Black History Month: Robert Rollins


Born in Plaistow in January 1974, Robert began his career as a fast bowler but soon made the transition to wicket-keeping, with the switch to the gloveman’s role proving a shrewd decision.

Robert, who had been an attendee at the Ilford Cricket School, had played for Clayhall Cricket Club and had produced a match-winning performance in 1988 as the Club became the first winners of the Mobil Matchplay Final.

Cricket had always been a part of the Rollins family life; his father Andy played in the Lancashire League, his brother Adrian was an opening batsman who played for Derbyshire and Northamptonshire, whilst his other brother Gary represented Cornwall.

Robert represented England Schools at Under 15 level and at 16, was given his first experience of Essex Second XI cricket. He impressed and was awarded a contract the following summer before making his senior debut against Pakistan at Chelmsford in 1992.

His first appearance in the County Championship and the Sunday League came the following season and the jovial and talented player soon caught the eye of many astute observers and was widely-tipped by many for the highest honours after representing England Under 19’s.

Capped in 1995, he had by then taken over as first-choice keeper from Mike Garnham. His only career first-class century came that summer against Glamorgan when he scored 133 not out at Swansea. That was also the season when he illustrated his batting panache in one-day cricket, when he hammered an unbeaten 67 against Buckinghamshire in the NatWest Trophy on the compact Beaconsfield Ground endangering traffic passing on the adjacent A40. That innings won him Man of the Match award.

Behind the stumps, he was a very talented and reliable keeper whose starring performance came in a Championship match against Nottinghamshire in 1998 when he took 8 catches. He also claimed 5 victims in the Sunday League fixture with Gloucestershire at Cheltenham in 1995.

An infectiously bouncy keeper capable of completing a spectacular catch, such was his promise that he had spent a winter in Australia playing club cricket in Sydney whilst on standby for the England team.

But cruelly injuries prevented him from attaining his full potential. A number of frustrating finger injures were later followed by a knee problem. It was a sad day when Robert announced in November 1999 that he would be forced to retire. He had only been fit enough to play three first-class matches that summer although he did make four appearances in the National Cricket League and scored 87 against Lancashire at Chelmsford which proved to be his highest score in one-day cricket.

In 69 first-class matches for Essex, he scored 2,258 runs at an average of 22.35, which included one century and 11 half-centuries, whilst he also claimed 158 catches and made 21 stumpings.

In one-day cricket, he played 103 matches and scored 1,052 runs at 16.97 whilst also taking 84 catches and 25 stumpings.

Following his retirement from the first-class game, Robert played Minor Counties and List A cricket for Cambridgeshire and one-day cricket for Huntingdonshire.

He is now director of Rollins Sports Limited, a company producing high-quality cricket equipment and bespoke team wear. He is also Head Coach to Metropolitan Essex Eagles working with young children and clubs across the Met Essex Area.