They retired from international cricket the same day, after two years as Test teammates. They were both accomplished batsman: 22,000+ runs scored across Test / first class cricket, averages of 40+ and numerous centuries and fifties to their names. They’ve both gone into the media to commentate on the game they love.
Their respective media network destinations – Clarke on Channel Nine television, and Rogers on ABC radio – give the first hint of their differences. The covers of their autobiographies, both released in late 2016, tell you even more.
A picture’s worth …?
Clarke gazes into the distance from the cover of My Story: not a hair out of place, airbrushed to perfection, sporting a classic, crisp white shirt. You can almost hear him: ‘How do I look? If it’s not “like an idol and winner”, try again!’ On Bucking the Trend, Rogers eyeballs the camera from under the peak of his batting helmet, encased in the functional kit of his gritty playing career: freckles and stubble for all to see.
Most cricket fans will have some idea already of the divergent careers of Clarke and Rogers.
Fast-tracked protege versus cricketing journeyman
Clarke spent 12 years at the top of Australian cricket, retiring at 34. One of the world’s most successful batsmen and captains, he was also heavily scrutinised throughout: condemned and criticised for his lifestyle, off-field decisions and involvement in a number of high profile team rows.
Rogers spent most of his career toiling year-round in the domestic cricket circuits of Australia and England. Despite amassing thousands of runs, he was nearly 36 before getting a meaningful chance to secure a place in Australia’s Test team and grabbing it with both hands.
No surprise then: vastly different books unfold
Clarke’s book is a plea for understanding, a defense, at times an apology. It opens with him learning of his father’s cancer diagnosis, setting up the book’s theme of how important Clarke’s family and loved ones are to him. We learn of his obsessive character, his drive, and his personal perspective on the public narrative we already know. We learn how key moments and controversies affected him; from infamous bust-ups with former teammates to the tragedy of losing a best mate to the game they both loved, it is all laid bare.
With Rogers, it is more about the life and character that most haven’t yet got to know. Opening with the relief of achieving his maiden Test century, there are many surprises to enjoy: indiscretions, run-ins with the least likely of teammates and his double century scored against Australia in a 2005 pre-Ashes tour match whilst playing for Leicestershire county. His cheeky, fun-loving character comes to the fore, one that may surprise anyone who’d previously only seen his dour, defensive batting style.
Even in the writing itself, the choices underline the men and the stories they want to tell. Clarke’s is present tense, which gives immediacy and is striking, like his best batting; but also jars at times and distracts. The more familiar past tense reflections of Rogers are comfortable and easy to read (his journalism degree proving its worth), with balance and context provided through journalist Dan Brettig’s well-researched prefaces.
In their books then, as in their batting, Clarke’s assertive, style-conscious expression contrasts with Rogers’s straight-bat restraint.
And that’s exactly as it should be: cricket needs the grafting, patient journeyman as much as it does the glamorous, dashing idol.