West Indies v Australia, 3rd Test, Roseau, 3rd day

Cowan urges critics to look beyond scoreboard

Daniel Brettig at Windsor Park

April 25, 2012

Comments: 54 | Text size: A | A

Ed Cowan addresses his team-mates at Australia's Anzac Day ceremony, West Indies v Australia, 3rd Test, Roseau, 3rd day, April 25, 2012
Ed Cowan had addressed his team-mates before the day's play as part of the side's Anzac Day ceremony © Brooks La Touche photography
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Players/Officials: Ed Cowan
Series/Tournaments: Australia tour of West Indies

Ed Cowan has argued that critics of his and Ricky Ponting's contributions to Australia's Test series in the West Indies are not looking far enough beyond the skeletal facts of the scoreboard. All of Australia's top seven batsmen have fought battles within themselves to find effective ways of scoring runs in the Caribbean on a series of slow pitches often aiding spin, and Cowan argued that their collective efforts were worthy of more praise than derision.

On day three of the Dominica Test, Cowan and Ponting made 55 and 57 respectively, pushing the visitors lead to 310 with four second-innings wickets in hand on a surface offering generous turn and sharp bounce to West Indies' spin bowler Shane Shillingford. Their contributions meant that every member of the Australia Test team for the series had offered at least one performance of note, though there will be more than six months of speculation about the batting order between now and Australia's next Test, which is in Brisbane against South Africa.

"I try not to read too much of it [the criticism] but if you're in the Australian cricket team and you're not consistently getting big scores, of course you are going to be under pressure. You don't need to be a genius to work that out," Cowan said. "The only disappointing aspect is I think you guys here on the ground would appreciate how hard batting has been through the series but people [in Australia], because of the time zone, probably haven't watched a lot of cricket.

"They click on a link to see the score in the morning and they go '28, oh … Ponting 30, these guys are struggling'. Well, it's bloody hard work and you need to see the ball spitting and turning the way it is to appreciate that. And if you're just judging people's from by looking at the scorecard, then you're not doing the game full justice. I'm satisfied to overcome that hurdle of the mid-20s, a nothing score, to get a 50 on what is a challenging wicket.

"I was saying in the change-room when Ricky got his 50 that every one of the top seven has got a fifty on tour. It means we're contributing. As I just alluded to, 50 on a wicket like that can be as good as a hundred. Sure the runs don't show on the scorebook but over 300 to chase is a hell of a lot of runs. The contributions from the guys, they haven't been huge admittedly, which provides a little bit of ammunition if you're looking for it, but at the same time it has provided scores that are putting pressure on them [West Indies] to respond. As we've seen they're really heavily reliant on Shiv [Chanderpaul] to perform. He's probably due not to. We're confident we've got heaps of runs on the board already."

In less than a year, Cowan has gone from a state batsman who sees very little of Ponting outside of watching him bat on television to becoming a regular batting partner for the former Australia captain with both Tasmania and Australia. He said their relationship as batting partners had developed strongly in that time.

"I really love batting with Ricky. I feel, maybe because we are both playing for the same domestic team, there's the same kindred spirit there," Cowan said. "He's been a huge help to me, because I feel like the other guy really cares what I'm doing at my end and that's how really good partnerships and bonds and batting friendships can develop. That's developing, I probably need to stop trying to run him out occasionally, but so far, so good."

The spirit of kinship between all of Australia's players was enhanced before play by a brief Anzac Day ceremony in which Cowan spoke of the sacrifice made by the nation's soldiers in past wars, before the wicketkeeper Matthew Wade recited the Ode of Remembrance. Cowan said the address had tried to give the team some idea of how grateful they should be not to have to live with the painful uncertainty brought by times of war.

"It was an awesome honour to present an Anzac Day address to the Australian cricket team. That was a thrill in itself," he said. "What I did say was how important the day was for our generation, having not lived through a war and not been crippled by that fear of not knowing if your mates or your brother or your son's going to return, and how thankful we need to be for those who did live through that.

"Then I recounted a quick story of a guy called Stan Bisset, who was on the 1939 Wallabies [rugby] tour before he led a battalion up the Kokoda trail [in Papua New Guinea] three years later, and told a story of what I thought was extreme loyalty and mateship he showed to his men, and how grateful we should be that we aren't faced with the same choice of having to risk our own lives to save those of our mates."

