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Like Australia coach Darren Lehmann, Chris Rogers has plenty of experience in English conditions. Unlike Lehmann, he will now get to use that knowledge in the Ashes
July 1, 2013
Darren Lehmann has granted Chris Rogers the opportunity he never had. For all his success at Yorkshire, defined as much by his influence on the culture of the club as 8871 Championship runs at 68.76, Lehmann was never able to use his English expertise on an Ashes tour. Only a week into the job as Australia coach and selector, he has ensured that Rogers will.
Thrust at short notice into a position of enormous influence in Australian cricket on the eve of the Investec Ashes series, one of Lehmann's very first decisions was to inform certain key players of the roles he had identified for them against England. Among the players spoken to last week was Rogers, who alongside Shane Watson will form an opening combination that boasts a wealth of local knowledge and the capacity to take the game away from Alastair Cook's team.
While Watson is returning to the top of the order for the simple reason that it is the place he has enjoyed most success, Rogers is ideally placed to be a "batting captain" of sorts. Experience of English conditions has made him an example for all in the squad to follow, particularly when confronted with the new, swinging Dukes ball. Like Lehmann at Leeds, Rogers has excelled as a mentor at Lord's, taking on the Middlesex captaincy. He is now intent on leading the line as a Test batsman.
"The thing I try to do as a captain is lead from the front and that is the role of an opener anyway," Rogers said. "If I can do that for Australia, hopefully I can set the game up for the middle-order to play expansively and take the game away from the opposition. For that to happen we need a solid start.
"The Dukes ball is different. I think you need to get a real feel for it, particularly as an opening batsman. The ball is going to do some crazy things at times. With my experience, I can be fairly comfortable with my knowledge of that. It's still going to be a huge challenge because I think the English bowlers are exceptional. If I do well then I can be very satisfied."
Rogers said he had entered the Australia squad with similar intentions to those subsequently shown by Lehmann - providing calm, knowledge and a sense of humour at the right times. This was typified by his wry observation that even though he has only played one Test, a chaotic affair against India in Perth five years ago, Rogers has now been addressed by three Australia coaches.
"It's been interesting but I guess it's been offset by the fact that Lehmann is such a calm character, who has really set us at ease and that's helped," Rogers said. "Maybe I was a bit curious about what was going to happen, but after this last week I think everyone is quietly confident.
"I think the character I am, too, I can pass on these kinds of things. This first Test is still going to be a bit of an unknown for me and I have to deal with those things. But I do see my role as passing on some information to the young guys. I enjoy that."
State and county team-mates of Rogers know his value, opening the batting and providing a reliable link in the dressing room chain of command. James Pattinson said his fellow Victoria Bushranger was among the hardest men to dislodge from the batting crease, even if merely having a net.
"It's the tough edge that he brings to the team. He's a very hard man to dismiss in the nets," Pattinson said. "He puts great value on his wicket then will capitalise once he gets in. You know he'll go out there and score runs. He's got a great wealth of knowledge in cricket circles, he knows the conditions well and, playing with him for Victoria, around the dressing room he's fantastic. He brings that relaxed sort of approach.
"The big thing about him is that he knows his game so well and he's very good at coaching others so he'll bring that to a lot of other batsmen as well. I've noticed over the years he's spent a lot of time with the younger guys from Victoria. He'll give some great insights into batting and how to about the conditions over here."
The one question to be raised of Rogers is how his batting will stand up to the mess and noise of an Ashes series, having played so many matches in front of sparse audiences. He has prepared as best as possible.
"I was fortunate enough that the selection happened a couple of months ago," he said. "Every time I have gone out to bat I have been putting myself under as much pressure as I can, trying to lift the intensity because I remember what it was like in that first Test and it's far different to what you experience in domestic cricket."
Though the Ashes tour always did remain elusive, Lehmann's autobiography was called Worth The Wait. Should Rogers succeed, he might just start thinking about pinching that title for his own.
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets hereFeeds: Daniel Brettig
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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