“THERE was a moment I wanted to pick up the stump and stab him.”
That’s Ed Cowan speaking about his run-in with Virat Kohli.
Does Cowan strike you as the sort of person who would want to impale the Indian captain with a stump? I didn’t think so.
Cowan is talking on our new podcast — The Stack Report — in a sprawling conversation about his career and cricket in general.
We’re marvelling at the recent series in India and I say I’ve enjoyed watching Kohli, in part because of the villain element he brings to cricket.
The sport is better when there’s a villain: Stuart Broad, Graeme Smith, Arjuna Ranatunga. It’s a flippant comment and he shifts uneasily in his seat.
Has he ever had a run-in with the Indian skipper?
Cowan is forthcoming. Maybe too honest. I can see him weigh up whether or not to tell me what he really thinks.
“I’m a huge fan of his cricket. Don’t get me wrong he’s a phenomenal cricketer,” says Cowan.
“I had a little bit of a run-in that was inappropriate when he toured Australia and the umpire had to intervene.
“We forget that English isn’t their first language. It’s very easy to sit back and say as a player they’re barking something at me that is inappropriate when we don’t try and converse with them in Hindi.
“There’s always going to be niggles around misinterpretation of what’s said and what isn’t said on the field.
“I had a very sick Mum during one of those series and he said something that was inappropriate.
“Why I make the point of ‘lost in translation’, he said something that was highly inappropriate. A personal matter that was highly sensitive. Highly inappropriate. But he didn’t realise that he’d overstepped the mark until the umpire came over and said — ‘Virat that’s overstepped the mark’ — and once that was said, he took a step back and apologised.
“But, there was a moment I wanted to pick up the stump and stab him.”
India — the place and the team — has been at the centre of much of Cowan’s most important career moments. He made his debut against them at the MCG. The last time Australia’s Test side toured the nation, Cowan was front and centre for one of the most tumultuous moments in our cricket history.
The Australian squad’s deep dysfunction was laid bare as coach Mickey Arthur sent home four players for failing to complete a team building exercise.
Some saw the move as heavy-handed, arguing that professional athletes had no right to be treated like naughty school boys. Homework-gate was a watershed moment.
“Most of the players at the time in the group thought it was appropriate,” says Cowan.
“When we sat in that room, it got told to us and I remember it vividly in Mohali there were people in tears upset. The people that had been left out, it meant so much to them they’d been left out or unavailable, it actually brought the team closer together.
“I maintain to this day that the people made the mistake, knew at that point they had made a mistake and the rest of the team knew what the standard was from there on. As it turned out, the test in Mohali was by far and away our best Test match (of that tour). So something that happened that twigged and I think if Mickey had been able to play that out a little bit longer…”