Ollie Robinson keen to 'put right' Ashes record
England seamer happy to talk up rivalry ahead of attempts to reclaim the urn this summer
Ollie Robinson has been likened to Glenn McGrath for his height and metronomic bowling style, and the England man seems keen to fulfil a similar pantomime villain role when it comes to the Ashes.
Having suggested a couple of weeks ago, in an interview with BBC local radio, that England could give Australia "a good hiding" this summer, Robinson was happy to once again talk up his side's chances while on pre-season media duties for Sussex at Hove. "The way we're playing cricket, we feel like we can really stick one on them and win the series comfortably," he said with a smile.
For Robinson, who ended the previous Ashes in Australia under scrutiny about his fitness levels, having been last man out at Hobart to complete a 4-0 drubbing, this summer's contest also represents an opportunity to atone - albeit 11 wickets at 25.54 put him second on the England averages in 2021-22.
"There's definitely a desire there still, a hunger to put it right," he said. "I felt when I got back from that trip I didn't leave it all out there and I'd let myself down and the side down a little bit. So it's definitely something I want to put right and there's a few fellas in that position as well. So there's a lot of hungry boys this summer to beat the Aussies again."
Of his recent comments, he said he was happy to have fired the first shots in the 2023 Ashes phoney war: "I was talking to local radio but I was happy that it got out. I mean it's been happening in every Ashes series for years - Glenn McGrath says 5-0 every Ashes. We say 5-0 every Ashes. It's one of the biggest series we play, it only comes around every four years in England, so why not talk it up? Get it going, get it big and give the fans what they want.
"I think the cricket we're playing at the moment makes it such an exciting time to play them. We've been dominating teams in all conditions for 12 months now. In England we dominated, in Pakistan we dominated and in New Zealand we played most of the cricket for nine days and lost on the last day because we probably weren't quite there. But I think the way we're playing cricket, we feel like we can really stick one on them and win the series comfortably."
Robinson is currently No. 6 in the world on the ICC's bowler rankings, and looks a leaner, fitter presence after heeding the advice of his Test captain, Ben Stokes, last year. He is set to play "three or four" of Sussex's opening six County Championship games, as part of his preparations for the Test summer, and said that he had already begun to focus his training on pitching the ball up again, after feeling that he had slipped into bowling "pretty" lengths during England's 1-1 draw in New Zealand last month.
He will also be able to practice his Ashes smack talk in the dressing room in a few weeks, with Australia's Steven Smith due to arrive for a three-game stint with Sussex in May.
"It'll be good to have him here," Robinson said. "For county cricket it's great to have Steve Smith at Sussex. For myself, it's not going to change a huge amount. I'll prepare the same way. I might get a better look at him in the nets.
"I might not bowl at him to be honest. We'll see how it goes. But we had [Cheteshwar] Pujara here last summer and we played India and I bowled at him a lot. I don't read too much into it. He's a good player, he's going to get runs whether I bowl at him here or not. It's one of those things."
The signing of Smith, who will be looking to attune himself to English conditions ahead of Australia's appearance in the World Test Championship final against India, and then the subsequent Ashes, prompted familiar questions about whether the county system should be providing such a service for England's great rivals.
But Paul Farbrace, Sussex's new head coach and England's assistant the last time they won the Ashes in 2015, argued that the presence of Smith could potentially be of benefit to Stokes and Brendon McCullum in the long run - with Tom Haines, who scored a century on debut for England Lions over the winter, foremost among a crop of young batters at Hove who will be looking to learn from the way Smith goes about his business.
"We want to keep county cricket strong and we want the best players coming to play county cricket," Farbrace said. "In Tom Haines we've got a player who could very much be playing for England in the next 12-18 months. If he spends a month with Steve Smith, batting in the middle and learning about international cricket from him, then Steve Smith is doing English cricket a huge favour.
"As long as we can remember, county cricket has been the finishing school for cricketers from all over the world. I was lucky enough to play against Viv Richards and Richard Hadlee and people like that. These players came over and enhanced county cricket. Either we want county cricket to be the best version of cricket in the world it can be or we want it to be second-rate where we don't want overseas players.
"If you ask members and supporters, they want to watch the best players. We moan when we can't see our own international players, so let's get the best internationals we can over here and make county championship cricket the best it can be. If it means Steve Smith and Marnus Labuschagne come and get an opportunity before the Ashes, why not? Absolutely why not?"
Alan Gardner is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo. @alanroderick