Ashes Diary 2013-14, entry no.4: The passion of Chris Rogers

Ashes Diary 2013-14, entry no.4

The passion of Chris Rogers

As a teenager, Chris Rogers slept with a radio hidden under his pillow. He’d wait impatiently for his parents’ light to go off, before switching onto to plummy, metallic commentary from exotic sounding locations such as Middlesex, Birmingham and Yorkshire.

Puffy eyed but always willing, Chris bounced into school. He bored classmates and teachers with scores and intricate details from overnight. Maths was his favourite subject because of the numbers. His oral presentation was on the Tied Test.

His friends were like-minded souls: cricket tragics, pacman nerds, harmless fringe dwellers, offering no harm and provoking little opinion from the in-crowd. Girls weren’t really on the radar.

His favourite teacher, the bearded, old historian, sought Chris out in the yard and smiled over his glasses, offering tales of Bradman, Miller, Princess Margaret and uncovered pitches.

In line-up, Chris practised forward defence. He still does, instinctively, in the bank queue. Drives the customer in front mad. Picking up a gnarly, red bruised willow in the garage, he acknowledges the dressing room and crowd.

School reports read: ‘Chris is a lovely, polite boy, but the rest of the class doesn’t always need to know pitch conditions in Wellington’. He made the First 11 every year.

Christmas was easy – Chris received cricket gear. He painted his pads, oiled his bat and knocked the edges in with an old ball. Lunch was slow torture, but by mid-afternoon, he was patiently working snotty-nosed cousins and half-cut uncles around the backyard. Brown patches were worn into the lawn and rose bushes shredded.

When given out on a well compiled 70 by a sozzled relative to a dodgy LB in order to give others a bat, Chris gritted his teeth and walked, respecting the umpire’s decision. He took his place at mid-off, playing the ball over and over in his head. He walked in with the bowler. Chris knew his Christmas Day average going back years.

After dark, mum’s iron was used to smooth the folds in the Test Match field. He loaded the covers with fieldsmen. Boxing Day was in front of telly, but really, he preferred to be out there.

Chris tried the golf ball and stump against the wall to improve footwork, but had to concede only one player could master that. He settled for the ball in the stocking hanging from the tree. Back, forward, elbow up, straight bat. Back, roll the wrists, hit through the ball. Chin tucked behind his shoulder, never taking his eyes off it. Fielding practice was against the uneven rocky, garden wall. Hour after hour.

‘You’re obsessed,’ they told him.

On hot weekends, with mates at the beach, Chris batted all morning in the juniors. During the blazing afternoon, covered in zinc to protect his pale complexion, he stood at fine-leg for B Grade. When not required to field, he kept a neat, detailed scorebook and Drinks’ bottles full. At stumps, he headed to the nets with anyone he could drag along. Dad tooted himself crazy before Chris finally come to the car.

When I watch Chris Rogers bat, my mind often drifts to Ralph, the retired farmer who lives with wife Bev, beside my parents. When home, I often pop in, always finding Ralph in the back shed, lovingly shaping and caressing lumps of wood into furniture and toys for anyone in the south-west who needs them. Every member of my family owns furniture crafted by Ralph.

Running his fingers gently along the surface, he talks me through the piece of redwood or pine he’s working on, quietly, enthusiastically explaining its features, distinctiveness and potential. We cover all topics: life, family and everything in between.

I love our chats. There’s a tranquility about Ralph. Contentedness and wisdom, gained from experience and survival, that I try to absorb and translate to my own life.

‘You have to have a passion,’ he says.

Chris Rogers’ passion is easy to see.

 

Comments

  1. Hi Starks – great read. Particularly liked how you finished off the piece with Ralph. Hope you had a great Christmas and New Year.

    Damien

  2. Beautiful piece Andrew. A nerdy obsessive made good! One day we will conquer the world.
    The ‘Ralph’ juxtaposition at the end was touching and appropriate.
    Well played that man.

