Chris Rogers remains a crucial player for the Australian Test team. After lean returns during Australia’s two-Test series against Pakistan, there have been widespread calls to replace Rogers with young opener Phil Hughes.
His 107 in the Shield against South Australia this week will have shored up Rogers’ position.
While Hughes’ claims for a Test recall are strong, there are two compelling reasons why Rogers deserves more time.
Firstly, by far Australia’s biggest Test challenge in the next two years is the Ashes tour, which starts in just over seven months. Rogers is tailor made for such a contest. Not only does he have more experience and success in English conditions than any current Australian player, he was also Australia’s top runscorer across the back-to-back Ashes
In those contests, Rogers fared extremely well against England’s pace supremos Stuart Broad and James Anderson. It was champion off spinner Graeme Swann who befuddled the veteran opener.
With Swann retired and England yet to identify a frontline spinner, they will rely heavily upon Broad and Anderson to dismantle the Aussie bowling line-up. Rogers’ history of blunting that duo would imbue confidence in not just him but those lower down the order. Australia’s hopes of retaining the Ashes will rest on their ability to minimise the impact of the new ball.
During last year’s Ashes Tests, Australia all too often found themselves teetering within the first 25 overs of their innings.
Secondly, Rogers has formed a wonderful opening partnership with Australia’s best batsman David Warner. Circumspect and orthodox in his approach, he is an ideal foil for the cavalier Warner.
Their opening stands have amounted to 1143 runs at the healthy average of 47, with five century stands from just 24 innings.
These figures are all the more impressive when you consider they have not been padded out in Tests against weak nations, but rather have come from Ashes matches, and difficult tours against South Africa and Pakistan.
Rogers could earn a Test reprieve due to the injury to Test skipper Michael Clarke. With Clarke’s hamstring potentially keeping him out of some, or even all of the four-Test series against India, it is less likely Australia would want to lose more experience by dropping Rogers.
Not to mention the fact that Hughes could then slot into the Test line-up even if Rogers remained. If Clarke does not play, the prolific South Australian would be the favourite to take Glenn Maxwell’s spot at first drop, with Shane Watson likely to replace the captain.
Rogers will turn 38 years old soon after next year’s Ashes. It seems improbable that his career will stretch far beyond that point.
Following the tour of England, Australia have its easiest run of Test for several years, with series against Bangladesh, the West Indies and New Zealand.
This represents the perfect juncture for Australia to rejuvenate their ageing side, moving on from older players like Rogers and wicketkeeper Brad Haddin (if he lasts that long).
But, first, Rogers has an important role to play as a calming influence on the bombastic Warner and as a specialist in English conditions.