Australia’s global reputation for flakiness with the bat in difficult conditions will be in Chris Rogers‘ sights after he was formally appointed as the man to mentor the nation’s future generations of top-order players as the new high performance coach at the National Cricket Centre in Brisbane.
Rogers, who replaces Matthew Elliott after the fellow former left-hander quit for family reasons, became synonymous with thinking his way through challenging circumstances as a batsman, with vast experience of conditions in England and Australia in particular. The 17-year drought since an Australian side last won the Ashes in the UK looms large among the nuts he and others will be trying to crack in future years.
Following his retirement from Test cricket in 2015, Rogers played one more season of county cricket as captain of Somerset, before staying on with the club as a batting coach last year. He has also worked as an assistant coach for Australia A, the Cricket Australia XI and the Australian Under-19s team at the World Cup earlier this year in New Zealand.
“We’re excited to have Chris on board, and know he will be an outstanding addition to our coaching team,” the team performance manager Pat Howard said. “Chris brings thoughtfulness, persistence and passion to the role and combines this with a strong intellect. He has a wealth of cricket experience that will be invaluable to the players he will be working with.
“He enjoyed a successful career at both international and first-class level, succeeding in Australia and overseas. From a coaching perspective, Chris has already been involved in roles with Cricket Australia’s pathways program – including as assistant coach at the recent Under 19 Cricket World Cup – and in the English County system.
“We’re looking forward to having Chris work with Australia’s next generation and watching him develop as a coach. We are confident he can have a big impact in moulding our rising stars into future international cricketers.”
Back in November 2016, after Australia’s fifth consecutive Test loss, against South Africa in Hobart, Howard had identified Rogers as a key voice in the process of rehabilitating Australian batting, particularly with a view towards dealing with the moving ball. “It needs more focus. That’s simple,” Howard said. “Chris was fantastic. You go back to what he and David Warner did at the Oval [in 2015], I think it was 14 runs off 10 overs, they read the situation really well.
“That patience and adaptability to read the situation there. I’ve really been impressed by Chris’ insights and comments, and I was before. He’s got a good insight into the game … we’ve talked to him about coming and talking to people around that, both technically and mentally, and about a year ago, he worked with our Under-19s. It’s a fair comment and something to drive some of our thinking.”
In also working as a commentator for ABC Radio, Rogers has offered his insights freely. “I think good sides always find a way to fight when they’re in trouble, and the Australian side at the moment, when they lose a few wickets, it’s just a collapse,” Rogers told ABC’s Offsiders at the time of the Hobart defeat. “All 10 wickets have fallen. We’ve seen it now two Tests in a row, I think for 86 in the first Test, and now 85 in this Test, and you don’t see that [often].
“So there’s something fundamentally wrong, I think, with the side. They’re obviously lacking confidence. There’s no doubt the talent’s there, but they just can’t find a way to fight, and that’s really disconcerting. Speaking to particularly a few of the older guys, past players, there’s a bit of a thought that maybe we should push to return to how the Sheffield Shield used to be – just pick the best sides, the best players, and see who wins. We have this system now where we’re trying to identify players and push them through.
“But we’ve been doing that for a fair while now, and it doesn’t seem to be working. The performances haven’t really been there to justify it. I think it’s about now finding that winning culture. We’ve perhaps lost that, and whether we need to find that at the level below, maybe that’s the way to go.”
While Australia have improved substantially in terms of eradicating batting collapses since 2016, there is still a tendency to lose wickets in a hurry when placed under the sort of pressure created by Kagiso Rabada in Port Elizabeth. The middle-order batsman Shaun Marsh conceded this was indeed a problem to address, both for the remainder of this series and into the future.
“We’ve come a long way. We just need to keep working hard,” Marsh said. “I think we’re all playing well. As a batting group, we just need to make sure that once we get in, we really lock ourselves in and get the hundreds we haven’t got in the first two Test matches. We’ve got a few days now to reflect and work hard, and make sure we’re out there and doing the job for the team.”