"It has always felt like there's always been someone else who has come in to take that available spot, whether it's a Katich or a Cowan or a Hughes. There's always been someone else. It all comes down to opportunity and it would be nice to have had more than one Test to show people that I can play," said Chris Rogers in an interview with ESPNCricinfo in 2013. Little was he to know that he would be provided the opportunity within a fortnight of the interview.
At that stage, Rogers looked all set to join the list of one cap wonders. He was first picked for Australia when they were ranked number one in the world. He was picked for the Perth test against India in 2008 after Phil Jaques was ruled out with an injury. However, twin failures in the test and Jaques’ return to fitness ensured that he was jettisoned after one test, seemingly for good at that point in time.
In fact, Rogers voiced concerns of being delisted from the Victoria state team at the end of the 2011-12 domestic season where he was regularly dropped from the state’s List A team. The Perth test in 2008 was a microcosm of Rogers’ career till his recall in 2013, as he continued to pile the runs in domestic cricket but it was always someone else – be it Simon Katich, Ed Cowan, Phil Jaques or Shane Watson – who was picked ahead of him.
The Perth test came in the aftermath of the infamous Sydney test which was witness to the Monkeygate incident. The brouhaha around the test ensured that Rogers’ debut got very little attention. Since he was already 30 at that point, it did not look like he would play another test.
However, Rogers continued to be a prolific scorer in the County Championship as well, a fact that played a crucial role in him being recalled for the 2013 Ashes in England. Australia had suffered a whitewash in India and team culture was at its nadir after the Homeworkgate incident. Hence, it was felt that a couple of wise old heads in Brad Haddin and Rogers would help the team.
After being picked in the squad, Rogers scored a double century for Middlesex against a strong Sussex attack to ensure selection for the 1st Ashes test at Trent Bridge, with his then opening partner Shane Watson likening his nugget approach to batting to Simon Katich, the opening partner Watson had the most success with. Rogers’ entry was facilitated by David Warner being banned for throwing a punch at Joe Root in a nightclub.
Rogers went on to have an extremely successful partnership at the top with Warner, who displaced Watson from the spot on his return from suspension. Warner and Rogers added 2053 runs in 41 innings at an average of 51.32. Only three other pairs have added more runs for Australia at the top.
Rogers could be termed as an Ashes specialist, as he played 15 of his 25 tests in the Ashes. He enjoyed the theatre of the big stage, averaging 48.51 in Ashes cricket with 4 hundreds, in contrast to his career average of 42.87 with only 1 hundred not against England. He was an equally good player home as well as away, averaging 44.95 at home and 44.69 away.
Rogers also scored a double century for Leicestershire against the visiting Australian team in 2005, where he got a lot of lip from Matthew Hayden, who asked him to get out for the advantage of his fellow countrymen.
The 2015 Ashes was always likely to be a curtain call for Rogers, as he approached the age of 38, and was laid low by a concussion on the tour of the West Indies prior to the Ashes after being hit on the helmet while batting in the nets. He retired hurt again in the second test at Lord’s after suffering from a spell of dizziness and his participation was in doubt again. However, he was Australia’s most consistent batsman in the series and was able to go out on his own terms, unlike Michael Clarke, who became a shadow of the player he once was.
Rogers, who scored 480 runs in the series with a 100 and three 50’s, was second only to Steven Smith on the run chart, and topped the list of averages with a healthy 60. He played a vital role in both of Australia’s wins, scoring a century at Lord’s and putting on a hundred plus opening partnership in the last test at the Oval. The only possible criticism of Rogers would be his poor conversion rate in test cricket as he only converted 5 of his 19 fifty plus scores into hundreds.
However, his lasting legacy would be restoring calm at the top of the order after a period of turmoil, and bringing the best out of his partner, the maverick David Warner.