Byline: DAVID FACEY
ASHLEY COWAN hopes to complete an unlikely climb from the edge of the cricket scrapheap to the heights of the England fast-bowling strikeforce when the squad to tour the West Indies this winter is announced today.
Cowan's eye-catching performance for Essex at Lord's may well have propelled the 22-year-old seamer into the party, in addition to setting his team up for their crushing NatWest Trophy victory over Warwickshire.
If so, the man nicknamed Wallace after the character in Nick Park's The Wrong Trousers and A Grand Day Out, will have even more reason to thank his lucky stars that he did not heed the words of the two counties who told him he was finished as a fast bowler when he was a 16-year-old schoolboy.
A series of back injuries prompted Worcestershire and Leicestershire to advise him to give up the idea of becoming a full-time cricketer.
There was a lucrative alternative - a well-paid position in his family's successful polythene manufacturing firm in Hertfordshire. But he refused to concede defeat that easily, giving the first indication of the battling qualities that have put him on the brink of the England squad.
Cowan said: 'I played for both Worcestershire and Leicestershire Seconds as a schoolboy but neither was interested in taking on a kid with chronic back problems.
'But whenever I got a bit down, my father would turn to me and say, "What would you rather do - sit in an office all day selling polythene, or play cricket in front of a full house at Lord's?"
'He was a top amateur footballer who played in the 1965 amateur World Cup finals and maybe he's had just a tinge of regret that he never took the plunge and tried to become a professional sportsman.
'He wanted me to have that option and he has been my greatest supporter, as well as my biggest critic.' Cowan suggested he had the ability to emulate his father Jeff by developing into an outstanding footballer while studying at Framlingham College in Suffolk. …