England paceman Ollie Robinson has become a “gym freak” in a bid to ensure he is more than just a one-year wonder at international level.
The 1.96m seamer marked his first Test appearance in seven months by helping England to an innings and 85-run win over South Africa at Old Trafford on Saturday with match figures of 5-91 as the hosts levelled the three-match series at 1-1.
Robinson has an impressive haul of 44 wickets in 10 Tests at a low average of 20.93 since his debut at Lord’s last year.
His fitness, however, was publicly questioned by England bowling coach Jon Lewis during the fifth Ashes Test in Hobart in January before back spasms meant the 28-year-old Robinson missed all three Tests against the West Indies.
A bout of Covid-19, among other ailments, interrupted Robinson’s return to county duty at Sussex, with the bowler in danger of gaining a reputation for lacking stamina that, once established, is hard to shake.
Robinson, however, heeded Lewis’ warning and, following a frank discussion with new England captain Ben Stokes, took steps to make sure he was fully fit for the rigours of Test cricket.
“It’s not been easy but we’re an honest group. I took that stuff on the chin and took it as a wake-up call as well,” he said.
“I’ve used that to drive me forward in the last six months and, when times have got tough, I’ve just used it as a drive to try and keep positive.
“My mindset shifted from trying to be fit for fitness testing to trying to be fit for five days of Test cricket at a high level. I lifted more weights, I ran further, everything I was doing before but to the extreme.”
Robinson added: “I spoke to Ben quite a lot in depth. When he first started international cricket he wasn’t in the shape he is now and I talked to him about how he got there – mentally, physically, the lot.
“It’s an enjoyment now. I’ve become a bit of a gym freak, which I never thought I’d say … I’m not there yet, I’m not the finished article at all, but we’re well on the way to getting there hopefully.”
Robinson, meanwhile, had no qualms with Lewis’ very public criticism of his fitness during the Ashes.
“People don’t realise that me and Jon go back quite a long way, he was my bowling coach at Sussex for three, four years, so we do have that honest relationship,” he said. “We spoke about it and moved on.”
Stokes gave Robinson a vote of confidence by entrusting him, rather than veteran Stuart Broad, with the new ball alongside 40-year-old England great James Anderson at Old Trafford.
It was a move that meant the long-established opening bowling partnership of Broad and Anderson was disturbed, with the former relegated to the role of first change.
“I think I read it was the first time since 2013, but Stokesy said, ‘Don’t worry about that, do your thing’,” Robinson said.
“I wasn’t expecting it. I only got told 10 minutes before we were going out. Watching those two has been inspirational for me. That’s how I want to be. I want the crowd cheering my name and that’s what I’m driving to do.
“I don’t want to do this for 18 months, I want to do this for five, six years, and I feel more driven today than I did at the start of my career.”
© Agence France-Presse