Should Ed Cowan be presented with a baggy green cap for the Boxing Day Test against India at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on Monday, he will vindicate his long-held belief of the adage: If the cap fits, wear it.

When Cowan was awarded his first NSW cap as 12th man against Tasmania in 2004, he returned it to Cricket NSW after the game, with the explanation that he hadn’t earned it as 12th man.

It was the same story two weeks later when, in bizarre circumstances, he was called up for 13th man duties for Australia against the West Indies at the SCG.

Cowan, an opener of the left-handed variety for the University First XI and a Sydney University Sports Scholarship holder at the time, was at the Test as a spectator and about to partake of his first beer for the day when he received a phone call to attend the Australian dressing rooms.

He was duly made 13th man and was called onto the ground on day four to field as a replacement for Jason Gillespie. He thus went into cricketing annals as taking the field for Australia without having played for his State.

But, as with the NSW cap, he declined to accept any Australian training gear. “Those caps and uniforms are sacred in Australian cricket,” Cowan said at the time. “For someone with aspirations to play at that level, you want to know you’ve earned the right to wear it.”

It has been a long haul and many hours at the crease since those days, but with four centuries in his past four first-class games, for Australia A and Tasmania, Australian selectors believe Cowan has now earned the right to wear the baggy green.

An economic-law graduate, Cowan and Sydney University go back a long way, indeed well before he came to the institution to study.

While attending Cranbrook School, he first arrived on campus as a 15-year-old – to play cricket – and was Sydney University Cricket Club’s first Green Shield (Under 16) captain in 1997.

Cowan achieved state and national honours in the junior ranks while at school. He knocked up 218 for NSW at the Australian Under 17 Championships in 1999 and, as a 19-year-old, he was the leading runscorer in the 2001-02 Sydney Grade competition.

He continued a long and productive association with the university and before departing for Tasmania for the 2009-10 season, he had scored 7476 runs for SUCC (including 6106 in First Grade) at a healthy average of a tad over 60. He jointly holds the First Grade highest individual score of 253 (versus Manly in 2006-07) with another Sydney University Test player, J.M. Taylor (versus Waverley 1923-24).

During 2003 he spent a term at Oxford University and scored 137 not out for British Universities in a match against the touring Zimbabweans. He was also in the SUCC team that broke a 79-year drought to win the 2002-03 Sydney Grade Cricket Association First Grade premiership. He hoisted the Belvidere Cup again in 2004-05, the same year he made his NSW debut.

Finding it difficult to nail down a permanent spot in the strong NSW side, Cowan moved to Tasmania after the 2008-09 season and it brought  immediate results. He played every Sheffield Shield match in his first season with the Tigers and scored 957 runs – including a career-best 225 – at 53.16, placing him second on the competition tally. And he backed that up during the 2010 off-season with a century for Australia A against Sri Lanka A.

But this season has been his most prodigious to date and, as the runs have flowed his reputation as a solid opener has put him firmly in the frame for national honours.

As the wearer of well-earned club and State caps, Cowan is now within sight of the baggy green, and if that cap fits  . . .