The England and Wales Cricket Board appears determined to punish Ollie Robinson for the offensive and embarrassing tweets which were rediscovered and distributed on Wednesday as he made his Test debut for England, though the board is yet to determine precisely what form the punishment will take. What has been decided is that it will not leave itself open to similar scandals in future.
Robinson is likely to be the last player to make his full international debut without anyone having sifted through historic social media posts in search of potential embarrassment. Aspiring internationals will also be reminded of the repercussions of online indiscretions, should the image of a humiliated Robinson reading his statement on Sky at the close of play on Wednesday not prove sufficient.
The ECB’s first task, however, is to establish Robinson’s contractual status at the time he sent the tweets, and whether he was a fully professional cricketer under the governing body’s auspices when they were published. Beyond what it says about the player’s mindset at the time, the controversy has been unseemly and particularly damaging for a sport desperately trying to reposition itself as one that’s open and accessible to people of all backgrounds.
Robinson’s statement – written moments after he returned to the dressing room at the close of his first outing as a Test cricketer entirely unaware of the stories that had been circulating all day, and delivered in person on television, radio and to the written press – has been well received. He also impressed his new teammates by apologising to the dressing room. But despite the apparent authenticity of his contrition, and the acceptance that an occasionally wild teenager has matured into a dedicated professional, there is a feeling in the ECB that some form of punishment – possibly a fine, perhaps also suspension from next week’s second Test against New Zealand at Edgbaston – is still necessary.
Though Robinson said on Wednesday that the tweets date from a time when he had “just been sacked by Yorkshire” they were in fact sent between April 2012 and June 2013 – before he had even joined the county, and around the time that he was released by his first club, Kent.
Yorkshire released a statement on Thursday distancing themselves from the furore. “Ollie Robinson signed a junior professional contract with Yorkshire on 19 September 2013 before leaving in July 2014, playing three List A and seven T20 matches,” they said. “The club was unaware of these posts on Ollie’s social media channels before he signed and strongly condemn such comments. There is no place in our society or in our sport for racism or sexism.”
Despite the controversy, Robinson received a notably warm ovation when he was introduced to the crowd when replacing Jimmy Anderson on Thursday with New Zealand’s score on 276-3. His focus had clearly not been adversely affected as he bowled excellently and, along with Mark Wood, transformed England’s fortunes before lunch, reducing New Zealand at one point to 294-7. Robinson ended the innings with four wickets and would have completed a whirlwind couple of days by taking a fifth and earning a place on the honours board, had Stuart Broad not dropped an easy catch off of Tim Southee.
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