- The Investec Ashes 2013
Australia batsman warns side are being 'undervalued'
In the pubs and cafes of England at the present moment a somewhat mocking suggestion can be heard. It goes along the lines that unless Shikhar Dhawan somehow manages to procure an Australian passport in time for the first Ashes Test at Trent Bridge, the high water mark of the summer will arrive on Sunday when Alastair Cook's side face India in the Champions Trophy final at Edgbaston.
Such a conclusion will dent the pride of Australia's Ashes tourists as they draw closer to the official start of their trek around the country for five Tests, but it will also strengthen the one notion that gives a fragmented and modestly performed team hope that better results lie ahead. Could English observers, after witnessing a sickly start to the tour by their visitors, be about to underestimate Australia? Chris Rogers, the 35-year-old opening batsman, reckons so.
"I think we're being a little bit undervalued in many respects," Rogers said on the deck of a barge in the Thames turned into a makeshift cricket pitch to drum up ticket sales for the 2013-14 Ashes in Australia. "We've got a very good side - I've played against all these guys in the Australian side and I know the amount of talent in the squad.
"I've no doubt we can prove a lot of people wrong - if all of us play well together and find form we can shock a few people, no doubt. An Australian with his back to the wall is something to fear."
Rogers knows a thing or two about being undervalued. Ignored for years by the Australian selectors, his unobtrusive but unquestionably effective batsmanship has even been the subject of gentle ribbing from his state team-mates at home in Victoria. As the infinitely flashier and far less consistent Aaron Finch told the Age this week: "Nobody really knows how he does it because his technique is not great to look at."
Having waited so long for his chance, however, Rogers is determined that it will not be wasted, and does not bother whether his mode of batting is enjoyed by the aesthetes. As befits a man who has made more than 10,000 first-class runs on English soil, one of his great batting inspirations is watching Mark Ramprakash churn out a triple-century for Surrey against Northamptonshire, the first of Rogers' three counties.
"What stuck out for me was not the shots he played but the fact it just looked like we were never going to get him out," Rogers said. "That left a lasting impression on me - it wasn't that pleasurable at the time but amazing to watch - and I think that's important to be a top player and one who scores a lot of runs. Hopefully that's one of my strengths."
There is certainly plenty of recent evidence that Rogers has lost none of his ability to stick it out in the middle, having moved into the Australian team bubble after compiling 790 runs in eight matches as captain of Middlesex in division one.
"I've tried hard to put myself under pressure, knowing the intensity that's going to come at Trent Bridge is going to be huge," Rogers said. "So I think it's worked in my favour, and to have a few warm-up games has been good, especially scoring a few runs. I do enjoy playing over here, the conditions are a little more diverse and it helps with your game, so hopefully I've benefitted from it."
Should Rogers follow through on his promise to make this series count, the current idle pub talk about the English summer's high point will turn out to be just that.