Rogers a sign of changed times
Chris Rogers complained of a headache the morning after his blow to the head, but had felt worse. Peter Brukner had certainly seen worse, including when Rogers himself was struck in the back of the helmet when fielding close to the bat at the Gabba last year. Michael Clarke and Darren Lehmann want to choose their best XI, and for the past 19 matches that has included Rogers as the steady, calming presence at the top of the order.
On Monday morning before training at Windsor Park, these four men debated Rogers' availability for the first West Indies Test in Dominica. It was a lengthy and at times animated exchange, with plenty of arm waving evident from a distance. The final result had Rogers ruled out of the match due to signs of concussion after the impact from a local net bowler that momentarily stunned him on Sunday.
Once upon a time, this dialogue would have gone another way. As the player protested his readiness, the coach and captain would have allowed him to continue batting in the nets and let him take his place in the side unless there was major evidence of trouble. The advice of the team doctor - or physio in earlier years - would have been just that.
In the extreme case of Justin Langer, he fought through repeated blows to the helmet until 2006, when a particularly sickening hit from Makhaya Ntini in Johannesburg left him badly shaken and set him on the road to retirement within a year. Nevertheless, in the second innings Langer was physically blocked from leaving the dressing room in his batting gear by the captain Ricky Ponting and team manager Steve Bernard, as Australia stuttered through a nervy fourth innings chase.
Now, however, all must live in a post-Phillip Hughes world, where the protection of the head and the region around it is given far greater attention due to the unimaginable events of last summer. Brukner, of course, had flown instantly from Melbourne to Sydney upon word of Hughes' injury reaching him, and stood ashen-faced alongside the family as they dealt with the pain of a loss that will forever influence thinking about the dangers inherent in the game.
"I think there's probably a few players that wouldn't have played as many Test matches as they did if that was the case long ago," Clarke said of changing times. "But, I think there's obviously a lot of research done by the experts in all sports. You know, it is spoken about a lot - certainly when I spent some time at home before coming here - in the AFL and in the rugby league in particular.
"There's been a lot spoken about with concussion and as hard as it is on Chris, I think credit needs to go to Peter Brukner, our team doctor. He's an expert in this field and he believes Chris has those symptoms and it wouldn't be smart form him to take the field. So, look, I always want to win, I always love seeing Australian cricket have success. But at the end of the day I'd rather see the health and safety of the individual come first and foremost, and in this case that's exactly what we're doing and I think it's a really smart decision."
The smartness or rightness of the decision will be of only scant solace to Rogers, who finds himself out of the Test team at the outset of dual tours that have been billed well in advance as his final cricketing lap of the world. Ruled out for medical reasons is not the same as being dropped, but now the opportunity passes on to others, likely Shaun Marsh and Adam Voges, to seal their places in the Test team. Brukner said that Rogers tried to talk him around "as they do", and Clarke placed himself in the opener's shoes.
"Oh, look, I think Chris is exactly like me," he said. "He wants to play, as I want him to play, but he also understands and respects that there is a lot more to it than just walking back out onto the field and playing again, as I'm sure the doc would have said, if he gets hit again who knows what the consequences are, and I don't think anybody wants to see that happen for the sake of missing one game. You know, that's the way it is."
In some ways, it appeared as though Rogers knew he was in trouble from the moment of the ball after he was hit. He had shrugged off the blow in the nets, as is traditional, but a wild haymaker at the next delivery drew a self-recriminatory scythe at the stumps. Rogers has been so prolific for so long it can be easy to forget there is a fragility to him common to all batsmen, and whether he appreciates it or not, some time to take stock before returning in Jamaica may not be a bad thing.
Meanwhile, Australia will try to go on without him in Dominica, much as West Indies will battle without their own left-handed limpet Shivnarine Chanderpaul. They will do so because they never again wish to feel the way they felt on November 25, 2014, a day that ensures no doctor's opinion will ever be taken lightly.
Asked about this episode in light of that one, Nathan Lyon conveyed its scarring by saying very little at all. "You know the answer to that," he said. "So I don't really need to go into that over here, sorry." Australia never want to go back there, and so Rogers must sit out this match.
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig