It’s been a remarkable two years for Australian opener Ed Cowan, whose 2011 started with a maiden publication and culminated in a maiden Test cap. Engineered in New South Wales and fine-tuned to international standards in Tasmania, the former investment bank analyst talks Vithushan Ehantharajah through his batting dossier, therapeutic cleansing and the impact of Aussie media attention.
Is it strange having your book In The Firing Line out there – one where you’re so open and honest – while you’re still playing?
A little bit, I guess, but that was always the big fear writing the book. It did disturb me a bit at first but people realise it’s just a book. I don’t think they have prejudgments about me after reading it. Most people that have spoken to me about it feel that it’s a pretty good summary of who I am. Peter Roebuck said to me after writing his diary that, looking back, he was never that same person. Every year in cricket you learn, have new experiences and go through your various stages, and it’s contained in that season. The next season is different and I was probably a different person; maybe more relaxed because I didn’t have to keep a diary. I’m quite an analytical guy, but having to go home every day and write the diary really wore me down – the next season I went out and just played cricket without having to think about it. I don’t think the diary sums me up as a person, but just in that one season.
Would you have written the book had you been on the cusp of a Test spot from a young age?
That’s a good question and, to be honest, I don’t know. You’re always on the cusp if you’re playing Sheffield Shield cricket. Plus I had played for Australia A the winter before my call-up and had done really well. The motivation for the book was to document an entire season, especially after reading Ed Smith’s diary [On and Off the Field] which I really enjoyed. I was sick of reading cricket books that were so samey. There’s so much that goes in to cricket, not just on a professional level but in Saturday club cricket. Everybody goes through the same battle. I see it more as a bit of a psychoanalytical book about a guy trying to get the best out of himself.
In the book you mention you’ve always kept batting diaries. Do you go back and consult old entries?
Absolutely. Everything I’ve written down, since my first batting diary in 2001, travels with me the whole time in a ‘batting folder’. If I’ve faced a certain bowler four or five years ago, or I’m feeling as though I’ve been through a little period before where I’m batting well or not – for whatever reasons – then I can reference it and see how I came out of it or kept going. Keeping a diary was a way to clear my mind but to also have this collective knowledge bank that I can turn to, when required.
Self-doubt features heavily in the book but these bouts are almost immediately followed by cathartic, almost clinical moments of clarity. It seems like a contradiction in mindsets…
I think that part of it is that therapeutic cleanse that all batsmen go through in order to become a better player. Ricky Ponting dwells on his last dismissal for six seconds and then moves on, but there are guys who play for Tasmania who are in and out of the team and then analyse and dwell on things for two or three weeks and miss their next opportunity. I try to just be in that middle ground and take the good with the bad, which I’ve found I’ve been able to do over the last couple of years by moving on from the bad days and not getting too excited about the good ones.
So it’s something you’ve had to work out?
Definitely, but that’s the game; getting older and experiencing things more often so that it seems more normal. You’ve got to do it well for a long period of time and how you find ways of doing that will be different from everyone else’s. People call it ‘cricketing experience’ – it’s just hours of understanding your game, what works against different bowlers in different conditions and putting it into practice. The usual tale is a young guy comes in with no fear, plays beautifully and then has to deal with failure. They go into the wilderness for a few years, then come back when they know what works for them, consistently. I guess I’m at that point of my career.
Cowan has found the media attention the biggest adjustment required in international cricket
Michael Clarke said he has no intention of reading your book. Was that a surprise?
I’ve known him for a long time and I guess he probably thinks he knows me well enough. Also, he’s not really a guy who reads cricket books; whether it’s mine or Don Bradman’s. It’s just not his thing. I know Mickey Arthur and John Inverarity took the book as an opportunity to learn a bit about me as neither of them knew me when I got into the team and they said they really enjoyed it.
If you’d have kept a diary during 2012 what would be the overriding theme?
Learning about the ins and outs of international cricket, but not necessarily on the field. Mainly the press, the media and how that shapes public opinion, rightly or wrongly. No one cares if you miss out in domestic cricket once or twice – your record will hold up throughout the course of the season. But in international cricket, if you miss out twice everyone wants you dropped and people go crazy calling for your head. People on the street now come up to me and tell me what I’m doing wrong!