The 2021 England cricket summer has so much promise.
For the first time in a year, spectators are allowed to watch Test cricket. There are Test series against New Zealand and India, a World Test Championship final, with lashings of white balls cricket for those who enjoy that sort of thing.
On paper, this should be as good a summer as the 2019 summer, which featured the ODI World Cup and a terrific Ashes series.
Unfortunately, one issue is threatening to derail the cricket – social media comments by players.
Debutant Ollie Robinson was found to have posted some tweets deemed offensive when he was 18 or 19 years old. As a result, the England Cricket Board (ECB) has suspended him from international cricket, pending the outcome of its investigation.
All manner of people have piled onto that decision, including the UK Prime Minister and his Sports and Culture Minister, Oliver Dowden. Plenty of ex-players have also had a say, as has James Anderson who, among other things, made the following comments:
“The language and things talked about (in the messages) are obviously not acceptable.
“He (Robinson) stood up in front of the group and apologised, and you could see how sincere he was and how upset he was.
“As a group, we appreciate that he’s a different person now. He has done a lot of maturing and growing since then and he’s got the full support of the team.”
These are fine words from England’s senior fast bowler – except it now seems he too has been guilty of a similar sort of messaging.
Not only has Anderson allegedly been making inappropriate comments on social forums, if media reports are correct, it also appears Josh Buttler and Eoin Morgan have as well. On top of that, the ECB is apparently investigating a racist tweet made by a current player when they were 15 years old.
Bear in mind all of these instances have come to light in the past week. It begs the obvious question: how many more England players have done something similar?
If there are five players who have posted unsuitable comments, does the ECB assume that’s it, or do they conduct an investigation of all contracted players’ social media accounts?
Ollie Robinson has been suspended by the ECB, so does the Board mete out the same action to others, like Anderson, who have posted comments that are deemed offensive?
Is Jimmy Anderson’s situation far more serious, given he’s a senior member of the team, clearly knows what’s acceptable and what’s not, yet has been caught out in similar circumstances to Robinson?
It would also be wrong for the rest of the world’s cricketers to feel holier than thou.
Just as other players have committed crimes similar to those which landed Steve Smith and co. in hot water back in 2018, it’s inevitable there will be similar instances of unsuitable messaging from cricketers playing for other nations. Brendon McCullum, for example, has also been linked to the sort of tweets mentioned above.
If the International Cricket Board (ICB) is fair dinkum about cleaning up this aspect of the game, what steps will they take? It would also be interesting to see what resistance they encounter from players and Boards, if they do decide to clean house.
If the ICB leaves it to each Board to take action as they see fit, which is their probable response, what happens if a Board does nothing? I don’t think too many Boards want to investigate because I think they’re afraid of what they’re likely to find out.
We all know about the sensitivities around racism and sexism and the ECB is clearly on board, given the shirts the players wore before the first Test against New Zealand.
That one inexperienced Test player has been accused of going against the standards of expected behaviour is bad enough, but to then include senior players and an England cricket captain makes this an unimaginable mess.
It’s going to take the wisdom of Solomon to come up with a solution that is acceptable to all interested parties. Sadly, I don’t believe such a person exists, certainly not on any cricket board.
I have no idea how this situation is going to be resolved.
It is a huge issue that needs to be addressed but I hope it can be managed in conjunction with cricket matches and not instead of them.