England’s super-over hero, Steve Smith’s terrifying memory, and a keen left-arm spinner. All three descriptions are fair for Jofra Archer, but they all represent completely different aspects of this young man’s personality.
He’s missed out to Mark Wood for the Port Elizabeth match due to injury, which has set a few tongues wagging. We’re here to set the record straight.
By carefully examining each aforementioned description, we’re going to review his international career so far in a slightly unconventional way and show why patience is what he needs the most right now. Spoiler alert, it’s been pretty good.
The super-over hero
This first description comes down to Archer’s achievements in international cricket. His most notable (so far) has to be that final over at Lord’s on July 14th, 2019, but his 6-45 against the Aussies at Headingley wasn’t bad either. Let’s take a look at a couple of telling statistics for a second:
That doesn’t sound too bad, does it? Consider that he had only played four games of international cricket before his World Cup debut and that he’s only 24 years old, and it’s even more impressive. Archer’s achievements in such a short space of time are nothing short of remarkable. His pace and unerring accuracy have caused problems for just about every batsman he’s bowled to, and his statistics back that up.
Steve Smith’s memory bank
Missed our piece on why the stage is perfectly set for Tom Banton’s emergence? Check it out here.
Second on our list is Archer’s raw talent – a talent that allows him to bowl in excess of 90 mph. The ability to propel leather balls at speeds in excess of the magical 90 mph (or 145-ish kmh if you’re that way inclined) is, to put it plainly, English cricket’s gold dust.
It is no surprise, therefore, that his brutal spell to the immovable Steve Smith on his Test debut got everyone rather excited. He not only had the enigmatic Australian jumping around all over the place but also landed a terrifying blow that forced his opponent to miss the next game.
The thing is, Archer can’t bowl like that all the time. No-one can. Yes, certain bowlers are more consistent with their speeds but it’s essential that we remember how many Test matches the man has played; seven is simply not enough for him to understand exactly how his body works.
Give it a couple of years, and he will mature as a cricketer and begin to understand how he responds to various situations. Look at Pat Cummins – a tearaway quick when he first burst on the scene, he had to endure years of injury-related frustration before he became the consistent performer he is now.
We’ve found a guy who can bowl at terrifying speeds but we need to calm down about it. It’s unreasonable to expect him to do it every single time he runs in, and he must be afforded the time and patience to learn his art.
A keen left-arm spinner
Finally, Jofra Archer is unconventional. He warms up by bowling left-arm spin (just in case you’re missing the reference) and doesn’t necessarily follow the standard model of heroic England cricketers. Ben Stokes, Freddie Flintoff, Bob Willis (and countless others) all conduct(ed) themselves a certain way on the field. They charge in, they sweat, and they roar with passion when they take a wicket.
Jofra rarely does those things, but that does not mean he’s not interested. He’s just different. Nasser Hussain has spoken of an English tendency to be suspicious of anything that’s different, and his assessment is a very interesting one. He’s certainly right about one thing: Archer is different, but that doesn’t mean he’s not ‘up for it’ or that he can’t be bothered.
There have been plenty of occasions when it’s been abundantly clear that Archer is extremely bothered about the cricket he plays, he’s just a very cool customer. We need to embrace that difference and give him the patience to develop into what he has the potential to be – a top-class player.
We’re always very quick in this country (and, perhaps, this sport) to try and define people. ‘What is Jofra Archer?’, ‘what is his role?’, ‘how should Root be using him?’ – these may all be fair questions, but they’re being asked too much. Archer is a hugely talented cricketer, who bowls at 90 mph+, already boasts 30 Test wickets, and has a World Cup medal (thanks, in no small part, to his individual effort in the final) to boot.
For now, let’s just let Jofra be Jofra and wait for the magic to happen. His short career suggests that it will.