I am proud to announce a spring release of my 51st and latest cricket book A Pictorial History of Australian Test Cricket, a 350 page hardback from Echo Publishing and the Five Mile Press.
Australia’s Player of the Series in the 2015 Ashes Chris Rogers has supplied this foreword:
Playing for Australia is a badge of honour to be cherished. I have appreciated it probably more than most as I had a second coming as a cricketer, playing 24 of my 25 Tests after turning 35.
Not only was it great for me, it was fantastic for all my friends and family, especially my parents John and Ros who nurtured my love of the game and wherever we moved always provided a tennis court for my brother David and I to muck around on.
These days they are still involved in cricket and have their very own picturesque ground in the bush, just an hour and a bit north of Melbourne.
Dad was a good player in his own right, representing St George, Don Bradman’s club and New South Wales. He even faced Wes Hall once without a box — and lived!
We were at his ground at Strath Creek for a corporate match not so long ago and Dad proudly invited us all into his cricket museum and told us stories about some of his favourite pictures and memories, from Bodyline’s Harold Larwood, to me scoring my first Test 100 at Durham with a death-or-glory sweep shot from the bowling of Graeme Swann who’d had me tied up for overs. I was getting desperate and felt I had two options for the boundary I wanted: hit him down the ground but without the size of Davey Warner’s bat or forearms it was highly likely I’d be caught, or sweep him to backward square where it was relatively fielder free. Luckily I went with Option 2, resulting in the four of my life. You can’t help but float when you have achieved something you’ve always wanted. Everyone was so relieved and happy for me, especially Mum and Dad who’d been riding every run with me.
The phone calls, texts and emails I received and all the congratulatory messages on Twitter and Facebook was just amazing. Friends from my very first club at North Devon in the UK through to school mates from Perth and teammates from the mighty Vics were all in touch. It was staggering really. And all for a cheeky little redheaded kid who had chosen cricket over tennis at 13 because he liked the team aspects more and the prospect of meeting a host of new friends.
It’s one of the reasons why I love cricket so much and why I played another year in England in 2016. You immediately work with a brace of new mates, who are just as passionate about cricket as you.
I’ve lost count of the times I have been to the UK for their summer. It must be up to 19 or even 20. It was in England in 2011 when I was told that Victoria wasn’t going to renew my contract. At the time I was 33 going on 34. They felt I had little hope of again playing Test cricket. But somehow in the following weeks, an 11th hour place opened when a teenage Ashton Agar switched states and away I went again, loving every minute of it. And this time it led to higher levels I’d always craved.
Everyone has a story to tell and I’m glad I was able to add to mine and repay some of the faith shown in me along the way, especially those like Greg Shipperd, Victoria’s long-time coach, who supported me unconditionally upon my move to Melbourne. When you have backing like that and opportunities open, anything is possible.
Along the way there are always setbacks. It’s how you react to them that can define your career. After the Lord’s Test in 2013, one of my heroes Allan Border suggested that Australia’s 9, 10 and 11 batsmen were better than the first three. Going by the stats from the first two Tests that summer he was spot on. But it really cut me up. I rang him, we chatted and he was very encouraging. And two Tests later at the Riverside Ground I got the Test 100 I’d always wanted. I know it wasn’t pretty like a Mark Waugh 100, but it meant the world to me.
As ‘Shippy’ and others always said to me, the longer I bat the harder I became to dislodge. That’s at least something I’ve got in common with ‘A.B!’
I’ve had the privilege now of sharing my story and others on the ABC during the Tests and one-dayers and also to many cricket-loving groups like the Australian Cricket Society, of which cricket addict Ken Piesse is president. The Society sends 12 and 13-year-old boys and girls on scholarships to the Elite Cricket Academy in Melbourne. I like that. It’s fast tracking we all would have loved to have had.
Like my Dad, there are no boundaries to Ken’s rare passion for cricket. You just have to take a tour of his library to know just how much he loves it. There are books, paintings, cigarette cards, photos… it’s an amazing collection.
He showed me some of the draft pages of his pictorial masterpiece and it’s truly enthralling. I love the panoramic pictures of some of the turn-of-the-century grounds like Melbourne and Adelaide with the old cycle tracks around the perimeter. And the pencil thin bats that even Victor Trumper used. He must have been an absolutely majestic player. You just wish there was more film of him.
The crowds were huge at some of those old-time Tests, just as they are now. Cricket has always been and always will be our national game and to have writers like Ken penning histories like this reminds us all of the game’s standing and enduring popularity. I hope you enjoy it as much as I have. — CHRIS ROGERS, Melbourne 2016