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There are concerns about Ollie Robinson's future in Test matches after a lackluster performance during his return in India.
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There are concerns about Ollie Robinson’s future in Test matches after a lackluster performance during his return in India.

The England hierarchy is once again discussing Ollie Robinson’s future in international cricket after he made a disappointing comeback in the team’s loss to India in Ranchi.

Following his team’s loss of 3 out of 4 games to India, Brendon McCullum stated that he would offer support to Robinson. Despite his usual optimistic attitude as the Test head coach, McCullum also acknowledged a subpar performance from one of his players.

“According to McCullum, all of Robinson’s actions leading up to the Test match indicated that we would witness an improved version of him, not just the same one we had seen before. However, for some reason, things didn’t go as planned. He’s understandably disappointed, perhaps even more than anyone else.”

Robinson returned to the cricket field for the first time since leaving the Ashes Test at Headingley last summer due to back spasms. Despite scoring 58 runs, his bowling speed averaged in the mid-70s mph and he had difficulty with bowling no balls. He also missed a crucial catch during India’s comeback.

During India’s run chase, Ben Stokes completely disregarded him. Although the captain maintained a straightforward stance on the matter during the post-match press conference, reiterating that it was purely a strategic decision, England’s exasperation behind closed doors has been evident.

McCullum explained that during his batting, the player experienced discomfort in his back, resulting in slower pace during his initial spells. The game has been challenging for him and he is currently in a lot of pain, so it’s important for the team to strategize and find ways to utilize his abilities effectively.

Injury can strike any player but conditioning – hardiness for the rigours of international cricket – has been a longstanding issue with Robinson. This in turn falls back on the management, however. Despite opting against warm-ups, a 30-year-old with a poor fitness record could have been sent to play for the Lions at the start of the tour, for example.

Robinson has taken 76 wickets in his 20 Test matches but has struggled with his fitness since his debut in June 2021.View image in fullscreen

Robinson has proven his worth with 76 Test wickets at an impressive average of 23 runs per wicket, displaying exceptional talent with a high release point when bowling. However, it remains to be seen if his abilities align with the team’s approach of promoting relaxation and relying on the motivation of each individual player during preparation. The difference was evident last October when England awarded two-year contracts to several young seamers, but only offered Robinson a one-year deal.

Robinson’s recent episode of his podcast featuring his girlfriend, social media influencer Mia Baker, has caused further issues for a struggling administration. The podcast included Robinson detailing a visa mistake made by the team management at the beginning of the tour and also boasting about the luxurious private jet used for their mid-series break in Abu Dhabi. Following a request from England, the episode has now been removed.

Following their break, which involved some players playing golf in Bengaluru and others staying at a resort in Chandigarh, England’s upcoming selection in Dharamsala may reveal important insights. McCullum expressed support for Robinson in any future instances rather than just for the fifth Test, and was more confident in securing a spot for Jonny Bairstow.

This marks Bairstow’s 100th Test appearance, which McCullum believes will greatly drive him, as his previous scores of 38 and 30 in Ranchi have not made a significant impact on the tour so far.

McCullum stated that it would be a highly emotional experience for Jonny, as his story is well-known. Jonny is often an emotional person, and achieving significant accomplishments like this means a great deal to him. During this particular match, he exuded confidence and had a strong presence, embodying his signature Jonny Bairstow swagger. When he carries himself in that way, it feels like he is always on the verge of success.

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In general, McCullum admitted that England has not performed as well as their opponents at crucial points in the game, such as the first innings in Rajkot or on day three in Ranchi when Dhruv Jurel’s 90-run score impacted the Test. Despite a strong start following the Ashes, with a 2-2 record and a sense of frustration after a rain-soaked draw in Manchester, their aggressive playing style has not consistently resulted in victories against top teams.

McCullum stated that there have been instances in games where their method has not been fully refined yet. Although they did not win the Ashes and have suffered losses, the team has improved since 18 months ago. In the upcoming 18 months, there is potential for the team to accomplish great things. They will continue to work on their weaknesses and it is a good time to be the coach of the England team.

During McCullum’s discussion, he commended Shoaib Bashir and Tom Hartley for their performance, taking a total of 12 wickets in Ranchi and 32 throughout the series. However, he expressed worry about their opportunities to play domestic cricket, noting that the County Championship is primarily focused on spring and autumn and heavily favors seam bowling.

At Somerset, the 20-year-old Bashir may find himself vying for one spot with Jack Leach, not least since the spinning tracks witnessed at Taunton in the recent past have been stymied by point deductions. Lancashire, meanwhile, have already signed ­Australia’s Nathan Lyon for the season, potentially blocking out 24-year-old Hartley.

McCullum acknowledged that he was initially hesitant to choose the pair based solely on their abilities, due to their lack of first-class experience. He stated, “We were unsure if they could perform at this level.” However, he has since seen that they are indeed capable.

It would be disappointing for us if they were not given chances at the county level. While it may become a reality, I do not want to dictate to counties because they have their own priorities. However, it would be illogical not to provide them with more opportunities in county cricket.

Source: theguardian.com