When Sussex-bowler Ollie Robinson was on the verge of making his debut, Twitter didn't stop - not in his praise this time, however. Twitter had unearthed something that had the potential to take away everything from the all-rounder even before it all began.
On Wednesday, Sussex’s pacer Ollie Robinson, at the age of 27, was in line to make his debut for the Three Lions, as the 699th English player in the history of Test cricket. When he was presented with his cap, it was a moment to cherish. After years of hard work, having been kicked out of Yorkshire due to his attitude, Robinson stood there recieving his cap, while being touted the next big thing in the country.
He didn’t disappoint, at least on the field, when he was quick to work, dismissing the New Zealand opener Tom Latham. Latham couldn’t fathom, the crowd couldn’t believe, Joe Root was left ecstatic, England had just found their own bowling star, one that could potentially clinch the Ashes away from Australia, at their own den.
His accuracy would make Glenn McGrath compete for the title, his seam might topple some of the best batsmen and his celebration could give Andrew Flintoff a run for his money. Still trying to cope with his newfound fame, the only thing that would have been on Robinson’s mind is a good night’s sleep. However, that turned torrid and his next few days a living hell, all because of several tweets that he had posted a decade ago.
It wasn’t just tweets, it was a chain of racist and sexist tweets that seemingly had come down on him, which led to the meltdown of the cricketing world. Robinson had a day that turned from heavenly sin to a sinly-sin, that found a place to hell. On a day where he would have hoped to go out and feel good about himself, his tweets boomeranged to make him the ‘bad’ Robinson, the ugly one who posted on Twitter.
“On the biggest day of my career so far, I am embarrassed by the racist and sexist tweets that I posted over eight years ago, which have today become public,” Robinson said in a statement released shortly after stumps on the opening day of the Lord’s Test.
“I want to make it clear that I’m not racist and I’m not sexist, and deeply regret my actions, and I am ashamed of making such remarks…,” he added but that was never going to suffice. But what made it to the headline? England players walked out with T-shirts, in ‘Moment of Unity’ to weed out racism, sexism and religious intolerance from the game. The exception, Robinson’s tweets.
The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) were quickly onto the case, with Chief Executive Officer Tom Harrison releasing a statement that the board would look into the matter after the finish of the first Test. The words in the street were that Robinson was gone, after the game, not to even be in the squad for the second Test.
England were on the backfoot, literally and figuratively, the tweets had caught wildfire, they were under the pump. Former English cricketers Michael Vaughan and Nasser Hussain were critical of the cricketing board. Yet, there was a tinge of sympathy for the pacer, who clearly impressed everyone on the first day of a flattish Lord’s, purely on his skill-basis.
Perhaps, since Jos Buttler’s debut, England have not seen such an impressive debut, or a successful one, as it turned out. On day two, after the entire world had laid its judgemental eye on him, Robinson walked out, proving them wrong, again on the skill level, picking up a deserved four-fer after a fifer that had just slipped past him because of Stuart Broad. Four years of continuous hard work paid off on the pitch, several tweets had ruined it off the pitch.
His contribution on debut, though, wasn’t just done yet, his brilliant all-round past ensured that his debut was going to be (in)famous. With the bat, he strung a partnership with opener Rory Burns, where he struck four boundaries, en route to 42, posting the joint second-best score in the innings with Joe Root. His contribution took England to 275, and they also avoided the follow-on score.
But more importantly, he showed that he had every single quality - seam, accuracy, bounce and batting prowess - to succeed in the English whites. His calibre as a Three Lion might have roared but the bluebird on the Internet had a black mark against his name, which was always destined to stay.
On Sky Sports, the trio of Nasser Hussain, Michael Atherton and well-renowned Vithushan Ehantharajah had stated that, unlike other professionals, athletes also have their skills to back-with, to move their negative PR to the back-page. It was partially true, Robinson’s brilliant debut, seven wickets while scoring 42 runs with the bat, would always keep his name ringing but the Ugly-aspect, the pestering bird would aim to remind him of the dark days.
“It's been tough on Ollie [Robinson]. He has learnt a very hard lesson. He showed a lot of remorse and dealt with a huge range of emotions. As a squad, we need to keep looking to educate and make the sport as inclusive as we can. As a team, we are committed to doing that. We aren't saying we are perfect, but we are learning our lessons. I am not sure about his selection for the next Test,” said Joe Root at the post-match presentation.
Robinson apologised, which was accepted by the entire team, the management but the ultimate trial is yet to come out in his favour. His tweets, even though it was a decade ago, came hurling at him. Was it all? No, Robinson had to pay a price, he was not just dropped from the playing XI for the second game but also sent back to the County Championship, even though he was impressive on the field. English cricket, with their appeal of unity, had just put their front-foot backward, going back to the place where they had to start it all over again, as does the Sussex man.
In just four days of cricket, Robinson left an indelible mark, a good one, a bad one and then, the ugly one.