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January 9, 2014
There was no Fred Astaire but a certain ginger Rogers kept the crowd entertained with some sharp dance moves at Australia's Ashes celebrations in Sydney on Wednesday. But while Chris Rogers might have become an unlikely cult figure with his fleet feet, his late arrival at the public reception did not go unnoticed by the coach Darren Lehmann, who has brought a sense of fun to the squad while ensuring they are aware of their responsibilities.
"He has given me a bit of a slap on the wrist," Rogers said in Melbourne on Thursday. "If you do the crime you've got to do the time and fair enough, I do apologise for being late. Fantastic for so many people to turn up so it probably wasn't the best, and that's why I probably had to get up on the dance-floor ... [The punishment was] just a fine. We're keeping it in-house and I think that's the way to go."
Few members of Australia's squad had more reason to celebrate the 5-0 clean sweep than Rogers, who 18 months ago was a one-Test wonder on the verge of losing his state contract. At 36, he is now an Ashes winner, the No.12 Test batsman in the world according to the ICC rankings, and David Warner's opening partner for the foreseeable future.
In the short term, that means next month's Test tour to South Africa, a country that Rogers has never so much as visited let alone played in. But the timing of the tour creates a dilemma for the Victoria batsman, who will be parachuted into the South Australian second XI for a match in Sydney later this month purely so he will have some sort of cricket behind him when he flies to South Africa.
Rogers is the only member of Australia's Test team who is part of neither the ODI squad to take on England nor a Big Bash League outfit, leaving him to spend January relaxing. Last summer, Rogers played for the Sydney Thunder, who on Wednesday recorded their 18th consecutive loss, but his style of play was insufficient to attract any BBL offers this season.
"I got cut by the Thunder. If you get cut by the Thunder, you're probably struggling," Rogers said with a wry smile. "I guess I wanted to take this time off anyway, but Twenty20 - I don't know how people do it, to be honest. I'm probably best watching it on TV.
"I don't think the Vics [second XI] have got a game so Pat Howard and Darren Lehmann are just making sure there's a few of us who get cricket, for the right reasons. I look forward to that, and getting to know a few new team-mates."
Rogers will at least fly to South Africa with strong recent Test form behind him. Not only did he score centuries in the final two Ashes Tests in Melbourne and Sydney - he described the SCG innings as "as well as I have ever played" - he finished the summer as the leading scorer from either team across the ten home-and-away Ashes Tests over the past six months.
"Peter Siddle told me that at the end of day two in Sydney and I couldn't believe it," Rogers said. "With the amount of quality there is in both sides in the batting order, to be on top was an exceptional achievement, something I'm really proud of.
"I keep surprising myself I think. I keep thinking the body is going to fall away but it's still going okay and this is the cream on my career. I'm enjoying every moment and don't want to give it up just yet."
Rogers knows that facing Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel and Vernon Philander in their home conditions will be a very different task, but he is equally aware that if he succeeds against them he can hold his head high.
"I've faced a few of these guys before and I know they're as good as anyone in the world," Rogers said. "It's another huge challenge. Facing Anderson and Broad has been something that has been so enjoyable. Hopefully I can do well and set the boys up well in the next series ... If I can do well against these guys then I can say I've done well against the best in the world."
Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets hereFeeds: Brydon Coverdale
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Shorter tours don't allow you time to get into form, and domestic cricket isn't demanding enough