First-class cricket's journeymen - From Australia's Chris Rogers to India's Wasim Jaffer

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The Test format has always remained the pinnacle of cricket through its now 143-year history and that fact looks unlikely to change any time soon despite the proliferation of the limited-overs formats in recent decades.

Nearly every player that enters the game aspires to put on the Test whites of his respective country and they go through the grind of first-class cricket in order to realise that dream. Test matches are statistically a form of the first-class format which has been the breeding ground of future stars and legends.

However, success at first-class level has not always translated to the Test arena with several prolific performers unable to handle that jump to international cricket. On the other hand, some have been ignored for Test selection despite consistently churning out the runs and wickets in first-class cricket. The occasional few have even shunned the lure of Test cricket while going on to establish legendary first-class careers.

Here, we look at some of these prolific first-class journeymen whose Test careers hasn’t quite panned out in the same way.

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Chris Rogers (Australia)

Innings: 554, Runs: 25470, Average: 49.55

Major Teams: Western Australia, Victoria, Derbyshire

‘Buck’ Rogers, as he is fondly called, made a total of 25 Test appearances for Australia with 24 of them coming after he turned 34. Even his Test debut in 2008 came at the ripe age of 30 against India in Perth. A total of just 19 runs in his two innings, meant Rogers’ international hurrah was short-lived and it was back to the first-class drawing board after his disappointing debut.

While another Australia call-up remained elusive, Rogers continued to pile on the runs in the Sheffield Shield domestically as well as the County Championship in England. The left-handed opener made his county debut in 2008 and went on to represent as many as five different outfits in England including Derbyshire and Somerset. That extensive experience in UK conditions turned out to be key to reviving Rogers’ Test career, with Australia calling him up for the 2013 Ashes series in England.

Making the most of his late chance, Rogers went on to impress in two back-to-back Ashes series and retired with five Test tons and 14 fifties to his name. He also became the second oldest player after Arthur Richardson to register a Test hundred, his experience proving crucial in steadying a Test side reeling with the retirements of Ricky Ponting and Michael Hussey.

While his Test accomplishments are certainly noteworthy, it was the first-class format that Rogers really made his own with more than 23,000 runs coming exclusively in domestic games. Not bad at all for a man who was colour blind and short-sighted to start with!

Marcus Trescothick (England)

Innings: 675, Runs: 26,234, Average: 41.05

Major Teams: Somerset

Tresco

With 76 Tests and nearly 6,000 runs to his name, Marcus Trescothick remains one of the finest opening batsmen to represent England. But while his Test career was nothing to be scoffed at, it could have been a lot better for the left-handed opener. Stress and anxiety related conditions, which developed from spending long stretches away from home on England duty cut short Trescothick’s Test career, who retired from England duty in 2008.

In fact, his last England appearance came in 2006 with his international career lasting just six years. England’s loss was Somerset’s gain with Trescothick plundering runs at will at the county level. A 27-year first-class career, which started all the way back in 1993, finished last year with the southpaw bowing out with a classy 93 for Somerset’s Second XI.

In nearly three decades of first-class cricket, Trescothick remained a one-club man for Somerset and duly had a stand at Taunton named after him. His 52 first-class tons for Somerset is a club record and he also led the side for six years after taking over from Justin Langer.

While a County Championship title remained elusive for him during his prolonged and illustrious career, Trescothick’s association with the club is cherished fondly by the fans. A domineering opening batsman, who could bully bowling attacks to the ground, Trescothick remains one of the greatest adverts for first-class cricket.

Ed Joyce (Ireland)

Innings: 419, Runs: 18461, Average: 47.95

Major Teams: Middlesex, Sussex

Coming from a family which provided five internationals (both men and women) to Ireland, Ed Joyce had one of most remarkable careers in cricket. The left-handed batsman holds the rare distinction of representing both Ireland and England in successive World Cups, turning out for the latter in 2007 before switching back to Ireland colours in 2011.

Dublin-born Joyce was a prolific run-scorer for the Men in Green in his early cricketing days before he qualified for England residency in 2005. By then, he had developed into an established batsman for Middlesex and a first England ODI cap followed soon after in 2006.

Despite scoring an ODI century against Australia at the Sydney Cricket Ground in 2007, Joyce’s England career was a short and unfulfilling one. He made his Ireland comeback in the 2011 World Cup in India and went on to enjoy an eventful seven-year stint with the country of his birth.

His move to England initially was driven out of a desire to play Test cricket but Joyce was unable to achieve that milestone. Still, he established himself as a central figure for both Middlesex and Sussex. 47 hundreds and 92 half-centuries at first-class level is a testament to Joyce’s success in the format and it was only fitting that he bowed out from the professional game with a maiden Test appearance for Ireland.

It came in Ireland’s inaugural Test against Pakistan in 2018 with Joyce scoring the first runs in the format for his country.

