(Photo: Getty Images)
By Charlie Peat
It has been more than three years since Sam Robson walked to the crease as an England batsman – and the 28-year-old has unfinished business on the international stage.
The Australian-born Middlesex opener made a dream start to his Test career, plundering 127 not out against Sri Lanka in the second Test at Headingley in 2014 but had already been discarded by the end of the India series that followed.
Now, three-and-a-half years since that final Test against India, Robson believes he is a better player than when he was first thrust onto the international stage – having helped Middlesex to the County Championship in 2016. And with England still looking for solutions at the top of the order after their Ashes struggles this winter, Robson insists he is ready for another shot at Test level and possible redemption against the Indians.
Robson said: “I would be lying if I said an England recall wasn’t on my mind. I was left out but I’d love to play for England again.
“I’ve probably been in the hunt the last couple of years but I haven’t, at times, been able to string enough big scores together. I’ve been good enough at times but then I’ve followed that up with innings where I didn’t do myself justice.
“I think there’s unfinished business. One thing you learn from playing for England is that you have no idea what it’s like until you get out there, you cannot predict it.
“But now I’ve been there I know what it’s all like and I know what it’s about. I definitely think I’ll be better for it second time around if I get another opportunity.
“I feel like I’m a better player now than I was when I got my chance and I hope I can just keep improving in the next few years. What’s kept spurring me on is the hunger to improve and be more consistent as the years go on and hopefully it’ll help me.
“Playing for the Lions (against South Africa) last summer gave me a flavour. It’s good to get recognised again. It was my first involvement with the Lions squad since I was dropped from the Test side so that in itself is pleasing and shows I can fight back in a way.”
If Robson needs proof that good things come to those who wait, he simply needs to follow the lead of his Middlesex skipper Dawid Malan.
The 30-year-old must have wondered if he was ever going to get an opportunity at Test level, but finally broke into the team last summer and then hit a sensational 140 against Australia at the WACA this winter – the only century by an English player while the Ashes were still alive.
Malan has since been named Middlesex skipper for the upcoming season and Robson, who will serve as his vice-captain, believes his teammate can serve as encouragement for those aiming to make it internationally.
He said: “It’s great to see and it’s great for Middlesex. It gives you a bit of inspiration that if you keep working hard and keep performing and put performances on the board week in, week out then you get a chance.
“It was a disappointing series for the side but he’s done well. If you had told him a year ago that he’d have played a full Ashes series and come away with a Test hundred, I don’t think he would have believed you.
“I think in general he’s an inspiration. All the players in county cricket will be inspired. It can fire guys up and make them hungry to do it themselves.”
For Robson, the chance to come in as vice-captain is reward for a decade of service at Lord’s since joining the set-up as an 18-year-old.
He is only too aware that, with Malan’s international commitments, the vice-captaincy is far more than an honorary role and is relishing the chance to lead his home county.
Robson added: “I’m looking forward to it. When I initially spoke to Angus (Fraser – managing director of cricket) about it, it was very exciting and it will be good.
“Things have changed in recent times with Dawid finding himself in the ODI squad and doing so well in the Ashes in what was a tough tour. His star is rising and he might be away a little bit more so it means I might be captain a bit more than I initially thought.
“I’m looking forward to it and it will be a big challenge. It will be something different.
“I’ve always followed the game closely and I’ve always considered myself to be a student of the game, so tactically I read the game well and have a decent understanding of what’s going on.
“I think that Middlesex had a disappointing season last year. We can make excuses and there were things that didn’t go our way along the road but the bottom line is that we didn’t do well enough the whole way through the year.
“But we have a strong squad and a lot of good players. In 2016 we had a similar group and last year is just a blip along the road.”
That ‘blip’ led to four-day relegation and leaves Middlesex in Division Two this season, just one year removed from their County Championship success.
So, it’s no surprise that getting back into the top flight is priority number one for Robson and the rest of the team.
He added: “That’s our aim, no doubt.
“It’s going to be tough work and we’ll be speaking a lot about that before the start of the season.
“It’s a tough division and it will be tough work – it’s going to be a real scrap. Hopefully we can have a good year and it’s crucial that we make a good start. When we have done well, we’ve started strong.”