I'm getting close to a hundred. I wasn't even looking at the scoreboard, I was looking at the clock on the other side of the ground saying 'c'mon mate, just get to drinks or change of bowler, get through the next break'.
"It didn't bother me that I didn't score a hundred, I was happy that I faced 238 balls. Deep down, I would have loved it to be 350 balls and if I faced that many balls I would have been a hundred. But that wasn't the focus for me. The word contentment is pretty apt in that circumstance. Up against the wall in terms of the way the series has gone, I was happy I could contribute."
Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets hereFeeds: Brydon Coverdale
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Stats highlights from the fourth ODI between India and West Indies in Dharamsala