Rogers opts for coaching rather than press box as new career unfolds
By CONRAD SUTCLIFFE
A CRICKET journey that started out in the sandhills at North Devon is taking former Australia Test batsman Chris Rogers in a new direction.
Rogers was just 18 when he arrived at Instow in the Spring of 1996, an eager young batsman with a handful of appearances for Australia under-19s to his name.
Three seasons with North Devon CC, and a fourth with Exeter, were part of the grooming process for a career in First Class cricket.
Rogers had a long career on the First Class circuit, mainly in the UK but also with Western Australia, and won 25 Test caps for his country.
Rogers finished his playing career with Somerset last summer, skippering the side to second place in the County Championship. He retied at the end of the season with more than 500 professional games in all formats against his name.
As a trained journalist – he worked on the Shropshire Star while playing in the Midlands – a career in the media would have been an obvious choice.
Press boxes and studios are full of ex-players, very few of whom have a grounding in journalism.
Rogers is happy to dabble in commentary for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation from time to time, but isn’t planning on a career in punditry. He has some interesting reasons.
Instead, Rogers wants to immerse himself in coaching and put something back into the game that has given him so much.
He has been attached to Somerset as batting coach for the first half of the season, but has a few week off coming up to work with Australia A in South Africa.
Then it is back to Taunton to see out the season and plan the next stage of his new career.
“I have been in the press box and done commentary and just don’t get the same buzz from it,” said Rogers.
“Part of me doesn’t want to be the one passing judgement on players, many of whom I have played with or against.
“The expectation is you will say something controversial. That’s not for me.
“I would rather channel my energies into doing something constructive and leave it to others to pass judgement.”
Rogers said cricket can breed self-centred players who think too much of themselves and not enough of the team. He didn’t come out of that mould and wants to share his approach with young cricketers making their way in the game.
“I have seen it in teams I have played in and never understood it,” said Rogers.
“Why wouldn’t you want to help your team-mates be the best they can?”
Cricket has come a long way since Rogers experienced crash-bang-wallop cricket Instow style in the North Devon Cup more than 20 years ago.
The memory of playing 20-over cricket in the North Devon Cup remains vivid even now.
“There was one game we played against Hatherleigh when Arnie Searle kept hitting Colin Payne for six – and Colin kept blaming the batsman,” said Rogers.
“Colin swung the ball, but Arnie knew that and kept coming down the wicket to him before the ball moved round much.”
Twenty20 was a club pastime in those days, but not anymore. The pro game has embraced it with a passion and Rogers sees its influences throughout the modern game.
“Twenty20 has changed the skills of players who now have to play 360-degree cricket,” said Rogers.
“Batsman have to play shots which didn’t exist 20 years ago and learn to manoeuvre the field around.”
Rogers clearly relishes the challenge of coaching 21st century cricketers and isn’t afraid to move with the times either.
In one area he is a little old-fashioned though: he wants to get a proper grounding in coaching first.
“I would like to be a head coach one day, probably in the UK as there are more opportunities over here,” said Rogers.
“I have been glad of the opportunity Somerset have given me and really enjoyed working with the second team lads. There is a lot of talent there.
“You can learn the mechanics of coaching by doing badges and courses, but there is more to it than that.
“You have to learn how to be a coach, how to manage situation, how to tell someone they have been cut, and that is not the same thing at all.”
Rogers had no idea when he rocked up at North Devon CC all those years ago where his career was going to take him.
“I never imagined I would play Test cricket for Australia back then,” he said.
Rogers has achieved a huge amount since moving on, but Instow cricket ground and the people he met there will always have a special place in his affections.
“It was my finishing school,” said Rogers. “I had never been to a cricket academy or anything like that. I learned many lessons in cricket and life from my time at North Devon.
“Whatever I have achieved, I owe a lot to North Devon CC.”