Ed Cowan is one of our more thoughgtful professional cricketers and I love the way he is brave enough to share his innermost thoughts and fears about his job; scoring runs. I say scoring runs rather than batting as he says in his book “In the Firing Line”:
“Batting and scoring runs are two very different practices. I don’t like getting suckered into the prior during the season.”
I found it interesting to compare this article with some of his thoughts from 2011. What is clear is that he thinks deeply about his art and leaves no stone unturned in his desire to become a better player; a trait of all elite performers I would suggest. However, ‘thinking’ needs to be at the right time and we know that consciously attending to technique during the game can have a detrimental effect on peformance. Ed, like many players, knows this and has developed ways of quietening the mind. This allows him to simply trust himself to bat; as Cowan says when describing one of his better performances:
“I fell into my routines…after a while I felt in a state almost trance-like, not thinking about my hands or feet-just the ball.
In my days as a club cricketer, I was lucky enough to play against some top overseas professionals. One massive run scorer in our league for many years was the West Indian, Clayton Lambert. Lamby often used to sing while he batted, but one day was very quiet. I said to him, “Lamby, you aren’t singing today” to which he replied “No man, I only sing when I ain’t got the bowler’s rhythm; today I got his rhythm!” Oh dear, here comes another ton, I thought!!!
Ed Cowan’s journey of self-discovery is an interesting one and in his book he describes how he adapted his method as he came up against different environments, such as faster and better bowling, different pitch conditions and about trying to adapt to different game forms. What is significant is that (at least for now) Cowan’s journey of self-discovery has led back to where it all started; by adopting the technique he had as a 20-year old ‘beginner’ just breaking into shield cricket.
I started to tap the bat and pick it up only when it was required. Within ten minutes I felt like a bird released from its cage. The ball started to fly purely off the face of the willow as it is meant to – with little effort and an ease that only comes when your feet and hands are talking to each other like loving siblings.
It seems that by chance or design his natural way of playing was very much in line with the methods adopted by Australian greats of the past…
A shot of the top 15 Australian run scorers in Test and first-class cricket recently appeared on our change-room wall. The photos were taken as the bowler was in his delivery stride. All but one batsman has his bat touching the ground. Admittedly most then move their bat upwards as the ball is leaving the hand, ready to pounce.
While I strongly believe that there is no one right way to bat, standing still and ‘tapping’ has some big advantages and I would suggest coaches need to encouaraging young players to adopt this method and move away from the more limited ‘bat-up’ method that has only worked well for a few.
To finish, it is worth citing Ed Cowan’s 4-day record this season:
147, 158 v South Aust Hobart 9 Dec 2014
2 v Queensland Brisbane 25 Nov 2014
25, 40 v West Aust Hobart 16 Nov 2014
105, 13 v Victoria Hobart 8 Nov 2014
0, 100 v West Aust Perth 31 Oct 2014
Like all animals who achieve longevity in their environments, the “new” Ed seems to have adapted well to his niche.