The Insider

The Rogers method

The lack of a backlift restricts the Australian opener's range of strokes, especially the drive, but he has managed to use his limitations to his advantage

Aakash Chopra
Aakash Chopra
Chris Rogers bats at the nets, Trent Bridge, July 9, 2013

No backlift, no problem: playing with soft hands minimises the risk of edges carrying to the slips  •  Getty Images

Chris Rogers went deep inside the crease to chop Moeen Ali's short ball through the third-man region for a couple to reach another fifty, and with it to become the fifth batsman and the first opener to score seven consecutive Test half-centuries. Considering the number of runs (24,000, and 186 scores of 50 and above) he has scored at first-class level, his consistency shouldn't come as a surprise. But since he was so late in making it to the international scene, every landmark he achieves raises eyebrows.
While many Australians start their international careers fairly late, Rogers seems to be a little different. It won't be too off the mark to assume that a paucity of batting talent in Australia forced the selectors to look at him, for his style of play isn't really Australian. While a player like him would traditionally be rated highly in England, in Australia even his successes are received with some amount of cynicism. Even though the decline in Australian batting quality is quite apparent, their mindset hasn't changed much: they still prefer picking players who can assert themselves on the game and opposition, and more importantly can take the game forward. Rogers does neither. Instead, he plays the traditional brand of cricket that dictates leaving everything outside off if it's full and waiting for bad balls to come his way. He is the sort of player who is effective but will rarely change the flow of the game in a session or two.
Rogers' batting is built around minimising risk, and for that, minimal movement of the bat and feet. While most Australian batsmen grow up learning the importance of standing tall and cocking the wrists while taking the bat upwards in the backlift, Rogers crouches in his stance and breaks his wrists while taking the bat upwards in the backlift. In fact, the way he lifts the bat, the wrists have little role to play, for the weight of the bat is not distributed between the forearms and the wrists; in his case, it's the forearms that bear nearly all the weight.
The position of his right arm in his stance is similar to how it would be if you were cradling a baby. The advantage of this position is that the batsman can achieve the perfect pendulum movement, for the bat comes down in one direction, following the same path every time.
Like all good Test openers, Rogers has acquired a good sense of where his off stump is and takes pleasure in allowing balls to go through to the wicketkeeper
On the other hand, players with a high backlift run the risk of minor deviations in the path as they take the bat upwards and bring it down in the stroke. For Rogers, the flip side is that breaking the wrists so early means the bat does not going higher in the backlift regardless of the flight of the ball or whether he wants to play an aggressive shot or not.
In an ideal world, the bat must go higher if the bowler has flighted the ball a little more and if you want to play an aggressive shot. By doing that, you use the momentum generated in the downswing to hit the ball harder. Rogers gives himself no such luxury and depends solely on the pace provided by the bowler. It isn't surprising that his favourite areas of scoring against pace are either behind square on the off side or off his legs on the on side. He is a reluctant driver of the ball; in fact, he rarely plays the big, booming drive. His backlift (or the lack of it) dictates that he simply pushes the ball down the ground and makes peace with whatever he gets in return.
Bowling to someone like Rogers is straightforward: you must not bowl short or provide width, while bowling an off-stump line, and you must stay away from his pads. In theory, every international bowler should be able to execute this, and Rogers ought to find it difficult to score runs. But years of playing the game have made Rogers acutely aware of his own game. He knows what he's good at, and more importantly, knows what he isn't capable of doing. Since he does not play the big, booming drives, he in effect pushes balls that are really full and hittable through the off side. Like all good Test openers, he has acquired a good sense of where his off stump is, and takes pleasure in allowing balls to go through to the wicketkeeper. His near non-existent backlift means that his hands are reasonably soft on the bat handle, and that enables him to present a dead bat while defending, which means soft edges often don't carry to the slip cordon.
Rogers' batting is a throwback to an era gone by. At 37, he doesn't have too much international cricket left in him. There aren't too many of his ilk left, and we ought to enjoy him while he lasts, as he goes about using the pace to put the ball behind point and nudging it off his pads.

Former India opener Aakash Chopra is the author of Out of the Blue, an account of Rajasthan's 2010-11 Ranji Trophy victory. His website is here. @cricketaakash