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Ollie Robinson: I expected backlash for running my mouth and not backing it up

Ollie Robinson of Englan during day two of the 4th Test Match between India and England at JSCA International Stadium Complex on February 24, 2024 in Ranchi
Ollie Robinson is determined to find some rhythm and get back to his best for England in Tests - Getty Images/Philip Brown

Ollie Robinson says he expected a backlash after “running his mouth” in the media and failing to back it up with his England performances.

Robinson will play just his second match in nine months on Friday at the start of a season which he sees as “make or break” for his career. The seamer is available for up to five Championship matches, and some T20 cricket, for Sussex in a bid to ensure he is retained in the squad for the first Test of the summer against West Indies on July 10.

An indifferent year saw Robinson limp out of the Ashes and then underwhelm on the tour of India. He played the fourth Test in Ranchi, but picked up a back injury while compiling his highest Test score and struggled in the field, going wicketless and bowling a string of no-balls as well as dropping a catch.

Robinson was sanguine about criticism he attracted for his performances in India, given a series of clumsy comments he has made in the media over the last year – including on the podcast he produces with his partner, the golf influencer Mia Baker, which frustrated members of the England camp.

Ollie Robinson of England reacts during Day One of the LV= Insurance Ashes 2nd Test match between England and Australia at Lord's Cricket Ground on June 28, 2023 in London, England
Robinson's recent form has not been great, averaging 33.8 with the ball since the start of last year - Getty Images/Gareth Copley

“I think when I come out and say so many things, in the media and run my mouth a bit, if you like, then you have to expect backlash when you don’t show up,” he said. “I’m well aware that that can happen. You say things all the time and if they don’t come off, you look silly, and I think that’s one of those occasions where the media are probably allowed to have my badge. I didn’t perform to the level I wanted to and it’s disappointing for me, but all I can do now is try and get it right.”

Robinson wondered aloud if public scrutiny over his personal life had affected his performances, and revealed he is seeing a therapist as he looks to get back to “playing cricket, enjoying life and being my best self out there again”.

‘The body wasn’t as moving as quickly as I’d have liked in India’

Robinson acknowledged that while he felt fit and “trained as hard as I could have done” heading into his Test return in India, “in hindsight I probably could have done a few things differently”. Running a single on the first day, he jarred a joint in his back, which required a local anaesthetic patch the following day, and meant he bowled “in quite a lot of pain” because he “couldn’t get into full hyper-extension”.

“It’s hard to replicate game intensity,” he said. “Not playing since July, maybe getting a game or two somewhere. I don’t know where I could have done that, but it probably would have helped me quite a lot. Possibly replicate game scenarios a bit more. But I trained as hard as I could have before, so I feel like I was a tad unlucky.

“For the first couple of months [not playing] it was quite nice. Get the body to refresh, the mind to refresh. After a while you think ‘wow, I haven’t played cricket for a long time here’. It got to the point now where I feel I’ve got a bit stagnant to be honest. The body wasn’t moving as quickly as I’d have liked during the game in India. You have to play cricket if you want to play at the highest level. You can’t just dip in and out, it’s one of those sports. When you are on the field you realise how intense the game actually is. When you are off the field watching you think ‘ah, that doesn’t look too bad’. In India that probably caught up with me.”

‘It’s probably a make or break summer for me’

Despite the retirement of Stuart Broad, Robinson was offered just a one-year deal by England at the end of last summer, when younger bowlers such a Matt Potts were given two and admits he is entering a pivotal phase of his career despite averaging under 23 in Test cricket.

Ollie Robinson of England bowls during a nets session at Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association Stadium on March 05, 2024 in Dharamsala
Robinson admitted that he struggled during England's tour to India - Getty Images/Gareth Copley

“Yeah, definitely,” said Robinson when asked if he had a point to prove. “And I don’t mind that. I think it gives me something to drive forward to, something to engage my mind going forward. It’s not that I’m not driven normally but when you have such a big point to prove, you have to really focus on it otherwise it can slip away.

“I’m 30 now and I still feel young, but 30 in sport’s actually not that young anymore. So I feel like it’s the last summer where maybe I get any slack, if you like, going forward I have to perform, I have to be injury free and prove to people that I am the right person for the job, because there’s a lot of good seamers in the country now, a lot of younger seamers are coming through. So it’s probably a make or break summer for me.”

Robinson is desperate to prove to fans that he is a hungry cricketer, given his laid-back on-field demeanour.

“If I could see myself I’d probably think similar but in my head and my heart I’m giving everything I’ve got,” he said. “Maybe I’m too laid back at times, too horizontal, but I wouldn’t be where I am today if I wasn’t like that. It’s just one of those things where I’m trying as hard as I can to give everything I’ve got, I’m passionate about playing for England and it’s the only thing I really care about, playing cricket for England, and I am trying to change the narrative that it looks like sometimes I don’t care.”

In a recent interview with Telegraph Sport, England’s managing director Rob Key had a clear message for Robinson, saying he “is one of the best bowlers in the world at 83mph, but not at 75mph”. The bowler insists, though, that his focus this summer will not be specifically on pace.

“It’s that energy off the pitch that you see when I’m bowling well,” he explained. “Because of that, the speeds are up. Speed isn’t something I will be focusing on purely, it’s getting that snap back, that rhythm back, and hopefully the speeds will come from it. Bowling hard for as long as possible, all game, is something that Stokesy and Baz [coach Brendon McCullum] have asked me to do as well.”

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