Well, well, well. This is very interesting indeed. The ECB has just changed its eligibility criteria for England players. Non British-born players will now only have to serve a 3 year residency period (down from 7 years), which means < long drumroll > that one of the world’s best young cricketers, a certain Jofra Chioke Archer Esq, is now fully qualified to play for England.
Although some will think this is a rather cynical move by the ECB (conceived cunningly with Archer front of mind) they do have a very good excuse. The ICC itself now only insists on a 3 year residency rule (previously 4 years); therefore they can argue with a knowing smile that English cricket is only changing its rules to conform with international standards. The fact that 2019 is a World Cup and home Ashes year, and England will suddenly have one of the most exciting all-round talents in the world available to them, is surely a complete coincidence. Wink wink.
There’s no doubt that Archer would be the most exciting overseas talent to qualify for England since Kevin Pietersen, and before that Graeme Hick. England’s attack lacks genuine pace, and with Jimmy Anderson and Stuart Broad also coming to the end of their careers, Jofra’s availability suddenly ticks a lot of boxes. What’s more, we all know that Ed Smith’s philosophy is to pick the best all-round talents available. And Archer bowls, bats, and fields with aplomb. I bet Big Ed is salivating.
I don’t think there’s any doubt that Archer will play for England in the next 12 months. The question, surely, is when? And that. my friends, is the issue I’d like to discuss today. Would you pick young Jofra immediately – he’s actually eligible to play for England on their tour of the West Indies in a few weeks’ time – or wait until the World Cup or even The Ashes?
Part of me suspects Archer might be catapulted into the England team at the first opportunity. I’d certainly have him in both the red ball and white ball squads. The problem is who the selectors would drop to accommodate him? There are no obvious candidates when it comes to the test squad I’m afraid. Olly Stone and Chris Woakes might be the most vulnerable, although long term Jack Leach or Adil Rashid might miss out when England tour countries likely to help fast bowlers rather than spinners. I would say that Sam Curran would be the obvious choice to drop out but I suspect he’ll continue to get picked primarily as a batter.
Accommodating Archer in the white ball squads looks a much easier task. He’s clearly an upgrade over every single pyjama wearing England bowler. I’d definitely take him over the likes of David Willey, Tom Curran, and Chris Jordan, and probably over Mark Wood and Liam Plunkett too. I don’t think there’s much doubt that Archer’s presence would be a massive boost for Eoin Morgan in both ODIs and T20s. Perhaps, therefore, England leave the test squad unchanged for now but then pick Archer for the white ball leg of the Windies tour?
I’d love to know what you all make of Archer. Is he the next big thing or is there a chance he’ll struggle at international level? Personally I think he’ll do fine as long as expectations are realistic. Although he’s an amazing athlete he still has some developing to do. Pace isn’t always enough at the top level so he’ll need to hone those skills. We also saw him struggle on T20 finals day – a rare occurrence I must admit.
Archer’s presence will definitely give England a new dimension in both the World Cup and The Ashes. If the old adage that teams should always do what the opposition wants least holds water, then the ECB have just pulled a blinder. I bet the Aussies crying into their beer as we speak.