Brad Hodge (Australia)

Innings: 388, Runs: 17084, Average: 48.81

Major teams: Durham, Victoria

Brad Hodge

Victoria’s highest ever Sheffield Shield run-scorer (10, 474 runs) played just the six Tests for Australia in his career. Bard Hodge’s is a story which was all too common for many of Australia’s prolific domestic performers at a time when the all-conquering national team was stacked in nearly every department.

Hodge wasn’t the only one to suffer in that period with Stuart MacGill, Tom Moody and Andy Bichel some of the others not to be selected. A first-class career which began in 1993, ended in 2009 with Hodge choosing to focus on the limited-overs format in the latter half of his career.

Having turned into a white-ball specialist towards the end of his career, it is easy to forget that Hodge was one of the best first-class performers during his era. Apart from excelling for Victoria, the right-hander also enjoyed fruitful stints in county cricket with Durham, Lancashire and Leicestershire.

Apart from an unbeaten 203 against South Africa at the Test level, Hodge registered 50 first-class tons in the domestic circuit. That includes his highest score of an unbeaten 302, which came during his time with Leicestershire. It is hard to believe that such a career culminated with just six Test appearances, with Hodge publicly stating that his constant Australia snub was due to a bias for New South Wales players.

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Michael Bevan (Australia)

Innings: 400, Runs: 19147, Average: 57.32

Major Teams: Kent, New South Wales

To this date, Michael Bevan is widely considered as one of the greatest ODI finishers of all time. 292 ODI caps, nearly 7,000 runs and an average 53.58 are proof enough of Bevan’s white-ball mastery. Two World Cup titles with Australia (1999 and 2003) is further testament to his genius as an ODI batsman.

However, the same cannot be said of his Test career which actually began promisingly with an innings of 82 against Pakistan in Karachi. Sadly, he wasn’t really able to kick on from that stellar start and would go on to make just 18 appearances in the format with a middling average of 29.

Though he was not able to register a single century in those 18 appearances, Bevans really made merry at first-class level with 68 tons and 75 half-centuries. A colossal all-rounder for New South Wales with a batting average of over 58, Bevans was unable to make a return to the Test squad after 1998 due to the stiff competition for places.

Along with county stints in Yorkshire, Leicestershire and Sussex, Bevans remained a consistent performer at first-class level, all the way up to his retirement 2006. In his penultimate first-class season with Tasmania, Bevans amassed 1,464 runs – a Sheffield Shield record at the time.

Wasim Jaffer (India)

Innings: 416, Runs: 19222, Average: 50.85

Major Teams: Mumbai, Vidarbha

Indian cricketer Wasim Jaffer plays a sh

At the age of 41, Wasim Jaffer continues to go strongly at first-class level for Vidarbha. The classical opening batsman brought up a triple ton in only his second first-class innings for Mumbai in 1996, and much was expected from him ever since.

However, his international career didn’t quite meet those lofty early expectations with Jaffer enduring an inconsistent run at Test level. While he did make 31 Test appearances in total, they were spread out over a span of eight years as he constantly dropped in and out of the team.

Those inconsistencies didn’t really plague him at domestic level where he continued to be a stalwart opening batsman for Mumbai. The right-hander switched to Vidarbha in 2015 and his run-scoring spree has continued at his new state team. He was instrumental in Vidarbha’s march to the Ranji Trophy title in the 2018-19 campaign, during which he also became the first batsman to bring up 11, 000 runs in the historic competition.

Along with five tons at Test level, Jaffer has 52 first-class centuries in domestic cricket. More recently, he became the first player in history to make 150 Ranji Trophy appearances.

Fawad Alam (Pakistan)

Innings: 258, Runs: 12222, Average: 56.84

Major Teams: Sindh, National Bank of Pakistan

fawad

Like Jaffer, Fawad Alam is another prolific first-class batsman who is still active in the domestic circuit. The left-hander’s constant exclusion from the Test squad remains one of the biggest enigmas of Pakistan cricket after what has been a prolific decade for him in the first-class circuit.

Alam’s Test debut for Pakistan in 2009 was a sensational one, with the Karachi-born batsman racking up a mammoth score of 168 in the second innings. However, just two Tests later, Alam was dropped from the Pakistan team despite still holding a batting average above 41.

Since then, he has put in the hard yards at domestic level exclusively, barring a brief limited-overs recall in 2015. Now 34, Alam recently became the second quickest Pakistan batsman to breach the 12,000-run barrier in first-class cricket. Only the legendary Hanif Mohammad has done it in quicker time than the middle-order batsman.

An average of nearly 57 and 34 first-class tons should have translated into more Test caps surely, though that hasn’t proved to be the case. A decade of being shunned from the Test format was finally broken recently when Alam was called up for the historic two-match series in Pakistan last month.

However, he failed to get a single game in the series and it remains to be seen if his dream of a long-awaited Test comeback will ever materialise.

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