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here

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Posted by hyclass on (April 29, 2012, 3:02 GMT)

A Test match lasts for a maximum of 5 days. It is only necessary that the best 11 men to win on that day take the field. The endless theorising over technique,carrying players,batting combinations & experience vs inexperience have proved pointless. Ultimately,the only measure of a player is his record over time. There hasnt been a need for the Test team to endure poor form. In the last 3 years,Rogers,David Hussey and Brad Hodge have watched their Tests aspirations expunged,despite peerless records. In their place has been a steady procession of mediocre players,such as Cowan,under-performing experienced players who then had no ready replacements if the afore-mentioned were ignored,public excuses and hyped media conferences of self promotion. Despite Argus,nothing of value has changed.The selections policies remain obstuse and mediocrity the dish de jour. Until there is a return to the time honoured selection practices,integrity of process and accountability,mediocrity will rule the day

Posted by BillyCC on (April 28, 2012, 22:03 GMT)

@RightArmEverything, I agree, Hussey is not the long-term answer. I brought him up because it could disrupt the English attack for the Ashes. A Hussey-Warner short term opening partnership does have some appeal given the types of players that they are. Also agree with you that the top six each have their own problems. My ideal batting lineup in terms of style mirrors the great Australian side of the previous decade: 2 batsman with authority and power (Hayden, Gilchrist), 2 technically correct (Langer, Martyn), 2 dashers (Hussey, Clarke) and 1 who could perform all roles when required (Ponting). At various times during the decade, Katich, Lehmann, Symonds, Love subbed in as required. In this current batting lineup, the problem is that Ponting has lost his ability to cover all the roles, Watson has the ability to cover all roles but has too much responsibility and we are missing the technically correct batsman. Given my view of Cowan, he is the player who is not fulfilling his role.

Posted by RightArmEverything on (April 27, 2012, 23:26 GMT)

@Meety, totally agree with you on Argus review re room for selectors intuition, my comment was because I think someone on here was using the review to argue that Cowan should not be in the team. Can't see Katich getting back in the side. Although he never deserved to be dropped, the ill feeling between him and Clarke would be bad for the team and I think that's overlooked when people ask for Katich's recall. Not sure Watson is the answer to No.3 yet either, although he passed 50 more times than anyone on this tour I think, but unlike the rest of the time was unable to convert to 100. Maybe Clarke at No.3, given his recent form before this tour? But then will Watson be better down the order? Don't want to push Ponting lower so Watson would have to bat at 5 or 6. In short, I think it will just take time for the them to work out the best batting combination and order, and for now I think the current lineup is worth persevering with.

Posted by RightArmEverything on (April 27, 2012, 23:16 GMT)

@BillyCC, agree that Hussey could open and I think he was the obvious choice ahead of Watson all those years ago in England, as he had opened before. But Watson did a reasonable job and I agree with Meety that Hussey is not the longer term answer now. I think it's important to find two openers who can form a partnership over a number of years. Hussey may well stick around longer than people expect and I hope he does, but the fact is at his age if he loses form and is dropped he probably won't get back in. On Cowan not converting 50s to 100s and not turning over strike enough, I think he's being singled out for criticism when none of the top 6 were able to get a 100 on this tour and they all found it difficult to score at the rate they are used to. Interested in the other young guys you mentioned but haven't seen a lot of them. Chris Rogers did write a good article on here recently about flaws in batting technique and specifically mentioned Khawaja.

Posted by BillyCC on (April 27, 2012, 14:20 GMT)

@Meety, yep forgot about Katich, but then again, I have the feeling he is in the "never to be selected again" basket. Otherwise, he shouldn't have been dropped in the first place. I feel that Hussey would be a young 38 and might still have something to offer in the top order, whereas you feel that guys like Ponting and Tendulkar are old 38s. The key is to get the dynamic right with Warner whom the selectors are banking on as one long-term solution and a potential captain. Cowan has not been the answer. Because of the player that he is, those starts that he has must be converted into hundreds; fifties are just not good enough.

