The biggest question in Australian cricket right now is who will get Hussey’s spot in the middle order if the selectors finally show some bottle and sack him. The names that constantly come up are Ferguson and Khawaja.
The forgotten man in this debate, and in Australian cricket generally, is a young man by the name of Ed Cowan. Cowan was the second leading run scorer in the Pura Cup last year having scored 957 runs playing for Tasmania, at an average of just over 53.
Cowan’s pedigree is undeniable.
Having attended Cranbrook School in Sydney, he played in and dominated the Combined Associated Schools’ (CAS) first grade competition at the age of 14. At that stage he was a small, skinny boy who would not take a backward step when bowlers nearly 5 years his senior would pepper him with short pitched, hostile bowling.
In these formative years,those who knew Cowan believed that despite having grown up on the manicured grounds of the exclusive CAS competition, he had the toughness to one day pull on the baggy green.
Cowan would be somewhat of an anomaly in the recent history of Australian Cricket. Unlike in Rugby where private schools have produced a huge proportion of test rugby players – the bush has been the nursery for cricketing talent.
But the silver spoon has served this young cricketer well.
Cowan announced his arrival to the cricket world when he blasted 218 at the Australian U17 Championships in 1999. This lead to his selection in the Australian Under-19 World Cup team which played in Sri Lanka in 2000, a team which included Shane Watson, Michael Clarke, Mitchell Johnson and Nathan Hauritz.
He brought this rich vein of form to the Sydney Grade competition where at the age of 19 playing for Sydney University he was the leading run scorer in 1s grade. At this point you would have said Cowan was a moral to play test cricket by the time he was 25.
But circumstances have transpired somewhat differently.
Of his cohort from NSW, Michael Clarke was the chosen one from a very early age and then as Cowan tried to establish himself as an opener in the NSW Blues he was squeezed out by Simon Katich, who had moved from Perth and up to the opening position, Phil Jacques and another boy wonder in Phillip Hughes. Cowan also suffered a sickening injury when his big toe was all but obliterated by a sandshoe crusher at training, putting him on the sidelines for nearly a whole season.
It will be a surprise to some that Cowan has already worn the baggy green in a test match at the SCG against Pakistan in 2004-05. In bizarre circumstances, he was in the Member’s Bar settling in for a day of cricket and beers when injuries required a thirteenth man to be found.
The call went out and Cowan ended up fielding for Australia before he had even played a game for NSW. However, in deference to the baggy green, he handed his back on the basis that he had not earned it.
However, Cowan’s numbers from last season suggest what many have suspected for a long time – Cowan has the technique and psyche to play at the highest level.
That skinny boy who Peter Roebuck identified at a very early age as a “special one” is now a man ready to take his cap – if it fits this time, you can be sure he won’t be giving it back.