Sport Cricket Why plucky Chris Rogers is an inspiration to us all

Why plucky Chris Rogers is an inspiration to us all

Chris Rogers
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Chris Rogers’ celebration after scoring his maiden Test century said it all.

The then-35-year-old – who played one Test for Australia in 2008 but was banished for more than five years – must have thought his international career was over.

But the retirements of Ricky Ponting and Mike Hussey left Australia short on experience and, backed up by more than 20,000 first-class runs, Rogers won a surprise recall for the Ashes tour of England in 2013.

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Four Tests into the tour, Rogers knuckled down in tough conditions against England in Durham, showing all of his experience and know-how in the conditions to move to 96.

He would face 19 more deliveries without adding to his score, as Graeme Swann ramped up the pressure, with Rogers twice spooning deliveries close to fielders on the leg-side, while he also played and missed outside off-stump.

Rogers brings up his first Test century with a sweep. Photo: Getty
Chris Rogers brings up his first Test century with a sweep. Photo: Getty

The tension around Chester-le-Street was palpable.

The Australian team stood on the balcony waiting to celebrate, nervously waiting, knowing how much the milestone would mean to the nuggety opener. Shane Watson then fell for 68 and the light began to fade, only adding to the drama.

So when Rogers, from the 227th delivery he faced, swept hard at Swann and saw the ball crash into the rope for four, he could have been excused for the most exuberant of celebrations.

Imagine the relief he felt, scoring his first Test ton at an age when many cricketers have already retired, in the ultimate story of perseverance and persistence?

But there was no leap to the sky. No run towards the dressing room. No carrying on.

Rogers simply patted his bat down at the non-striker’s end, walked towards partner Brad Haddin, took off his helmet and raised his bat.

After all, he had already made 60 first-class hundreds. He was just happy to be there.

Rogers is not flashy and makes no apologies for it. There’s no fancy haircut, big endorsement deals or IPL contracts.

He’s just a tough, hard, uncomplicated and very good cricketer. And that’s how they celebrate.

Monday’s announcement that Rogers expects to end his Test career after the Ashes was his strongest hint at retirement yet.

He has made similar comments previously, so it’s not a huge surprise, but there had been speculation he may play on and call it quits after a home summer.

“I think to go out in the Ashes and in England, where I’ve played a lot of cricket, is pretty fitting,” Rogers told Fox Sports.

“There’s a trip to Bangladesh (in October) so I don’t think I’ll make that one.

“I’m very happy and very fortunate to have this second go at it and I’ve loved every moment of it. But time calls on everyone and I think it’s nearly up for me.”

Darren Lehmann has made plenty of good decisions since becoming coach of Australia but recalling Rogers must be one of the best.

Lehmann, experienced in English cricket after a successful stint with Yorkshire, knew Rogers’ knowledge of the conditions – garnered in county stints with Derbyshire, Leicestershire, Northamptonshire and Middlesex – would come in handy.

A second-innings 50 in the first Test at Trent Bridge gave him the confidence that he belonged – Rogers made four and 15 in his 2008 appearance – and although he failed at Lord’s, a classy 84 at Old Trafford inspired his Durham century. There have been three hundreds and nine fifties since, including six in a row against India last summer.

Crucially, he has given Australia the reliable opener they needed to partner the explosive David Warner. Warner has gone from strength-to-strength since uniting with Rogers, with the veteran giving him the licence to play freely and take the game on.

The opener was characteristically understated in his celebration. Photo: Getty
The opener was characteristically understated in his celebration. Photo: Getty

They are like chalk and cheese but are Australia’s best opening pair since Matthew Hayden and Justin Langer.

It has not all been smooth sailing for Rogers, who will turn 38 in August. A poor series against Pakistan in the Middle East was followed by a failure in the first Test against India in Adelaide last year.

At his age, two bad Tests in a row gets people talking.

Ed Cowan, who also played for Australia in the 2013 Ashes Tour, was banging the door down for selection with hundred after hundred in the Sheffield Shield.

But after fighting so long for a second chance, Rogers was not about to give it away. So he did what he does best. Fight. Two fifties in Brisbane set the tone for an excellent end to the India series.

If Sachin Tendulkar is the Little Master, Chris Rogers is the Little Battler.

And you can expect that form to continue in the West Indies, and then England. Rogers is set for a big tour as Australia try and win the Ashes on foreign soil for the first time since 2001.

Concerns already exist about a mass exodus within the Australian team but if Rogers departs after England, and Haddin hangs on until the end of the home summer, their replacements can be eased in.

With Michael Clarke, Shane Watson, Ryan Harris and Mitchell Johnson all nearer to the end of their careers than the beginning, it is a situation that needs to be well managed by Australia staff.

Rogers must pinch himself when he hears cricket fans talk worriedly about his Test retirement. It is surely a scenario he thought would never arise.

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