Why lockdown and lack of cricket is so agonising for Sussex star

Sussex seamer Ollie Robinson is determined to stay at the peak of fitness during the lockdown - in case he gets a phone call from England when cricket resumes.

Ollie Robinson is congratulated by Luke Wells on one his many county championship wickets / Picture: Getty
Ollie Robinson is congratulated by Luke Wells on one his many county championship wickets / Picture: Getty

In the past two County Championship seasons, Ollie Robinson has taken 137 wickets – more than any other seamer. Even more impressively, Duanne Olivier (168) and Peter Siddle (147) were the only seam bowlers on the planet to take more wickets across 2018 and 2019 than Robinson.

The Rig, as he is affectionately known by his teammates, is in the form of his life. Under the guidance of Jason Gillespie and Sussex’s Strength and Conditioning team, Robinson has never bowled better and has never been fitter.

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The 26-year-old has developed into one of the most feared bowlers on the Championship circuit, and as a result, has gained attention on the international stage.

A wicket at Lord's - always a special feeling / Picture: Getty

After his first call-up last summer, Robinson starred for England Lions in Australia this winter, producing a match-winning performance at The MCG in their unofficial day-night Test.

The seamer finished with impressive figures of 7-147 as the tourists romped to a nine-wicket win – the Lions’ first ever victory against Australia A.

“I feel like I’ve had good momentum over the last few years and going into the winter tour to Australia, I felt that I was in a good place physically, mentally, cricket wise, everything really.” said Robinson.

“After that game at The MCG, Mo Bobat pulled me for a chat one evening and said that he was impressed with what he had seen. He told me to keep striving and that they see me and a few other lads as the next guys in.

“He said they want me to get even fitter than I am now, and that his aim is to put players in the England team when they’re at their best, so they don’t just play a couple of games and then come straight back out.

“His challenge for me was to be at my best all the time, or to be as good as I possibly can be over the next few years, so that when I do go in, I stay in.

“They were really positive chats in Australia and it was a great tour. I think we were the first England Lions team in history to win in Australia – or maybe to not even lose in Australia – so it was a really good tour.”

For a man at the peak of his powers right now, coming off the back of two incredible seasons and an eye-catching international tour, you’d think the current situation couldn’t have come at a worse time for Robinson.

The Sussex star is refusing to see the negatives of cricket being postponed until at least the end of May, however, and is finding the positives from a difficult time.

“For cricket to be put on the back burner for two or three months, it is tough. From a personal point of view, I had a decent winter and was excited to kick on after last summer.

“But, at the same time, it’s keeping me driven at home to stay in the best shape possible.

“Everyone is a bit shocked at the situation we’ve found ourselves in, but we have to look at the bigger picture and realise this is best for us all and that cricket needs to take a back seat.

“When it does come around again, I want to be fit and ready to impress straight away. Hopefully I’ll then be ahead of people who haven’t been as driven during this period and put my hand up if England come calling.

“As players, all we can do is keep ourselves ticking over, keep our bodies going by doing whatever we can – whether that’s indoors or outdoors, wherever we’re allowed to be.

“Saying that, it won’t be realistic to go from this situation to playing a Championship game next week.

“Even though there’s going to be a mad rush to get all the games in and start cricket again, the ECB and the clubs are going to have to talk about a realistic timeframe for a return to action, or bowlers will just get injured.

“I’ve heard there’s talk of the T20 being played first, which is a bit easier on the body as it’s shorter. That would give you a platform to get ready for Championship cricket after.

“That’s probably the best way to go, but we’ll just have to wait and see.”

Beyond looking after yourself physically, Robinson is aware of how important it is to also look after your mental health during these testing times.

With such a tight-knit squad at Sussex, not being able to interact everyday could be difficult, and could impact members of the staff in different ways.

“As we all know, we can’t be together right now.” said Robinson. “We’re a close group of lads, so not being able to see each other every day, go for coffees, have chats; for a few of lads it’s a way to switch off because we’re all close friends.”

“That side of it will be tough for a few lads, but everyone’s at the end of a phone. With technology these days, it’s easy to chat to someone and see their face for half an hour or so.

“We’ve also got Xbox and PS4 which a few of the lads are playing together, so my evenings are spent playing that at the moment.

“Call of Duty is the most popular at the minute. There’s a game mode with 150 players, squads of three, and you’ve got to try and be the last man standing.

“If you asked people, they’d say Jofra is up there with the best – but let’s not put that out!”

And apart from playing video games with the rest of the Sussex squad, how will Robinson be keeping himself busy over the coming weeks and months?

“We’ve got Baby Rig on the way in September, so Lauren and I can’t wait for that. For now, I’m walking and running with Cooper, my dog, lots. I’m also enjoying watching Bulletproof on Sky, and Safe and The Stranger on Netflix.

“There’s plenty of bits to do around the flat as well. The gardening should keep me fit for a few months, and I’ve got a few ceilings to paint too. That should get the shoulders going!”

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