Three decades down the line, when an amateur cricket lover would sift through the list of cricketers who represented Australia in Test Cricket, the name of a certain CJL Rogers is most likely to be overlooked. Some 20 odd Tests, a handful of centuries and an average that at best can be called decent in a career spanning 7 years is all that statistics reveal about Rogers. Nothing special. No colossal centuries like Hayden or opposition demolishing blitzes that David Warner has become for. In fact, if statistics tell anything about a cricketer, it is very much a possibility that Chris John Llewellyn Rogers will be dismissed as ‘just another cricketer’. But ‘just another cricketer’ is exactly what Rogers isn’t. He is special. His story is, and anyone who has followed cricket over the last couple of years would testify, is special. He is Cricket’s very own Cinderella Man.
Debuting against India in Perth in 2008, Rogers was introduced to the harsh reality of cricket when he was forgotten after a frugal return of 19 runs in a loss that snapped a 16 match winning streak for the Aussies. Truth be told, Rogers wasn’t even in the scheme of things and was only asked to come in as a replacement for an injured Hayden in the 11th hour. After Perth, Hayden came back in Adelaide with a ton. Australia drew. Won the series and the harshness of a single Test career was muted behind the cacophony of celebrations of a tough series victory.
That was in 2008. Cut to 2013 and to use the expression ‘things had changed’ for Australian Cricket would be an understatement. In this while, two Ashes had been surrendered and three away series in India hadn’t yielded a single victory for the Aussies. The top order looked in dire straits after it had been exposed in a 4-0 defeat against India. To make things worse, Warner was busy punching Poms instead of the red cherry. These were desperate times for Australian cricket. And as they say desperate times call for desperate measures, National selector John Inverarity made the move. Despite having four openers in the squad in Cowan, Hughes, Watson and Warner, Inverarity shocked Aussie fans by picking a 36 year old bespectacled southpaw piling runs for Middlesex and sending him out to open in Nottingham. The rationale didn’t suffice the Aussie fans who had seen the same selectors almost forcing Michael Hussey out of Test Cricket.
But what followed since that second chance on a July morning has been nothing short of a fairytale, albeit a quiet one like the man himself. In the next 18 months, Rogers has brought to the Australian top order the assuredness and stability that had gone missing since Hayden called it a day. While Smith, Warner and Clarke have notched up the big tons around him and grabbed headlines, the left handed opener has gone about his job quietly. He has just been there, in the background. He doesn’t have a style or a trademark shot that commentators and experts rave about, but he has been there. Just been there, scoring runs. And to have done that knowing that any test can turn out to be his last is what underlines the special in Rogers’story.
At 37, every performance is scrutinized with hawkish eyes and selectors don’t wait for a long string of failures to start looking for younger replacement. But thanks to a rare drought in Australia’s reserves and the left hander’s ability to regularly score important, if not huge, scores, Rogers has managed to hang in there, exhibiting his Aussie trait of unbridled hunger in every stint at the pitch. At an age when cricketers find themselves in the comforts of their home or in the commentary box, the colour-blind left hander is busy contributing to his team’s resurgence. After having been at the receiving end of whimsical selection half a decade back, the batsman is determined to not hand them another chance to take a call on his career. Keeping up with his style of playing substantial if not big knocks, he has put together a string of fifties against India that more or less secured his berth for the Ashes in England, a tour that he has hinted might be his last international assignment.
No matter whatever numbers Rogers finishes his career with, the cricketing world would forever be grateful to him for giving them a tale that they would love narrating to their grandchildren. Just like we have heard fondly of a 41 year old Cyril Washbrook asked to leave his stint in the selection committee and go on to score 98 against Aussies, or Bob Simpson coming out of retirement to lead a Packer hit Australian side and scoring a valiant 176 in 77-78, the Chris Rogers story will live on, for it’s a story weaved around the two most fundamental ingredients of life – Hope and Determination.
Not too many cricketers retire with contentment in their hearts with a 20 odd Tests to show for their stay at the top level. Chris Rogers, though, will be an exception to this rule. He, instead, would retire a proud man, proud of scripting a comeback tale that can easily inspire a Hollywood motion picture, maybe with Russell Crowe, cousin of ex Kiwi Captains Jeff and Martin and a self proclaimed Cricket lover, in the lead and aptly titled Cricket’s Own Cinderella Man.