Chris Rogers is the right man at the right time
Date: January 24, 2014 / Posted by Glenn Mitchell
When Simon Katich failed to have his Cricket Australia contract renewed in June 2011 it signalled the end of his international career.
The 35-year-old left-hander was cast aside despite having amassed 2928 runs at 50.5 since he had returned from the wilderness in 2008.
The move came as a surprise too many, including his teammates.
Indeed, in his autobiography At the Close of Play, former skipper Ricky Ponting wrote that it was “as a dumb a non-selection as any during my time in the Australian team”.
In October 2013, CA chairman Wally Edwards admitted that the selectors had got it wrong by axing Katich in an endeavour to reinvigorate the side with youth.
Following the axing of Katich, Australia tried Shane Watson, Phil Hughes, David Warner and Ed Cowan at various times at the top of the order.
By the time the side had been humiliated in India and with the Ashes next on the agenda there were still massive concerns over the opening positions.
Cowan had been given ample time to prove that he was up to the task long term but after a run of 18 consecutive Tests he boasted just one century and an average of 31.3.
In a move that would have had Katich no doubt shaking his head the selectors decided to select Chris Rogers to open in the first Ashes encounter at Nottingham.
Rogers, having played just one previous Test, as a replacement for an injured Matthew Hayden against India at Perth in January 2008, was recalled at the age of 35 – the same age that Katich was when he was cut.
Rogers brought with him a wealth of experience – nine seasons of county cricket for 28 centuries and an average of 54.0 while in the Sheffield Shield he had posted 30 centuries and averaged 47.0.
In all he had over 20,000 first-class runs under his belt.
Rogers’ return to Test ranks was predicated on a dearth of quality and experienced openers in the Australian domestic system.
His call-up has proven to be a masterstroke as he has been the right man at the right time for Australian cricket.
Through back-to-back Ashes series he has been the most prolific batsman from either country with his ten match aggregate of 830 runs at 43.7.
He broke through for his maiden Test century (110) during the fourth Test at Chester-le-Street and closed out the home series with successive hundreds at Melbourne (116) and Sydney (119).
He has also notched up five half-centuries since his recall.
His maiden ton during the fourth Test in England was grafted out in conditions where the ball was both swinging and cutting sharply.
It was an innings that seemed to be quintessential Rogers – 250 balls and 354 minutes at the crease.
It was the knock of a seasoned pro, match hardened by hours at the crease with his 110 the backbone of his team’s total of 270.
In the second innings he fell one short of a half-century.
Born in Sydney, Rogers played his early first-class cricket for Western Australia where he was renowned as a nudger and scrapper, utilising the pace of the WACA pitch to his advantage with so many of his runs coming off his pads.
After a decade in the West, and having amassed 5524 runs at 48.4 with 17 centuries and a highest score of 279, he headed back across the Nullarbor, this time to Melbourne.
He is currently in his fifth season with the Bushrangers and after 47 matches boasts an average of 50.3.
The pitches at the WACA Ground and the MCG are polls apart and with the move east he developed other strings to his bow, most notably the cover drive.
That shot was to the fore during his twin centuries at Melbourne and Sydney.
Rogers also showed in those knocks that he could up the tempo with ease if so required – his century at the MCG came up off 135 deliveries while at Sydney he reached triple figures off 143 balls.
He has honed his skills on the pace of the WACA, the lower and slower MCG, and the various conditions presented at County level in England.
Rogers will never be a player to have the turnstiles humming.
He is not a stylist in the mould of Mark Waugh and Damien Martyn nor a powerhouse at the top of the order like David Warner.
But he gets the job done.
His recall to the Test side has proved to be the right one by the selectors who perhaps learned a valuable lesson from the Katich affair.
As Australia prepares to head to South Africa for the three-Test series against the world number one next month, Rogers shapes as a major component in the team’s plans.
The Proteas have an outstanding pace attack – Dale Steyn, Vernon Philander and Morne Morkel.
That trio will come at Australia hard.
However, beyond them there is not a great deal with Jacques Kallis having retired and no spinner of any real note.
The three Tests will be played over a period of just 21 days.
If Australia can keep South Africa in the field for extended periods the toll on its attack could be telling late in the series.
At the forefront in that endeavour will be Rogers.
He has the game to be a real thorn in the side for Graeme Smith and his men.
He will board the plane feeling an integral member of this current side.
And, having reached that point at 36 years of age, he will be keen to make every post a winner as the sun will set on his international career shortly, but hopefully not before he has played some more significant and telling innings for his country.
First published on The Roar – theroar.com.au – on 23 January 2014