Posted by D-Train on (April 27, 2012, 14:01 GMT)

@LewisEdwards - Khawaja averaged 28.80 this season. How exactly does that make him the most solid batsman in Australia?

Actually Cowan does have a lot om him. A proven fantastic domestic record within the last 12-18 months. Where as Khawaja has struggled in nearly every competition and every format he has played in since he made his debut for Australia. @Meety - Cooper has only played one or two Intercontinential Cup matches. His double century came in the Sheffield Shield.

Posted by Meety on (April 27, 2012, 11:07 GMT)

@RightArmEverything - I'd be happy for the selectors to show a bit of faith with Cowan, as I think he has limited exposure around the cricketing world. I think there was a tour of Pakistan with & A side, & some minor counties in England. The problem for Cowan is, that there are no domineering batsmen in the top 3 atm. I think Warner will score runs soon, but Watto is just treading water. If old Punter had wound back the clock to about 2006 & was batting @ #3, I think there'd be no question to leave him (Cowan) in the side. As far as the Ashes are concerned, I think the home test series will make the waters a bit clearer. On the Argus report - it also allows for hunches/intuition. So I'm happy for them to back someone who may not standout on stats, just can't have a team full of them. @D-Train - just on "...if that's all he is offering.." - he has really developed well in the bat pad position, which is worth something. How much though i dunno!

Posted by Meety on (April 27, 2012, 10:55 GMT)

@BillyCC - cool with the short/mid/long term strategies in theory, however, I really do think that Hussey is not an option as an opener unless an injury occured during a match. By the time the Ashes rolls around he'll be 38, whilst that may not be too old for a middle order batsmen, there are very few batsmen who have lasted that late as an opener. Sunny Gavaskar retired at about 37, & that was fairly old, I think Grenidge & Haynes were closer to 40 (I think), & their powers were diminished by then. If it is short term you want, it has to be Rogers or Katich, (IMO). I like Davis, but (atm) he is a one season wonder, if he backs up last summer next season - he would be straight into calculations. Maddinson has gone backwards, Burns I think is the real deal, (just needs a good start to the summer to confirm it), Khawaja needs to read S Waughs autobiography & I still have ? mark over Cooper as his stats are inflated from playing in the Intercontinental.

Posted by BillyCC on (April 27, 2012, 8:20 GMT)

@RightArmEverything, I have a long-term strategy and a short-term strategy. Neither would involve Cowan. The short-term strategy is to regain the Ashes, in which case, I would move Hussey (whom I prefer over Watson) to open alongside Warner. Warner is a matchwinner but he is inconsistent, in which case you need Hussey there to give him the strike if he's on fire, or Hussey to stay and convert starts into hundreds (why I prefer Hussey over Watson). Cowan does neither very well. There are other changes I would make to the batting lineup but you only asked about the openers. The long term strategy is to regain and stay at number one for a number of years but not necessarily regain the Ashes. In which case, you would choose someone young now (which Cowan is not) and establish themselves. Hughes had his chance but guys like Maddinson, Burns, Khawaja, Davis, and Cooper could well be given the nod in the coming year and they all have age on their side.

Posted by RightArmEverything on (April 27, 2012, 4:53 GMT)

@BillyCC, who would be your choice to replace Cowan as opener? He was one of the most in-form openers at the time that he was selected. Selection based on form/merit was a key point of the Argus review, for those who continue to harp on about that. I think the selectors are doing a good job currently. So far Cowan has not performed much better or worse than others in the top 6. Each has got starts and each has one half century on this tour without capitalising. At the moment I'm not sure anyone else is going to do a better job as opener (that is nobody that is young enough to stick around for a few years, given the selectors' longer term view).

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Daniel Brettig Assistant editor Daniel Brettig had been a journalist for eight years when he joined ESPNcricinfo, but his fascination with cricket dates back to the early 1990s, when his dad helped him sneak into the family lounge room to watch the end of day-night World Series matches well past bedtime. Unapologetically passionate about indie music and the South Australian Redbacks, Daniel's chief cricketing achievement was to dismiss Wisden Almanack editor Lawrence Booth in the 2010 Ashes press match in Perth - a rare Australian victory that summer.
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