Jimmy Anderson has said the furore over historical offensive tweets sent by Ollie Robinson and by another as yet unnamed member of the team when he was 15 has led to heightened feelings of anxiety in the remainder of the England squad.
Anderson has reassured Robinson, who impressed with bat and ball in the first Test at Lord’s, that the scandal over the tweets sent when he was 18 and 19 would not affect his standing in the squad.
“I guess we do feel anxious,” Anderson said. “If there are any tweets from years ago we do have to look at that and again learn from this and try to be better in the future, try to make sure we know it’s unacceptable to use these sorts of phrases and language.
“It is a difficult time. As players we are trying to learn from this. We realise it’s important to try to get educated around these issues, which we continue to do with the ECB and the PCA [Professional Cricketers’ Association]. We had already been doing workshops before this series, basically to improve ourselves as people.
“It doesn’t matter how old you are, you can never know too much. It’s really important we keep doing this, keep buying into this, because it’s hugely important to make our game as inclusive as possible.”
Anderson said of Robinson: “You could see how sincere he was and how upset he was when he stood up in front of the group and apologised. As a group we appreciate he’s a different person now. He’s done a lot of maturing and growing since then and he’s got the full support of the team.
“I remember being that age and you do make mistakes – you’re very young and inexperienced. There was initial shock with the language that was used but there was remorse. He’s definitely changed as a person and he’s definitely going to improve from this as well. He’s going to learn from these mistakes. It’s just a case of trying to make sure that we send a message that even at that age this is unacceptable language to use.”
The England and Wales Cricket Board is assessing how best to respond to the latest offensive tweet to emerge, sent while the player involved was a minor. It released a statement on Tuesday which read: “Since we were alerted to offensive tweets last week, a number of historical social media posts by other individuals have been questioned publicly as well. There is no place for discrimination in our sport, and we are committed to taking relevant and appropriate action where required. Given the concerns which have been raised are clearly now broader than a single case, the ECB Board will discuss how we deal with issues over historical social media material in a timely and appropriate manner. Each case will be considered on an individual basis, looking at all the facts. We will assess cases with the ECB Board before making further statements.”
On Monday the prime minister and the culture secretary, Oliver Dowden, criticised the governing body’s decision to suspend Robinson from international cricket pending an investigation into his tweets, with Dowden saying it had been “over the top”. Their intervention has been criticised by the former England batsmen Michael Carberry and Mark Ramprakash. “It’s unwelcome,” Ramprakash said of the prime minister. “He is trying to bear undue influence in this case.”
Anderson, however, said opinions about governmental intervention were “way above my pay grade” and that “political views are nothing to do with us as a team”.
Anderson’s next Test appearance will be his 162nd, taking him clear of Alastair Cook for England and six behind Ricky Ponting and Steve Waugh, who are in joint second place (Sachin Tendulkar’s 200 is under no immediate threat). He claimed a five-fer on debut against Zimbabwe in May 2003 but remembers that match without great fondness.
“I thought I wasn’t good enough,” he said. “I went for quite a few runs. My first ball was a no-ball so there were a lot of nerves there and I did feel like this was maybe a step too far for me at that point. It took a few years and a few tours around the world to make me think I could actually do it. Once you put in some performances against the better sides in the world – no disrespect to Zimbabwe, but teams like South Africa and Australia and India – that’s when you feel like you can perform at that level.”
In Olly Stone, who could make his third Test appearance at Edgbaston after games against Ireland last summer and in India in February, England have a bowler still establishing an international reputation. But if England’s senior bowler harboured doubts about his own ability at a similar stage in his career, he has none about Stone’s.
“Olly’s a really impressive person. I like him a lot as a bloke,” he said. “He works incredibly hard, he’s got pace, he’s got skills as well, he can swing the ball and he’s got character as well – he’s got the character you need to play Test cricket.
“ He’s got all the attributes to be able to perform at this level. We saw that in India, briefly. So he’s exciting and could have a decent Test career ahead of him.”
With Robinson suspended and Mark Wood likely to be rested Jack Leach should return to the side along with Stone, while James Bracey was hit on the finger during training yesterday to cause yet more concern over the wicketkeeping position, though he continued after having it taped.
New Zealand will certainly be without Mitchell Santner, whose cut finger reopened on the final day of the first Test with somewhat bloody results, while Trent Boult, initially ruled out of the series, will play after his belated arrival in the country. Of greatest concern for the tourists is an elbow injury to their captain, Kane Williamson, who may be rested with the World Test Championship final against India, which starts in Southampton next Friday, in mind. “His elbow is niggling him a wee bit and we want to make sure the best thing for him is playing in this match, instead of taking a little bit more time,” said the New Zealand coach, Gary Stead.