Ed of the Class

Date: December 21, 2011 / Posted by control

Ed Cowan will open the batting at the MCG on Boxing Day.

Chairman of selectors, John Inverarity has given the 29-year-old left-hander an assurance that he won’t be one of the players cut from the preliminary squad of 13 named earlier today.

His elevation to the baggy green has been a bumpy one and fascinating to follow. A New South Welshman by birth, he made his first-class debut for the Blues in January 2005, but he found it difficult to nail down a spot.

By the end of the 2008-09 season he was looking to for a new home, having played just 21 Sheffield matches in his five seasons with New South Wales. In that time he managed just 992 runs at 26.

His state of choice was Tasmania. His relocation to the Apple Isle reaped immediate success with a stellar first-up season in 2009-10, amassing 957 runs at 53 with three centuries, including a maiden double-hundred. His next season was a deal leaner – 547 runs at 34.

It left Cowan with a modest set of Sheffield Shield stats heading into this Australian summer. After 41 matches in what is regarded the toughest first-class domestic competition in the world he averaged a meagre 35 after 41 appearances.

This season however, has seen him return to the heights of two summers ago. After a slow start, he has peeled off 433 Shield runs at 54 with centuries against New South Wales and South Australia.

He has also shown a liking for the two touring countries this summer with a majestic 145 for Australia A against New Zealand and on the eve of his national call-up, 109 against India in a non-first class practice match in Canberra.

Four centuries in four matches has placed him firmly in the selectors’ sights.

He was seen to be in a two-man shoot-out with David Warner to make his debut in the first Test against New Zealand in the wake of Shane Watson’s injury.

History will indicate that Warner got the nod and celebrated his ascension by carrying his bat for 123 not out in the fateful loss in Hobart. Now, with Phil Hughes being exiled to work on his dodgy technique, Cowan has received his call-up.

Inverarity said of Cowan’s selection, “… has been in excellent form in recent weeks. His inclusion is recognition of his consistently good performances and we anticipate that he can provide steadiness at the top of the order”.

In some ways, his rise to the national side indicates how much the Australian team has slipped since its recent heady days. From his 55 first-class outings over six seasons, Cowan has an average slightly under 40.

Contrast that with the likes of Matthew Hayden, Darren Lehmann, Justin Langer, Michael Hussey and Matthew Elliott and the runs and averages they had against their names before the selectors deemed them worthy to don the baggy green, while Jamie Cox who averaged roughly the same as Cowan didn’t get a look in despite 30 Shield centuries through 19 seasons, two of which reaped in excess of 1000 runs.

Cowan is a studious man, both on and off the ground. A thoughtful individual, he has written some very insightful articles for ESPN Cricinfo’s website, covering topics as diverse as depression amongst first-class cricketers and the need for more meaningful statistics in the game.

He will no doubt apply that same thoughtful approach when he walks onto the MCG on Boxing Day with a nation craving success urging him on.