Rogers still a chance for Ashes swansong
Chris Rogers has taken one small step towards his goal of returning to England for Australia's Ashes defence next year, in what would likely be his last series before retirement. Rogers was on Monday named in Australia's squad for the first Test against India at the Gabba, easing his immediate concerns after a disappointing series against Pakistan in the UAE.
At 37, Rogers knows that a couple of lean Tests in a row could be enough to end his career; he returned to Australia this month having scored 38, 43, 5 and 2 in the two Tests in the UAE. But 107 in his only Sheffield Shield innings since then was enough to convince the selectors that had more to offer in Test cricket, at least in the short term.
Now, the challenge for Rogers is to make sure he holds his place through the Tests at the Gabba and Adelaide Oval; remarkably, he has played 13 first-class games at each of those venues, scored 884 runs at each, and averaged 38.43 at each. After that, he could be part of his second Boxing Day Test and second New Year's Test after being part of last year's Ashes triumph.
"How amazing would that be?" Rogers said. "Melbourne and Sydney last year were probably a couple of the best weeks of my life. It would be fantastic to do [again] and if all goes well then I'll hopefully get to the Ashes and it might be a nice way to finish off."
A week after the final Ashes Test at The Oval next year Rogers will turn 38, and if he remains in the Test side there is every chance he would retire at the end of that campaign. On Monday, he also said that winning the Sheffield Shield for Victoria this summer was high on his list of goals because "maybe it is my last year in Australia playing".
With such a potentially short future ahead of him, Rogers knows that every chance must be taken, so when he returned from the UAE, Sheffield Shield runs were a necessity. However, Victoria's first game on his return was a day-night battle with the pink ball, which the colour-blind Rogers skipped.
That meant that when he arrived at Adelaide Oval for last week's Shield game against South Australia, he had just one match in which to remind the selectors of his outstanding credentials. Rogers duly scored 107, while his main rival for a place as David Warner's opening partner in the Test side, Phillip Hughes, managed 7 and 11.
"I'd like to think not but who knows what other people think," Rogers said when asked if the match felt like a head-to-head with Hughes. "It might have been the case. I know Phil is trying to kick down that door and he'll get his chance soon enough. I'm a big fan of his and hopefully a chance will open up for him soon.
"There was a few [concerns]. I haven't actually been scoring enough runs to cement my spot. It was important that I went out and scored a few runs. There was probably a few nerves about it but thankfully it happened."
Hard as it is to imagine a man with 70 first-class centuries being afflicted by nerves before a Shield game at Adelaide Oval, it was understandable given the uncertainty Rogers had regarding his Test position. However, he said that he had been in contact with injured captain Michael Clarke and received some reassurance.
"I texted Michael Clarke to say bad luck about his injury and that he wouldn't be playing," Rogers said. "He told me he would be playing and there was a good chance I'd be playing with him. At that stage I had a bit of an idea about a few things."
Rogers was the leading run scorer from either side across all 10 Ashes Tests last year and he has 36 first-class centuries in England to his name, thanks largely to his regular appearances in county cricket over a long period of time. That record makes him an appealing prospect for the 2015 Ashes tour, but selector Mark Waugh said it was not a sure thing that Rogers would be there.
"Ideally you'd like to have the same team play all year round but that's just not reality," Waugh said. "Players come in and out of form, different conditions and opposition. So there's a lot of things to weigh up, it's not just as clear cut as saying 'we want this guy for England'.
"Chris Rogers has done really well for Australia the last 12 months. Okay, in the UAE like a lot of players he didn't make a lot of runs, but he's come back in the best way possible and made a hundred in Shield cricket. That's all you ask for from players and England's a very important tour but so is this summer playing India.
"Chris is an older player, obviously, but I don't care what age you are, if you're scoring runs and you're hungry and you're fit that's all that matters in my eyes. He got a hundred last week, he scores a lot of runs, a good combination with Davey Warner at the top of the order, so I'm confident they can do the job against India."
Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @brydoncoverdale