Ollie Robinson’s Test future is in doubt after ‘disappointing’ return to India

<span>Ollie Robinson was ordered to play in the fourth Test, but after making 58 with the bat in England’s first innings, he was not fully fit to bowl.</span><span>Photo: Tauseef Mustafa/AFP/Getty Images<span> /span>” src=”https://s.yimg.com/ny/api/res/1.2/5u67zG1AgENrOaa4oHi_VQ–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTk2MDtoPTU3Ng–/https://media.zenfs.com/en/theguardian_763/49049330551d7e5 2af42a01b9f40c5c4″ data -src=”https://s.yimg.com/ny/api/res/1.2/5u67zG1AgENrOaa4oHi_VQ–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTk2MDtoPTU3Ng–/https://media.zenfs.com/en/theguardian_763/49049330551d7e52af42 a01b9f40c5c4″/></div>
<p><figcaption class=Ollie Robinson was given the nod to play in the fourth Test, but after making 58 with the bat in England’s first innings, he was not quite fit to bowl.Photo: Tauseef Mustafa/AFP/Getty Images

Ollie Robinson’s international future has once again become the subject of internal debate within the England hierarchy after a sub-par comeback during the series-sealing five-wicket defeat to India in Ranchi.

Speaking in the wake of his side going 3-1 to India with one to play, Brendon McCullum said he would like to back Robinson but, in something of a rarity during his two years as Test head coach, the ultra-positive New- Zeelander also publicly acknowledged a poor performance by one of his players.

“Everything he did in the run-up to the Test match suggested that we would see not just the Ollie Robinson we had seen before, but a better version of it,” McCullum said at the team hotel on Tuesday. “For some reason he didn’t quite succeed. Obviously he’s not as disappointed as everyone else, he’s the most disappointed of everyone.”

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Ranchi was Robinson’s first appearance in any cricket since walking off the field during the Ashes Test at Headingley last summer with back spasms – not the first in itself – and after 58 runs with the bat his speed with the ball hovered in the mid-seventies . km/h. He also struggled without balls and dropped a crucial catch during India’s turnaround.

Ben Stokes completely ignored him during the India chase and although the captain opened up about this in the post-match press conference, insisting it was purely tactical, England’s frustration was palpable behind the scenes.

McCullum said: “He was actually banging his back when batting, which is why he was off pace in those first few spells. It’s undoubtedly a tough match for him, and he’s in a lot of pain. We just have to make sure we find a way to get the best out of him.”

Injuries can affect any player, but fitness – hardiness for the rigors of international cricket – has long been an issue for Robinson. However, this falls back on management. For example, despite the choice not to do warm-ups, a 30-year-old in poor fitness could have been sent to the Lions at the start of the tour.

Robinson’s advantage – 76 Test wickets at 23 runs apiece, and abundant skills with the ball from a high release point – is clear, but whether this fits into a regime that wants players to relax and rely on individual drives in preparation is another matter. case. It was telling when England handed a host of young seamers on two-year contracts last October, but Robinson only one.

Although a sideshow, Robinson’s podcast with social media influencer Mia Baker – his girlfriend – has also frustrated a regime struggling with public perception. He revealed a management visa error at the start of the tour and in the episode published on Tuesday after the fourth Test, he marveled at the luxury of the ‘private jet’ the team took on their mid-series break in Abu Dhabi . . The episode was subsequently removed at England’s request.

After another break, this time in India, but with players split between golfing in Bangalore or a resort in Chandigarh, England’s selection in Dharamsala next week could be telling. McCullum spoke of supporting Robinson when “the next time comes”, rather than the fifth Test itself, something he was keen to secure for Jonny Bairstow.

This will be Bairstow’s 100th Test cap and McCullum expects it to be a huge motivation after scores of 38 and 30 in Ranchi continued a tour without a statement innings.

“It will be very emotional for him,” McCullum said. ‘Everyone knows Jonny’s story. He’s quite an emotional character at times and big milestones like that mean a lot to him. [In this match] he walked taller, looked stronger, had that presence and that real Jonny Bairstow swagger to him. When he has that, you have the feeling that he is never far away.’

More broadly, McCullum accepted that England were second best at key moments, such as the first innings in Rajkot or day three in Ranchi when Dhruv Jurel’s 90 turned the Test around. After the Ashes, 2-2 after a sloppy start and the feeling of ‘what if’ after the wet draw in Manchester, a dynamic style did not mean an outright win against the best.

“There are times in games where we haven’t completely messed up our method yet,” McCullum said. “We lost here and didn’t win the Ashes, but we are a better team than we were 18 months ago and we have the opportunity to do something special in the next 18 months. We continue to chisel away those rough edges. It’s not a bad time to be coach of the England team.”

During McCullum’s debriefing there was praise for Shoaib Bahir and Tom Hartley – between them 12 wickets in Ranchi and 32 overall in the series so far – but there is serious concern about the amount of cricket they will play domestically as it County Championship is primarily a spring and fall pursuit. with a strong tendency towards seam bowling.

In Somerset, 20-year-old Bashir may find himself battling for one spot with Jack Leach, not least because the spinning tracks seen at Taunton in the recent past have been hampered by past points deductions. Lancashire, meanwhile, has already signed Australian Nathan Lyon for this season, potentially ruling out 24-year-old Hartley.

McCullum admitted he was “apprehensive” about selecting the pair based solely on their attributes, given their lack of first-class experience: “We thought they had the skills, but would they be good enough at this level? What we have seen is that they are absolutely good enough.

“We will be slightly frustrated if they do not get opportunities at provincial level. There is a very real possibility that this could be the case, but without wanting to dictate to the provinces as they also have their own agendas. [But] I think you’d be a bit upset if you didn’t give them more opportunities in county cricket.’

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