Swann strikes first blow in the phoney Ashes war by winding up Cowan
22:33 GMT, 27 April 2013
23:03 GMT, 27 April 2013
'title': 'Swann strikes first blow in the phoney Ashes war by winding up Cowan',
Graeme Swann appears to have won the first skirmish in the pre-Ashes phoney war by duping Ed Cowan into believing the spinner and fellow Nottinghamshire team-mate Stuart Broad have been ordered by England not to bowl to the Aussie opener in the county's nets.
Cowan, named in the 16-man Ashes squad to face England, has begun a seven Championship-match stint for Notts, played alongside Broad against Derbyshire and will link up with Swann against Durham tomorrow when the off-spinner returns after the elbow surgery that forced him to miss England's Test series in New Zealand.
Having a laugh: Stuart Broad and Graeme Swann
But Swann may have some talking to do first as Cowan seems to have fallen victim to his notorious sense of mischief.
The spinner has claimed he and Broad have been instructed by Test coach Andy Flower not to give the Aussie any chance of a sighter in the nets or in the middle, particularly as the first Ashes Test is at Nottinghamshire's Trent Bridge ground.
Discussing criticism of counties giving Aussie players the chance to acclimatise to English conditions and England bowlers using a Duke ball, Cowan said: 'I can certainly see that point, but I can also see the other side.
'The fact is that it's an Ashes year, so, sure, there is some benefit for me, but there is some benefit for Swann and Broad as they get a pretty intimate look at my batting.
'They're not allowed to bowl at me in the nets. It's a bit of a joke. We're getting on famously, but I'd have thought that knocking me over a few times in the nets might plant a few seeds…'
Asked whether he knew the source of this instruction, Cowan insisted it had come from the England management. But Notts coach Mick Newell denied any such order and revealed the whole thing was a Swann wind-up.
Cowan knows how humour can backfire, as he has still not spoken to Kevin Pietersen over the 'Puddinggate' row in the last Ashes tour Down Under.
Wound up: Ed Cowan
In his critically acclaimed diary, In The Firing Line, Cowan recounted that South African-born Pietersen could not identify the bread-and-butter he ate during lunch in England's match against Australia A in Hobart on the last Ashes tour.
When Cowan told Pietersen he should recognise the dish as it was typically English, Pietersen responded by joking: 'I'm not f***ing English. I just work there.'
The joke turned sour when the comment was used to cast doubt on Pietersen's loyalty.
Despite trying to contact Pietersen to clear the air, Cowan has still not talked to him directly and he now admits he wishes he had not included the story in his book.
'The KP thing was said as a joke and it got blown out of proportion,' said the 30-year-old. 'I was disappointed and I'm sure he wasn't thrilled. I think it was a good line all the same.'
One thing about which Cowan is deadly serious, however, is what he calls the defining moment for him and his team, the upcoming Ashes series, which, after their 4-0 defeat in India, he claims will be the making or breaking of many careers.
Cowan was among those who expressed concerns over aspects of 'team culture' to coach Mickey Arthur before the issue came to a head with three players, including vice-captain Shane Watson, dropped for failing to do their homework. Cowan knows the consequences of failure.
'I wasn't some sort of tell-tale,' he said. 'There were about six people saying: “Right, is this where our culture should be heading”
'You lose a lot of intellectual ability when players like Ricky Ponting and Mike Hussey, and even someone like Justin Langer, the batting coach, leave in pretty quick succession. It's not just batting and bowling, it's culture.
'Some things are trivial, like lateness to meetings; some aren't so trivial, like general attitudes of not going out of your way to making sure that the team is your absolute priority.
'It showed a lot of courage. It was the day the coach and captain put their heads on the block. They said: “We are going to cop some flak, but we are all in this together.”
'It was saying – if we're going to win the Ashes, we need to be solid around all these core values.
'If we lose these back-to-back Ashes series, you will see a change of personnel and management.
'But the other side is that if you can win an away Ashes series, then it is a defining moment for this team.'