Wisden Almanack editor Lawrence Booth has explained why Ollie Robinson was named as one of the Five Wisden Cricketers of the Year after former England batter Mark Butcher expressed his reservations about the decision on the Wisden Cricket Weekly podcast.
Butcher, a regular on the Wisden Cricket Weekly podcast, argued that Robinson’s selection will be used by those who do not believe English cricket has a problem with discrimination, ‘as a win.’
Ollie Robinson was received the award after finishing the 2021 season as England’s leading Test wicket-taker, taking 28 scalps at 19.60.
Robinson made headlines for the wrong reasons on his Test debut when it was discovered that he had sent a series of offensive tweets between the ages of 18 and 20 which the Cricket Discipline Committee described as, “racist, sexist, disablist, Islamophobic and offensive.”
Robinson, now 28, was banned for a total of eight games, three of which were served and five of which were suspended, as well being fined £3,200 and instructed to take part in educational courses from The Professional Cricketer’s Association.
Speaking on the Wisden Cricket Weekly podcast, Butcher explained to the editor of the Wisden Almanack Lawrence Booth, who holds ultimate responsibility for picking The Wisden Five, why he believed Robinson should not have been considered for the award despite his strong on-field performances.
“There are lots of people who don’t want to hear it at all”, Butcher said of the issue of discrimination within the English game. “And the thing that’s sticking in my craw a bit about his [Robinson’s] nomination and his celebration in this way, is that those people, the people who can’t be reached anyway, will take that as a win for them.
“It’s got nothing to do with Ollie Robinson per se. It’s the way that people who have no interest in listening to the idea that there may be some form of discrimination in the game of cricket, or any sort of discrimination in the UK on any matter – you can’t change their minds anyhow, but what you can do is give them a little nugget to hold onto which says ‘ah you know what it wasn’t that bad after all, see?’ We were right, there’s no case to answer. And that’s what bugs me.”
Butcher explained that he had no issue with Robinson being allowed to play for England given he had served his punishment and apologised for his behaviour, but that, “putting him on the cover is perhaps further than I would’ve gone in terms of his rehab.”
Wisden editor Lawrence Booth said he understood Butcher’s concerns, but insisted that Robinson’s nomination was a way of, “addressing the issue, not celebrating [it]”.
“Our basic position was that, the tweets were about a decade old, he apologised and he was suspended. So he kind of, had suffered some punishments there and I didn’t feel it was for Wisden to add to his punishments, he’d kind of done his time.
“But for me I could kind of square that with my conscious if you like to pick him. And you know the piece where Vithushan Ehantharajah interviews him [for the Almanack], he addresses it, he asks him tough questions and Ollie himself says that this will never go away. And he’s aware that he messed up, they were horrible tweets, a decade old or otherwise.”
Booth also stressed that he hoped that “the balance of all the articles in the book show where we [The Wisden Almanack] stand” on issues of race.
“We have Azeem Rafiq writing at the front of the book about about his experience and I’m very critical of Yorkshire and the ECB about their handling of that. [I’m] full of praise for Rafiq and racism is front and centre of the editor’s notes…I just hope that once you read the piece that you’ll see we haven’t presented it in that way.” Booth concluded.