  3. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Fantastic read Andrew and as a cricket coach I LOVE to hear of a person obsessed with the great game reaching and then performing brilliantly at the highest level possible

  4. Luke Reynolds says

    Great work Andrew. So pleasing to see Rogers become the highest run scorer over the 10 Ashes Tests. Reckon you have nailed his personality.

  5. Andrew Starkie says

    CR is the classic cricket tragic. Obsessive and devoted. My favourite mental image of him is after he scored his first Test ton in England last year. He hadn’t played well and may have survived a few close calls, so instead of bouncing around like others upon reaching a milestone, he barely raised his bat out of respect for the game. Glad to see him enjoy his success at Melbourne and Sydney. Like he felt he had finally arrived.

  6. DBalassone says

    Beautiful stuff AS. Based on that piece, I hope Penguin commission you to write his biography in a few years time. Those tons by Rogers warmed the heart. Made you feel like a kid-dreamer again. And let’s not forget he would’ve made more runs in England if he hadn’t copped some woeful decisions early on in the series. I have to pay you some credit: I recall you were crying out for his reinstatement a few years back on these very almanac pages. The bloke I feel sorry for now is that other Western Australia come Victorian – David Hussey. Unorthodox, but surely that man should have played Test cricket for Australia.

  7. E.regnans says

    We urgently need to bring this thread back today.
    The UK Guardian runs the headline: “Chris Rogers performs heroically in Middlesex’s victoru over Yorkshire”.
    The below is lifted from The Guardian’s Chris Stocks’ report from Lord’s:

    It was always going to take something remarkable for Chris Rogers to better the contribution he made during Australia’s Ashes whitewash last winter but the 36-year-old opener did just that with a sparkling double century to inspire Middlesex to the third-highest successful run chase in County Championship history.

    Rogers scored two hundreds during the 5-0 annihilation of England. However, he believes his unbeaten 241 at Lord’s on Wednesday, an innings that underpinned Middlesex’s pursuit of 472 against Yorkshire, was the finest innings of his career.

    “Yes, I think so,” he said. “To play like that in a fourth innings and get a win, that doesn’t happen every day. It’s the kind of thing you dream about as a cricketer.”

    Angus Fraser, the Middlesex director of cricket and an England selector, concurred. “I’ve seen special innings from Desmond Haynes, Mike Gatting, Mark Ramprakash and Jacques Kallis, but I don’t think I’ve seen anything to better that,” he said. “I’m numb, to be honest. It’s a big statement but I think that’s one of the great Middlesex performances I’ve ever seen. It’s a game supporters will be talking about in decades’ time.”

    Middlesex, whose 502 for six against Nottinghamshire at Trent Bridge in 1925 is still the record Championship run chase, had started the final day 242 runs short of victory on 230 for one. Rogers, on 122, was always going to be the key. Yet his mastery of a Yorkshire attack who had dismissed Middlesex for 123 two days’ previously was total.

    This knock, Rogers’ highest for Middlesex, is just the latest instalment of an astonishing renaissance in the twilight of his career. Called up for last summer’s Ashes in England, his performances in a losing cause during that series – including a maiden Test hundred at Chester-le-Street – led to him being honoured as one of Wisden’s five cricketers of the year last month.

    What happened in the winter, with those hundreds in Melbourne and Sydney, was vindication of a selection by Australia criticised by many as an act of desperation when it was made last summer.

    The bad news for England is Rogers, seemingly getting better with every passing month, believes he has one last Ashes series in him. “It’s funny. People believe you get to your mid-thirties and it’s almost time to call it a day but I keep surprising myself with my body and my enjoyment. Who knows? I’m hoping to get to the Ashes here next year. That would be an amazing way to finish.”

  8. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Thanks OBP Rogers like , Lehmann should have played far more test cricket nothing against , Cowans but , Rogers a far superior player

  9. A stunning performance from C Rogers.
    It must be sensational playing all your home games at Lords’.

  10. Andrew Starkie says

    A great sporting story that keeps going.

  11. Overnight, yer man finished with a century in each innings.
    For Somerset.

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