Can a county compete in all competitions?
Chris Rogers feels that “life has come full circle” as he settles in the south-west of England for the first time since he left Australia to pursue his cricket career as a fresh-faced 18-year-old.
Twenty years on, the Somerset captaincy might have been a challenge designed for him as Rogers seeks new inspiration following his retirement from international cricket at the end of last summer’s Ashes series.
That circle, though, has not quite been joined up. Mark Overton provided early guidance as skipper of North Devon at a time when his sons – Somerset’s fast-bowling twins Craig and Jamie – were still in nappies.
But when Rogers leads Somerset for the first time in the Championship against Durham at Chester-le-Street on Sunday the fast bowlers he expects to light up his season will be conspicuous by their absence.
Rogers was already braced for the absence of Craig Overton as he completes a two-match suspension for an alleged racist outburst and now Jamie Overton will also miss Somerset’s opening Championship match of the season against Durham at Chester-le-Street because of a slight hamstring tear suffered on a pre-season tour to Spain.
It is an unfortunate start for two quick bowlers who spent time with England’s senior squad last summer – although neither made a debut – and who Rogers expects to be at the heart of Somerset’s youthful pace attack.
Craig Overton, in particular, is regarded by Somerset’s head coach Matt Maynard as “one of the most consistent bowlers in England in the last couple of seasons” and both Maynard and Rogers will be anxious for him to achieve his international potential this summer and become potty trained as far as sledging is concerned – he fell foul of the umpires three times last season.
It all culminated in an alleged outburst to Ashar Zaidi, then at Sussex, now with Essex, to “go back to your own f******* country.” The ECB only charged him with a Level One offence after receiving reports from all parties, but his third transgression of the season brought an automatic two-match ban – a punishment immediately condemned as inadequate by Kick It Out, sport’s anti-racism pressure group.
Without the identical twins, Somerset’s pace attack will be stretched. Josh Davey, the Scotland seamer, could make his Championship debut for the county or 18-year-old Ben Green could earn a first-class debut on a ground where, especially in April, seam bowling can be expected to dominate.
Rogers is aware of the possibility that this might turn out to be his farewell season and, if so, he yearns for a happy ending. If he fulfils the prediction of Maynard, that he can develop the side “like Viv Richards” – Maynard played under Richards’ captaincy at Glamorgan – then all will be well.
“I don’t think I’ve ever been compared to Viv before,” Rogers laughed. He has built a career on dependability – cautious drives and shrewd nudges – so if he charges a fast bowler on Sunday in an effort to whack him over midwicket it could have expected consequences.
Rogers has averaged more than 50 in first-class matches at all four English counties he has represented – Derbyshire, Northants, Leicestershire and Middlesex – and if he wants a lesson in how to maintain commitment after calling time on Australia, he only needs to consider the example of the man he has replaced, Marcus Trescothick, who is beginning his 10th county summer since a stress-related illness brought his England career to a close.
His Somerset finale only became a possibility when Middlesex decided to look elsewhere. “They wanted their overseas player to be involved in T20 and my hope was to finish my career at Lord’s, so that was a bit disappointing,” he said, “but completely understandable.”
The south-west, though, is a wonderful consolation. “I came here as an 18-year-old at North Devon and had three years there and a year at Exeter,” Rogers said. “I love the south west – it is as close as you can get to Australia in the UK.
“When I got the chance to sign here it was in many ways like coming full circle. It would have been nice in many respects to finish at Middlesex but in many ways this was equally a great opportunity.
“It’s a new challenge and that is something to look forward to as an older player. Coming as a captain that is as important as anything. Our pride is on the line. So that is going to drive me. I think it is part of my make-up to want to compete all the time. I want to lead from the front not just with the captaincy but with the runs.”
David Hopps is a general editor at ESPNcricinfo @davidkhopps
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Source: ESPN Crickinfo