Cowan urges critics to look beyond scoreboard
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