Chris Rogers, born on August 31, 1977, is a classic late bloomer and one who will inspire many in the years to come. Having made a return to the Test side at the age of 35, Rogers has shown that nothing is impossible. Nishad Pai Vaidya looks back at Rogers’ journey so far.
‘Better late than never’ is an overused phrase in day to day life. However, when it comes to sport, it is heartening to see tried and tested players coming good when they make a comeback against all odds. Chris Rogers’ recent performance during the Ashes 2013 was a typical Hollywood script. A man battling his fate and persevering for his big moment under the sun got there in a marquee clash. In the end, that patience was rewarded when he swept Graeme Swann on an overcast English summer’s day to get to his maiden Test century. That was the moment Rogers had waited for all his life and it came at the ripe age of 35.
Born in Sydney on August 31, 1977, cricket ran in Rogers’ blood. His father —John — played a few First-Class matches for New South Wales in the late 1960s. Rogers represented Western Australia in age groups before graduating to play for the Australia under-19s — where he featured alongside the likes of Brad Haddin and Nathan Bracken. He made his First-Class debut in 1998 against the visiting Englishmen.
Until the 2001-02 season, Rogers wasn’t a certainty in the West Australian side. However, it was to change in March 2002, when he smashed two hundreds in a Pura Cup game against South Australia. Batting in the middle order in both innings, Rogers was instrumental in taking the fight to the opposition. That settled his spot in the line-up and after two consistent seasons came his first brush with county cricket — for Derbyshire.
As Rogers was a frequent visitor in England and a prolific run-scorer in domestic cricket, breaking into the Australian team was nearly impossible. Justin Langer and Matthew Hayden were well settled at the top and were arguably the most intimidating opening partnership in the 2000s. Rogers did have his moment against them though. During the Ashes tour in 2005, Ricky Ponting’s Australians ran into their countryman during the game against Leicestershire. Rogers scored 56 and 209 in that game, the latter coming off only 219 balls. It was a statement without a doubt, but the wait had to be more patient.
The consistency kept him at the A level, but the push to the highest mark would only come later. Even when Langer retired, Australia opted for Phil Jacques as Hayden’s new partner. In early 2008, at the age of 30, Rogers’ won the baggy green when he replaced injured Hayden for the Perth Test against Australia. The beleaguered Indians, marred by controversy, fought back in that Test and stunned the Australians. Rogers had a torrid debut as he was dismissed by Irfan Pathan in both the innings. Hayden returned for the next Test and Rogers was out of the side. Many feared that was the end of his Test career.
Australia found openers in Simon Katich and Shane Watson later on, but did not turn to Rogers’s experience. In the mean time, he moved from Western Australia to Victoria for more opportunities and in hindsight, his move has paid dividends. Not only that, but he also captained Derbyshire before moving to Middlesex in 2011. Recognising his value and experience in English conditions, the Australian selectors awarded him a shock call-up for the Ashes 2013. With Ed Cowan, David Warner and Watson in the side, Rogers’s chances looked slim when the squad was announced.
However, Darren Lehmann, the coach, backed Rogers and handed him the responsibility of opening in the first Test itself. He looked confident in the second innings of the first Test, maintaining his calm and balance. However, he popped a simple chance after achieving his maiden fifty when the team needed him to carry on. The second Test at Lord’s was a nightmare. In the first essay, he was dismissed leg-before in one of the most embarrassing fashions. He missed a full toss from the off-spinner Graeme Swann, which hit him straight on the box. The umpire ruled him out, although replays suggested the ball may have gone down the leg-side. In the second innings, he let one from Swann go through. It did not turn and shattered his woodwork. Thus, during the third Test at Manchester, it seemed to be a make or break time.
Rogers’s returned a different player at Manchester in the third Test. Attack is the best form of defence they say and Rogers came out to play his shots. He sped away to his fifty and made the England bowlers think. That innings of 84 was quite quick as he kept finding the boundaries and kept the bowlers in check. It did lay down the foundation of a huge Australian total, only to see the rain play spoilsport.
But, the defining moment came during the fourth Test at Chester-le-Street. Fighting the conditions and the England bowlers, Rogers’ guts helped him survive a tricky spell. He was beaten, bruised, hit, and yet stood tall. The gritty, but ugly, approach was more than effective as he displayed his solidity and frustrated the England bowlers. As the milestone approached, a few nerves crept in, but when he swept Swann for a four to get to the three figures, there was no better feeling. Years of hard work and patience had finally paid off. At some point, he may have felt that this would never happen. But, there he was with an appreciative crowd applauding his effort. Dreams do come true after all!
Australia may have lost the Ashes 2013, 3-0, but they have certainly unearthed a few positives. Rogers is one of them and he should continue to represent them as long as he stays fit and performs. His story is one that tells you to never lose hope and keep going even if it means breaking walls for years. Ultimately, your persistence will get you through. What is in store for the 36-year-old Rogers in the near future?
Rogers has truckloads of runs at the First-Class arena and what is commendable about him is the fact that he is short-sighted and colour blind. Despite such circumstances Rogers has battled against all odds and emerged as a gutsy opening batsman.
With over 20,000 runs in First-Class cricket and 61 tons, Rogers has a lot to offer to Australian cricket.