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PAUL NEWMAN: It’s a scandal Ollie Robinson became such a scapegoat after the final Ashes Test

It did not sit comfortably at the time. An England coach calling out one of his players publicly at a time when he was at his most vulnerable and the demand for a scapegoat was at its most intense.

Was Jon Lewis really acting in the best interests of Ollie Robinson, recalled by England on Tuesday for the first two Tests against South Africa, and the team when he questioned his fitness during the final Ashes Test in Hobart earlier this year?

Or was the fast bowling coach covering his own back as the inquest into another Ashes debacle began and the demand for heads to roll escalated?

Ollie Robinson being called out publicly did not do a hugely talented bowler much good

Jon Lewis (left) questioned his fitness during the final Ashes Test in Hobart earlier this year

Jon Lewis (left) questioned his fitness during the final Ashes Test in Hobart earlier this year

Certainly, it did not appear to do a hugely talented bowler, who has had a difficult start to his Test career, much good.

Robinson left that Hobart Test with a back spasm, but it emerged that the injury was more serious when a similar issue curtailed his involvement in England’s warm-up game in Antigua, and then the whole West Indies tour.

When more stiffness in his back ruled Robinson out of a county select team to face New Zealand at Chelmsford ahead of the first Test this summer, it became clear that he had joined the long list of England bowlers ruled out with serious back problems. But the Sussex seamer was the only one who had his fitness for purpose questioned.

Add serious dental work, a bad bout of Covid and food poisoning and it is obvious Robinson has had wretched luck with injuries and illness after a breakthrough international summer last year when he took 28 wickets and was named one of Wisden’s five cricketers of the year.

Last summer he took 28 wickets and was named one of Wisden's five cricketers of the year

Last summer he took 28 wickets and was named one of Wisden’s five cricketers of the year

And that after his first day in Test cricket was overshadowed by the emergence, exposed at the most damaging time possible in an example of modern ‘journalism’ at its worst, of historical racist and sexist tweets he sent as a teenager. 

The trouble for Robinson since Hobart has been fighting against a narrative, created in part by Lewis, that he lacks the elite fitness demanded at the highest level.

Perhaps that is why he felt the need to pull out of matches when his back became stiff, because the last thing he needed was to break down during another high-profile clash.

But things have taken a turn for the better. Robinson returned last week, now fully fit after an injection in his back and a lengthy spell of rehab, and took nine wickets for Sussex in their Championship defeat by Notts.

Robinson returned last week and took nine wickets for Sussex in their Championship defeat by Notts

Robinson returned last week and took nine wickets for Sussex in their Championship defeat by Notts

Now he has been included in that 14-man England squad to face South Africa this month and will get the chance to stake his claim to play in the first Test when he is named in the Lions team to play the tourists in a four-day game at Canterbury next week.

How Robinson deserves a change in fortunes, and how an England team devoid of so many injured bowlers will need him in the weeks and months ahead, starting perhaps in the three-Test series that begins at Lord’s on August 17.

He may suffer more injuries in the future. Most fast bowlers do.

But he is a Test-class bowler and does not need to be labelled as unfit as he begins the next chapter, at 28, in what should still be a highly successful international career.

Now he has been included in that 14-man England squad to face South Africa this month

Now he has been included in that 14-man England squad to face South Africa this month

Jason Roy’s decline looks permanent and, sadly, his time is up

It is easy to see why England have been so loath to drop Jason Roy from their white-ball sides before now.

He was a key reason behind England’s transformation from dinosaurs to World Cup winners with his explosive and selfless batting at the top of the order.

Having lost Eoin Morgan and now, from the 50-over side at least, Ben Stokes, they were reluctant to cut loose another pillar of their greatest triumph.

But it has been clear for some time that the 32-year-old is in decline and new coach Matthew Mott’s declaration after defeat by South Africa that ‘nobody has a mortgage’ on a place appears to herald the demise of Roy before October’s World Cup.

England have been so loath to drop Jason Roy from their white-ball sides before now

England have been so loath to drop Jason Roy from their white-ball sides before now

It will be a huge shame if he goes before the chance to end his England career in glory, but it would be absolutely the right call.

The England white-ball teams need to move on from the incredibly successful Morgan era now.

That means some hard decisions and some fresh faces, like Phil Salt and Harry Brook. Roy’s time, sadly, is over.

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