TClouds blew over Lord’s in the middle of the afternoon, when Ollie Robinson was deep in his second spell. He had played well, he had won his first test wicket that morning when he kept Tom Latham playing, and he was working on his second, the great Ross Taylor, who was soon laid off leg before wicket. Everything seemed so sweet, but far from the middle it was already turning sour. There was no way Robinson knew about it at the time, but around that same time screenshots began circulating on social media, showing a series of offensive ‘jokes’ that Robinson had tweeted between 2012 and 2014, some racist, some sexist, all unbearable.
Soon enough, the conversation wasn’t about how well Robinson was bowling now, but about the idiotic comments he made nine years ago when he was in his teens. Watching him play for the rest of the day, it was possible to feel sympathy and contempt for him at the same time. The comments were grotesque, but since the aftermath overshadowed the best day of his young career, he paid a price for making them. He apologized at length after the stumps, said he was embarrassed and embarrassed by the comments, that he regretted making them, but that “I am not racist and I am not sexist.”
Of course, it’s not just about the tweets. Just hours earlier, Robinson and the rest of the England team had met in a line-out along the boundary in front of the pavilion at the start of the game. They were dressed in black T-shirts with “Cricket is everyone’s game” written on the front and one of seven different slogans on the back: “We stand together against … racism, religious intolerance, sexism, transphobia , homophobia, disability, Ageism. ‘It was presented as a “moment of unity”, and emerged as a response to the criticism they received for the speed at which they decided to stop kneeling after their series of tests against the Indies Westerners ended last year.
“We know that the beginning of last summer unearthed some unsavory truths in society and in our sport,” Joe Root said this week, when he was explaining the thinking behind it. Now, earlier this summer, a young sports media student on social media had discovered a few more by searching Robinson’s Twitter feed. His tweets included ‘jokes’ about Muslims (one with the hashtag #racist attached). At the time he sent them, he was in the Yorkshire books, where he played alongside Azeem Rafiq, who has repeatedly spoken out about the racism he experienced at the club. We are still waiting here for the results of the “independent investigation” into what happened. Rafiq has said that he has already lost faith in the process.
Robinson has spoken of how immature he was in those days and has again said in his apology that “since that period I have matured as a person.”
Yorkshire fired him in the summer of 2014 due to his unprofessional attitude. “We played a second game in Liverpool,” Robinson said in a recent interview with the BBC.
“I immediately got in the car to go to Kent, a five or six hour drive. I stayed there one night, saw my teammates the next day and then left Kent at 1am to start training at 9am. It was an unsustainable lifestyle he was trying to live. At first they thought he was a really bad timekeeper, but as he progressed, they realized what he was doing. “It seems like he was a kid who still had a lot to grow up with. That doesn’t excuse what he wrote, but hope it helps explain.
The day comes after Robinson’s rival for the last fast bowling spot on the team this week, Craig Overton, spoke out about the allegation that he had racially abused Ashar Zaidi in a 2015 game between Somerset and Sussex. in that match, Alex Wharf reported that Overton had told Zaidi to “go back to your own fucking country.” The hitter at the end of the non-forward, Michael Yardy, also heard the comment. Overton was sanctioned for two games for using “obscene, offensive or insulting language,” but denied making the comment. And in an interview with Taha Hashim on wisden.com this week, she said again “I don’t think he said it”.
“I don’t think he’s that kind of character. We’ve had Azhar Ali in our locker room and I’m the first to go up and talk to him in the locker room and chat with him. I’m not that kind of person, ”Overton said. “We have talks about racism every year and I make sure to learn as much as possible because we can all learn more about what happened in the past and what we can do in the future.” Judging from his words alone in that interview, it seems like he has something else to learn.
Given that the culture of the game in this country is one in which two of our brightest young players have placed themselves in these positions, perhaps the rest of us will as well.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism