With the rapidly growing global attention he has gained from his success in first-class and Twenty20 tournaments in a relatively short period, Jofra Archer must have a lot going through his mind.
Just over four months ago following an outstanding season for Sussex in the English County Championship, the gifted 22-year-old Barbadian fast bowling all-rounder was back home visiting family and friends as Barbados Pride were preparing for the Regional first-class Tournament.
A former Barbados and West Indies Under-19 team player, whose education was at Hilda Skeene Primary and Christ Church Foundation, Archer has never represented Barbados at the first-class level but last October he did express a desire to play for the Pride.
Debate over whether he would lean towards West Indies or England for an international career was very much a big talking point.
After all, he was born to an English father, Frank Archer, (his mother Joelle Waithe is a Barbadian), paving the way for him to qualify to play for England. But that process will take another four years, providing he completes the statutory number of days in the country each year between now and 2022, while Cricket West Indies (CWI) authorities are keen to have him wearing the maroon cap as quickly as possible.
The swiftness with which Archer has shot to stardom is astonishing.
In a 13-match first-class campaign for Sussex in 2017 – his first full season – he scored 638 runs (ave: 45.57) and took 61 wickets at 25.29 runs each, resulting in Sussex giving him a three-year contract. He was Sussex’s leading wicket-taker in the first-class Championship and their third highest run-scorer.
Then it was on to the Bangladesh T20 Premier League, turning out for Khulna Titans, followed by the Australian Big Bash, representing Hobart Hurricanes.
Archer quickly impressed with his all-round game and there was fierce bidding in the Indian Premier League (IPL) for him where he was bought by Rajasthan Royals for US$1.13 million.
And Hobart Hurricanes soon announced that he had been re-signed for a further two seasons.
Archer is also to play in the Pakistan Super League for Quetta Gladiators.
Having stated recently that it remains his “dream” to play Test cricket for England, CWI Chief Executive Officer Johnny Grave has also been commenting on the issue, hoping that Archer will change his mind.
“He’s West Indian according to my definition but I guess English cricket has always had a slightly unique definition of Englishness,” Grave was quoted as saying.
“He could play for the West Indies tomorrow and my personal view is that from a career point of view, he would have a better career playing for the West Indies. He’s obviously very grateful for what Sussex have done but maybe the next three months will make him reassess that.”
Grave went further.
“In the UK everyone will be saying ‘get him in early, he’s English and he wants to play for us. In the Caribbean, everyone is saying that he played for the West Indies age groups, he played for the Barbados age groups and he was born in Barbados. To everyone here, he’s Barbadian.
“Ultimately the decision is with him but he knows and his agent will definitely know what playing for the West Indies would look like financially and how quickly he could be playing international cricket. The question is whether the last six months change the way he has felt for the last couple of years.”
Grave cited the ICC qualifying tournament in Zimbabwe next month where West Indies will be battling for one of two places for the 2019 World Cup in England as a likely gateway for Archer to represent the regional team.
“As a cricketer you always want to play at the highest level and, for the moment at least, the highest level by a considerable distance, is international cricket. In which case, you would hope that he says, “I’ve done it against domestic competition and now I want to test myself at international level,” Grave said.
“From our point of view we need to give him another option and the first part of that is for us to qualify for the World Cup.
“Then Jofra’s only opportunity to play in the 2019 World Cup in England will be with the West Indies. His only opportunity to play in the T20 World Cup in Australia in 2020 is with the West Indies, too.
“Ultimately, if we’re not in that 2019 tournament then we’re probably not doing all we can to convince him that his international future lies with the West Indies.
“Financially, he’ll be far better off in the short to medium-term being a West Indies international. With the Caribbean Premier League, a West Indies white-ball retainer along with its match fees and insurance policy, along with the ability to go and play IPL as well as other leagues would dwarf his Sussex contract once he has paid back two months of it for playing in the IPL.”
So what does one make of all this talk from Grave, and while reflecting on the giant strides made by Archer, should he give England the nod over West Indies?
Some of those who have followed his local career closely still strongly believe that he should represent West Indies.
He made his first-class debut in 2016 for Sussex against Pakistan and impressed with four for 49 in the first innings. Then came his outstanding feats of last season.
But what about his early career?
Archer was originally a spinner and a member of the champion Foundation Under-13 team before turning to pace bowling.
2013 was a big year for him and the school as they captured three titles. He played a key role in helping Foundation to capture the Barbados Cricket Association (BCA) Intermediate division three-day Championship, as he excelled with both bat and ball in the Final against Isolation Cavaliers, whose side included former Barbados and West Indies opening batsman Dale Richards, at the Pickwick Club ground, Foursquare Oval. Archer scored an attacking 86 at No. 9, and took five for 50 as Foundation gained first innings lead and were duly promoted to the First division where they have remained.
The Church Hill boys also retained the Schools’ Under-19 trophy and grabbed the Goddard Enterprises Schools’ title that season.
Archer impressed as well for Barbados Youth in the Elite division Championship in 2013. In six matches, he scored 249 runs and was second in the overall batting averages with 62.25. He took 19 wickets at 17.36 runs each, which put him ninth in the overall bowling averages.
And he was named the Most Improved Youth Cricketer by the BCA for the 2013 domestic season.
Archer has a very high regard for another Barbados-born player, Christopher Jordan, his Sussex teammate and close friend, who was instrumental in getting him to play for the club.
Jordan represented Barbados in the regional first-class Championship in 2012 and 2013 before playing for England in all versions of the game – Test, One-Day and T20 Internationals. And their friendship is so close that Archer has described Jordan as being “like family”.
In an interview with yours truly last October about whether he was desirous of playing for West Indies or England, Archer said: “I think my style of bowling suits the English conditions. Having the opportunity to play for Sussex, I just think that I am a better fit in England.”
Those words are enough for CWI to contemplate.
Keith Holder is a veteran, award-winning freelance sports journalist, who has been covering local, regional and International cricket since 1980 as a writer and commentator. He has compiled statistics on the Barbados Cricket Association (BCA) Division 1 (now Elite) Championship for over three-and-a-half decades and is responsible for editing the BCA website (www.bcacricket.org). Holder is also the host of the cricket Talk Show, