The Curious Case Of Jofra Archer

Here’s Billy Crawford with his thoughts on Jofra’s summer …

This season was undoubtedly the summer of James Anderson and Stuart Broad. The two old stagers raged against the dying of the light and occasionally against journalists on Twitter.

For another bowler, however, it has been a rather different summer. Last year Jofra Archer was the great hope of English cricket. Against Australia at Lord’s he had produced the most terrifying spell of fast bowling seen in an Ashes contest since Mitchell Johnson 7 years ago. Steve Smith, the world’s greatest batsman, was peppered, bruised and eventually felled in a passage of play that no one who ever saw it will ever forget.

Now, though, that day at HQ seems a long time ago. The Jofra Archer of this summer cut a disconsolate figure. His pace was down and with it his effectiveness was blunted.

His interviews and newspaper columns hinted at a lack of motivation as much as form. After an insipid performance at Edgbaston, a match where his bowling was noticeably slower, he spoke of looking at the pitch and deciding it was “not one to bend your back on”.

This in itself is a startling statement, one that betrays much about Archer’s state of mind. One can hardly imagine the great fast bowlers of yesteryear, the Brett Lee’s or Malcolm Marshall’s, looking at a surface and deciding they might not bother putting in the effort today.

Perhaps we should not be too harsh on Archer though. Intense scrutiny and judgement of him is likely to be counterproductive. He is best it seems, when left to just be himself.

While the fallout from his Covid bubble breach had an obvious effect on him this summer, it would be lazy journalism to contribute all of Archer’s current malaise to this one event.

Perhaps we need to look further back to Mount Maunganui in February, where Joe Root compelled his primary strike bowler to bowl 42 overs in one innings against New Zealand. Archer looked visibly annoyed throughout the match and subsequently sustained a stress fracture of the elbow that kept him out of the rest of the tour.

It seemed that Joe Root had absolutely no idea how to use his key asset. Deploying someone of Archer’s talent as a stock bowler is a waste of England’s best resource. After all, one does not buy a Maserati and then use it for the morning commute.

Far better to use Archer in the same way that Michael Clarke used Mitchell Johnson in that fateful Ashes series in 2013-14. Clarke restricted his fast bowler to short sharp bursts of 3-4 overs, thus ensuring Johnson was always able to run in at full tilt without having to pace himself for longer spells. Archer’s effectiveness in T20 cricket has already proved that this approach could work with him.

There are other factors at play in Archer’s malaise as well. His motivation is constantly questioned and this must be wearisome for a young man. His Barbadian upbringing is used against him in the same manner as Kevin Pietersen’s South African heritage once was.

The questions about his commitment to the England cause derive from doubts about his Englishness. After all, as people repeatedly said about Pietersen, didn’t he just come here to play cricket? Like Pietersen, Archer has a fondness for fashion and jewelry that does not sit well with the staid atmosphere of English cricket. To many he may seem a little bit flash.

Sadly, we have not learnt the lessons of the Pietersen affair. It was these questions and this attitude, the constant feeling that he was being treated as an outsider, that eventually drove the gifted batsman away from these shores. If we are not careful we may do the same to Archer. After all, like Pietersen, he could earn far more as a T20 gun for hire than as an England cricketer.

To some the criticism of Archer has hints of racism about it. The unseemly Twitter spat between Jonathan Liew and Agnew arose from this accusation from the former towards his media colleagues.

This accusation does not hold up to scrutiny, however. After all, Kevin Pietersen, a white man, received almost identical treatment. It is difficult to see Jonathan Agnew and his collegues, who work alongside cricketers and commentators from every corner of the globe as closet racists.

The issue of race is still pertinent but not in the way that Jonathan Liew might suggest. The volume of articles portraying Archer as a standard bearer for the Afro-Caribbean community has been weighty. The Cricketer recently published an issue reflecting on race and equal opportunities in cricket, in light of the Black Lives Matter movement. Jofra Archer adorned the cover. Many editorials have been written in the cricketing press suggesting that he can inspire a new generation of Black British cricketers.

While all of this may be a laudable aim, it is unfair to pin that burden on a 25 year old still finding his way in the game. There are enough pressures attached to being England’s greatest fast bowling hope in a generation without saddling the Sussex man with anything further.

Jofra Archer did not ask for any of this, he didn’t ask to be a standard bearer, neither did he ask for his loyalty to the cause to be constantly questioned. He is just a young man who wants to bowl fast. Perhaps we should all just let him.

Billy Crawford


  • Archer is an unusual cricketer in that he’s made his initial Impact in 20-20 for the IPL. What’s unusual about this is that he’s a bowler. Most White ball specialists are batsmen.
    It’s inevitable that having made his reputation with short burst of speed where the maximum spell he’ll bowl is 4 overs, his isn’t an easily transferable skill to test level, where as a quickie you need to sustain this pace and for longer spells over a longer time, so inconsistency is inevitable. He needs to find time to play on the county circuit and develop more consistency.
    When he can’t get the necessary rythmn he appears to be off the pace and to many looking on not trying. Ask any quick and they’ll talk about rythmn as the key to reproducing their best form. Although he’s not express look at Broad and how long it took him to find a measure of consistency. It’ll take a similar time for Archer, as he’s still young and Inexperienced at test level, to adapt his style to every format. I feel Olly Pope will have the same issue as a batsman, though here it’s more about concentration and judgment. It will be interesting to watch the development of these 2 as at present they are the best up and coming talents we have and key to England’s future success in all formats.

  • Totally disagree with your view about pitches not being one to bend your back on!
    Fast bowlers will always pick and choose when to bowl flat out. Conditions will always dictate.
    I remember back in ‘76. Holding spoke of his inexperience at the Oval and bowling flat out throughout the game. Whilst commenting that the other bowlers like Roberts etc held back.
    Dennis Lillie was another who would bowl according to the conditions.
    Good bowlers read the conditions, the game situation and bowl accordingly.
    Sure Archer has genuine pace. But he needs a good captain who understands him and the game. After New Zealand as the article says I’m not sure Root is that man.

    • You can’t pick and choose when to bowl flat out as a quickie as it’s about rythmn and you can’t reproduce this on tap.
      Talk to any fast bowler and they’ll tell you when you get that rythmn it just happens naturally. Without it the faster you try to bowl the more you spray it about, Harmison being a classic example.
      Even the Windies quickies of the 70’s and 80’s weren’t on song all the time, it just seems that way in retrospect.

    • I think you’re talking about two different things there Marc. One is whether bowling flat-out will be very effective if you’re not in the rhythm (and I’m not sure I would limit this to flat-out fast bowling: I think the principle is probably the same if you’re bowling at 75 mph!)

      The other is whether you choose to try and bowl flat-out–ie what your strategy is. You can absolutely choose whether or not to do this–and, contrary to what’s said in the article, Malcolm Marshall was one bowler who was well-known for cutting down his pace and relying on movement if he thought the conditions warranted it.

      I think Billy is also conflating “not putting in effort” and “not bending your back”. You can absolutely put in effort without bending your back in the sense of bowling flat-out fast. What I understood Archer to be saying was that it wasn’t a pitch on which that kind of flat-out strategy would be productive. Obviously you could–and some commentators did–disagree with his judgment, but I don’t think it showed a lack of effort.

      For me the “wonderful high-speed bowler” approach to Archer, even when it’s well-meant, also sells him short. What we saw in the Ashes is that he can not only be very fast indeed but also that he’s a generally skilful bowler. That elevates him above Wood and possibly Stone.

      • As a team player a quickie has to obey the captain’s instructions if he can, so the punter In the crowd assumes once he comes on the instruction is to use his greatest assset, pace, as a strike bowler, otherwise you might just as well use your stock bowlers like Stokes. It’s a total waste to have Archer turning his arm over at a pace other bowlers can do as effectively. As yet Archer doesn’t seem to swing or seam the ball much. Agree totally he’s on a different level from the likes of Stone and Wood. The thing that most worries me about him is his comparatively slight frame, though it has to be said that the bulkier Stone and Wood have had a succession of injury problems Archer’s naturally athletic figure seems not to have been encumbered with as yet.
        Marshall is a different animal. He had the skill sets to vary tactics, whereas even Holding and Roberts never reached his level of effective variety. This made Marshall a great user of the old ball as well, before the old chestnut of reverse swing came on the scene.

  • I think the main reason is that he’s best with the new ball, and he hardly had it this summer. He’s a top bowler. He’s going to have a few peaks and troughs (just like Broad and Anderson have through their careers) , but ultimately, he’s a gem.

  • His best career path is to give up test cricket and focus on white ball. He is not a test bowler, and if body language is a guide, he doesn’t want to be a test bowler.
    The hype surrounding Archer is what it is, just hype.
    I rate him highly in white ball, a liability in tests.

    • 22 wickets at 20 at a strike rate of 42 in a hard-fought Ashes series where about half the specialist bowlers who played more than a single match averaged 33 or more and generally had a strike rate north of 70, and he’s “just hype” and “not a test bowler”? Some people really are hard to please!

      Sure you could ask whether he’ll be able to produce that level of performance consistently–and I agree with you that he may not be especially enthused about test cricket (who would be as a bowler with Root as captain?!) and with Billy that the relentless criticism may make him feel it’s not worth his while. But “not a test bowler” seems a bit to me like saying that de Villiers was not a test batsman.

    • I think it’s widely appreciated now that Root’s handling of him during the Ashes was less than ideal. Using him as a stock bowler is not going to get the best out of him. If he’d been given the new ball and used in short pacy bursts the evidence, especially from white ball where this is what happens, is he would have been a more consistent impact bowler.

    • If only it was widely appreciated in the England bubble!

      If I recall, Archer’s most incisive red-ball spell last summer was when the England captain–not Root–told him to bowl as fast as he could for a few overs.

  • Interesting article, but I don’t think comparing him to KP is relevant. KP established himself with world class innings against some good attacks both in Tests and ODIs. The wheels came off over management issues, but by then he was recognised as the genuine article. Archer has so far shown potential as so many shooting stars have done in the past, but has yet to convince as a genuine Test opening bowler. My guess is that he sees his future in the white ball game to which he’s temperamentally better suited.

  • Archer has already shown he’s the real deal in all 3 formats- 20 or so wickets in his first Test series and a hold over the world’s best batsman isn’t a bad way to start. Think he has been mishandled by Root since then – you’re spot on that we should use him the way Clarke used Johnson. The weather has not been his friend this summer either- damp and overcast for the most part, favouring traditional nip-it-around seamers who bowl at 80-85mph rather than express pace – though I think we’ll ultimately see the best of him overseas where it’s sunnier, pitches are flatter and you need pace.

    • He’s shown he can produce but the test arena is about doing it consistently which is where the modern player falls apart. They are all capable of a spell of bowling or a 100 in blistering style (buttler, Bairstow , Jennings et all) but can they do it again and again in different conditions …….

      Archer sadly seems to be a 2020 mercenary in waiting, can’t see him doing much in tests and will be gone from 50 over within a few years .

  • On the Mitchell Johnson comparison, Johnson may have bowled short spells but he bowled the most overs in that series of any Australian bowler. His overall workload was not a light one.

    Root seems to be given sole ownership of Archer’s workload. Do we think the coaching staff are saying to do something else and Root is ignoring them? The coaches, like Macavity, seem never to be there when this issue’s about.

    More pertinently, this last week has shown where cricket’s priorities now lie. Archer and others can play the IPL but then get an England series off. The international game is sliding further and further behind the big franchise competitions.

  • The Full Toss has made a deep study of whether there’s any substance to the allegations of election fraud, has it? Or don’t you care as long as you get the ‘correct’ result? How about we wait and see what evidence is presented and then assess its credibility?

    This election is not decided and the media are playing you to make you think that it is. Only someone who mistakes what the media trumpet for reality can’t see this.

    P.S. I don’t like Trump, don’t think he’s a good guy and wouldn’t vote for him. However I have noticed that there were no new wars while he was President but under the last Democrat President there were two new wars, both of which Biden supported.

    • “…only someone who mistakes what the media trumpet for reality can’t see this…”

      Whereas you, o radical free thinker who can’t possibly be fooled, couldn’t possibly be being taken in by the more hyperbolic claims of one side of the debate…

      • It’s the media that have declared the new president, not the constitution. So…the same as normal, then: the new president is always declared in November even though constitutionally they don’t become president until much later.

        Strange that we didn’t hear anything about this in 2016…or 2012 or any other year for that matter!

    • Apparantly Trump had the ‘legitimate’ voting forms issued with a special water mark and wants a general recount to find out how many of the ballot papers have this. Also most of those operating the technological side of the election process that produces the results have active democrat connections. There are all sorts of dodgy practices allegedly witnessed by many whom the media have chosen to ignore, as the media in general is so anti-trump because of the way he dismisses so much of their criticism as fake news. It’s the media that have declared Biden president elect, not the constitution.
      I’m not a Trump fan either, but there appears to be a lot going on the media is choosing to ignore.


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