From the archives, June 2013, where now with the fullness of time #2 is warranted and shall shortly follow. Please enjoy……
The ever present lens of a camera contained within any device chokes allowable time from sporting stars that are fortunate enough to fill their lives by playing in focus, under scrutiny from the masses. Away from the voracious spotlight, the fading hours available for genuine ordinariness, I am fortunate enough to be afforded a front row seat, in this case to an opening bat resurrected.
Recently during a coaching trip to the Karnataka Institute of Cricket in Bangalore with Bryce McGain, over dinner one evening we exercised our “native right” as selectors to work out the appropriate batting order for the upcoming Ashes squad as it had been announced the week before. Without being able to agree beyond the first pair, our meal finished, we retired for the evening. Over breakfast the puzzle continued. We sort of got to number four with contingencies. The impasse was abandoned as the maelstrom of India suffocated distracting thoughts with one concession. Chris Rogers had to play a conducting role.
Christopher John Llewellyn Rogers was born on August 31st 1977. More than one baggy green clad leg spinner will be gratified to learn that this birth date is shared with Jeff Hardy of the Hardy Boyz, once described by the WWE as “one of the most popular WWE champions in history”. Poles apart these two sportsmen could not be any further, image and publicity seeking notwithstanding.
A career revived at the point of 19,752 runs with 60 centuries seemed improbable since an auspicious home ground debut in January 2008, the reverberations of the “Monkeygate” affair still rumbling across the Indian Ocean.
At Toorak Park, the home of Prahran Cricket Club, the “True Blues”, we seem to have an overabundance of players with well-respected talent denied from proper opportunity. David Hussey has never been given the chance to wear the baggy green, despite the urgings of his illustrious brother. McGain was famously selected once, accidentally in a dead rubber after Marcus North fell ill following the 2nd Test where in partnership with Simon Katich they spun Australia to a series victory. You are reading correctly, they spun, collectively capturing 4-81 in the final innings. Through a fate of timing in the 2012 Big Bash League, they were all able to play together in a victorious T20 Final and share a team experience at a level lower than recent competition. However they enjoyed the win with gusto nonetheless.
At the start of each season when Chris returns to the True Blues, after the resumptive greetings from his friends, we never forget to inform the younger players that the home grounds where Chris opens the batting are the MCG and Lords. That alone would be a dream for the faithful. It has absolutely no impact upon his character or behaviour. Never at any stage have I found him anything but the most pleasant, considered and giving person in all areas of cricket. Unlike others that want to only associate with their peers, Chris is methodical and nurturing in his ministrations to lower 3rd XI batsman of keeping hands high and close using the full face.
Whenever he is not required for the Bushrangers during the week for matches, he is typically always at Toorak Park for club training on a Tuesday and Thursday. Frequently an early arrival driving his body through a punishing phase of 110 metre sprints. He does enjoy building a serious sweat in his favourite white training singlet, headphones fastened, tunes inspiring before training starts. Generally he has completed batting preparation earlier at the MCG but if conditions are fine he will partake in a net.
His usual preference though is to be allocated a small group of players from any grade and direct them through a sequence of batting drills. These we have refined over recent seasons that focus on precision placement through quality contact with the requirement to repeat, repeat and repeat from being in perfect position to strike. Balls are fed underarm at moderate pace so the batsman cannot become lazy and accomplish adequate contact from the pace of the ball. He monitors each batsman with an eye for minor adjustments to technique and offers his teaching through supportive instructions with physical demonstrations. Encouragement flows naturally for good form and gentle persuasion if not quite there yet.
Away from the training requirements he is the consummate clubman. This recent summer on a hot Saturday after a Ryobi Cup match against Queensland at the MCG that delivered a poor loss to the Bushrangers, no sooner had the post-match obligations been completed, Chris was on his way to the Prahran Annual Ball in Kew. Resplendent in one of his many stylish and sharp suits, well shined shoes impeccably groomed, he arrived at a late hour as the event was heaving. Effortlessly he became absorbed in the rhythm of the animated group and as usual was not far off dominating the dance floor. He moves with grace and liquidity with a genuine passion for the craft. Privately we muse that an invitation to participate on ”Dancing With The Stars” would be treasured nearly as much as the baggy green. Determination and technique does not purely require the Kookaburra willow or a red ball hurtled in your direction.
Now Chris has been designated as the partner of choice with Shane Watson to lead the Australian batting and return to a position where his belief has not wavered about his belonging. This unlikely and improbable pair might just be perfect in balance in discovering a delicious cohesion to keep the faithful awake long in the night.
This article was originally published on The Armchair Selector with kindness by Jeremy Irvine.