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Margate-born Ollie Robinson set to be a key figure in England's Ashes bid


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Ollie Robinson is aiming to finish a rollercoaster first year of Test cricket on the ultimate high by helping England regain the Ashes in Australia.

There were fears the Margate-born seamer’s international career might be over almost before it had begun after historical racist and sexist tweets, from 2012 and 2013, emerged while he was making his Test debut against New Zealand at Lord’s.

England's Ollie Robinson celebrates the wicket of India's Virat Kohli during day one of the Fourth Test at the Oval Picture: Adam Davy/PA Wire/PA Images
England's Ollie Robinson celebrates the wicket of India's Virat Kohli during day one of the Fourth Test at the Oval Picture: Adam Davy/PA Wire/PA Images

Handed an eight-match ban, five of which were suspended, the Sussex paceman bagged a five-fer on his return against India at Trent Bridge and finished the summer with 28 wickets.

Robinson’s reward was a central contract and a place in the squad for England’s Ashes tour.

“It was really tough as a family,” said dad Ian, who is the chairman at Margate Cricket Club, where Ollie cut his teeth as a youngster.

“He just took himself out of the game and away from everything and stayed with the family for about a month.

“It was a case of waiting until the hearing was over because we didn’t know at the time whether he was going to get banned for life, suspended for a while, or quite what was going to happen.

“He didn’t know if his career was over but as it turned out, he was given a fine and a suspension and, luckily, he got straight back in.

“It was very much me and his mum and everyone close to him, we were just trying to get him through it, and he spent a lot of time with his girlfriend and his daughter.

“I remember one day he was sitting at the end of his garden with his daughter, having a picnic away from everything, just peace and quiet, away from the phone, social media, everything.

“Everyone wanted an interview, a comment.

“It was a time to use the family for support, which is what he did, and he came back strong.”

There can be no doubt about that, with Robinson, 28, a changed man and fully deserving his Ashes spot after finishing the summer as England’s leading wicket-taker.

“We were pretty certain he was going to go to the Ashes after the summer, it was just whether they were going to offer him a central contact,” said Ian.

“The two main things he wanted to achieve were to make his debut at Lord’s and get picked for an Ashes series, and he’s done both.

“It’s just a shame I can’t go down to watch him because of the Covid restrictions.”

Robinson has played Grade cricket in Australia and also went Down Under with the Lions, giving him useful experience of the conditions England face.

The bowler’s dad believes a good start to the series, which begins in Brisbane in the early hours of tomorrow morning will be crucial.

“He went down with the Lions and did really well at the MCG in the day-night game,” said Ian. “I think that bodes well for MCG Test and the Adelaide Test, which is day-night.

“Sydney isn’t really his type of wicket and Brisbane is a bit unknown, sometimes it’s good to bat on, sometimes it’s hard and bouncy and good to bowl on.

“One thing’s for sure, the wickets will be a lot harder and the ball will do a lot less than the Dukes ball does in England, but being a line-and-length, top-of-off-stump bowler, hopefully he’ll be OK.

“He’s fairly accurate, so it’s just a case of showing a little more patience.

“In England, with the Dukes ball, you can get a lot of wickets quite quickly at the start of the day, whereas in Australia it will be more attritional.

A young Ollie Robinson (back row, second from right) pictured with his Margate under-13 team-mates after winning the Canterbury Indoor League in 2006. Dad Ian, who coached the side, is also in the picture
A young Ollie Robinson (back row, second from right) pictured with his Margate under-13 team-mates after winning the Canterbury Indoor League in 2006. Dad Ian, who coached the side, is also in the picture

“Wickets are harder to come by and he might be bowling 40 or 50 overs each Test, which is 10 or 15 more than in England.

“A lot of sport is down to confidence.

“If you start well and have a good first Test, you’re set for the series.

“He’s had a couple of winters down there, so he’s got a decent amount of experience.

“I’m sure the Aussies will try and wind him up but he’s been on the Lions tour and played Grade cricket, so he’s used to that.

“India tried to wind him up, too, it’s part and parcel of sport.”

Robinson has handled the spotlight of Test cricket impressively, putting the tweet scandal behind him to look well at home in the international arena.

An Ashes series provides scrutiny like no other but that won’t faze the former Kent academy player.

“When he goes over that white line, he’s just a competitive person playing a cricket match,” said Ian.

“I don’t think he thinks about anything else when he’s playing, other than trying to compete and do well.

“I’m massively proud of him.

“After all the problems we’ve had, getting sacked at Yorkshire and not getting offered a contract by Kent, it’s been a long slog and a lot of hard work, so it’s nice to see it coming to fruition.

“Hopefully he’ll have a decent England career, for maybe five or six years.

“It’s difficult to say with sport, you get other people coming through, so you just never know.”

There is, however, one prediction Robinson senior can confidently make - that his son will play for Margate again one day.

“Of course he will,” said Ian. “We try and play one game together every year, whether that’s an old boys game at his school or a game at the club.

“We haven’t been able to do that for the last two years, because of Covid, but he’ll definitely play for Margate again.

“The players still follow him, they went to the Test matches in the summer.

“They love that they know a Test cricketer and he still meets up for a beer with them when he’s at home.”

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