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Despite his pink-ball successes, Ollie Robinson not a fan of the 'gimmick'

The England pacer, who should continue to take on new-ball duties in New Zealand, has particular issues with the ball used in day-night Tests

Ollie Robinson: "Traditional Test cricket - there's nothing wrong with it. I don't think we need to play these pink-ball games"  •  Matthew Lewis/Getty Images

Ollie Robinson: "Traditional Test cricket - there's nothing wrong with it. I don't think we need to play these pink-ball games"  •  Matthew Lewis/Getty Images

The drive to Mount Maunganui from Hamilton takes barely a session, through the lush greens and postcard backdrops you'd associate with New Zealand. But on Sunday the vistas were blurred by the first winds and driving rains ahead of Cyclone Gabrielle's visit to the North Island at the start of next week.
Preparations ahead of the opening Test on Thursday at Bay Oval are set to be severely hampered, with domestic flights to nearby Tauranga Airport cancelled, and with no indoor facilities beyond an admittedly impressive marquee that will probably end up as a glorified kite. England are not worried, believing their two-day match against New Zealand XI in Hamilton supplemented by seven intense practice sessions since arriving in the country at the end of February should hold them in good stead.
They were certainly in no rush to get down on Sunday evening, stopping along the way for a barbecue at casa del McCullum, which sits at a neat halfway point just outside the town of Matamata. And by all accounts, they aren't in a rush for the series opener, their seventh pink-ball Test.
"It's a bit gimmicky," said seamer Ollie Robinson on day-night matches in general. Perhaps an unsurprising viewpoint from an Englishman given they have lost five out of the six they've played, each by considerable margins. The last one over here came just up the road in Auckland back in 2018 - a humiliating innings and 49-run defeat after getting bowled out in their first innings for 58.
"They're trying to get crowds and and change the game a little bit. But the way England are playing Test cricket at the moment, I don't think that needs to happen. We could stick to how we're going and we're entertaining people as we are so I'm not sure if it's necessary really.
"Just traditional Test cricket - there's nothing wrong with it to start with. I don't think we need to play these pink-ball games."
The ball is the main gripe, something not limited to this group of players. Especially the Kookaburra version which has been used most in the 23 day-night matches so far. Criticisms range from a loss of colour to varying degrees of hardness dependent on the batch. And, of course, little assistance off the seam or through the air. Even the greater threat to the twilight period seems to be due to batters struggling to adjust their eyes.
"I think they're all different. Every time I play with it, they've been different. Some have swung, some have seamed and some are harder. Some are softer. The warmup game the other day, I got hit with a 65-over-old ball and it hurt more than a brand new ball. It's just like a rock.
"I'm not a massive fan of that, no. We've been trying to get them to swing this last week and they're very inconsistent and the seams a bit grippier in the surface. They're just not a traditional cricket ball."
Robinson has a pretty good record with the pink Kookaburra. Across the three times he's used it, all in Australia - two Tests during the recent Ashes series (Adelaide and Hobart) and against Australia A at the MCG for the Lions in February 2020 - he has taken 12 wickets at 24.41. Throw in a match with the Dukes equivalent for Sussex against Glamorgan in 2018, and his overall pink average drops to 21.06, close to an overall first-class average of 20.71.
"To get that opportunity to bowl with Jimmy at the other end was really special for me and my career. And Broady was really good about it as well. Every morning he'd tap me on the back, good luck, go well."
Clearly, whether he likes it or not, he has found a way to make it work for him. Therefore you would expect him to continue this week in his newly acquired opening role. It was as much something he took from Stuart Broad as the veteran quick gave to him upon Robinson's return to the side for the second Test against South Africa last summer. Ahead of the match at Old Trafford, Broad suggested to Ben Stokes the 29-year-old's skills warranted first dibs after overcoming general fitness concerns.
The captain agreed and Robinson went on to 12 wickets at 15 in the remaining two matches of the summer, as England overturned a 1-0 deficit against South Africa.
"To get that opportunity to bowl with Jimmy [James Anderson] at the other end was really special for me and my career. And Broady was really good about it as well. Every morning he'd tap me on the back, good luck, go well. Talk to me at mid-off every other ball. So the three of us have got a really good relationship about it. And it's been going really well for the last 18 months."
A more wide-ranging part came in Pakistan as the only quick bowler to play all three back-to-back matches. Wedding the usual control with relentless spells of bumpers and even reverse swing, he finished with nine dismissals at 21.22.
Starting 2023 with 60 at a ridiculous 20.01 from 14 caps so far, and more equipped for the rigours of multiple spells across multiple days, he has offered more than a glimpse of a future beyond Broad and Anderson. England's dexterity with their bowling this tour centres around the opposition's batting which is left-hand heavy at the top of the order with Tom Latham and Devon Conway, with Olly Stone the outlier given his extra pace.
The improved durability, more of a lifestyle change than a short-term fix, is something that is on the way to becoming a standout trait for Robinson, even given the outright skill he possesses. His aim, in essence, is to prove him worth of being a constant, much like Anderson, to allow others to come in and out and do their work around him.
"That's obviously what I'm going for. Try and be economical, let the boys around me with pace sometimes go hard and I'll try and hold the game like we did in Pakistan when Woody [Mark Wood] played. That's probably my role and if I can play as many games as possible to help the team that's what I'll do."
It proved crucial in Pakistan and will be especially so this summer with six Tests across seven weeks, with the one-off match with Ireland and a condensed Ashes series. The prospect of the latter meant a number of England players have been following the start of Australia's tour of India, which culminated in a collapse for 91 on Saturday evening in New Zealand to confirm defeat inside three days.
"It's always good to see the Aussies lose," Robinson said with a wry smile. Even then, he appreciated the nature of the wicket and the way the game fell, believing India's batters had the better conditions to bat: "Sometimes you win the toss, bat first but then it almost plays better second day".
Nevertheless, he was taking what cues he could on how Pat Cummins' charges might approach the summer. All the more important as he enters his third year at this level - one he regards as the most important so far.
"I think it's probably the biggest year of my career now. It's an exciting year and I think with the group and the environment we've got it's going to be amazing. The memories that we're going to create and hopefully the Test match wins we're going to do. I'm really looking forward to it."

Vithushan Ehantharajah is an associate editor at ESPNcricinfo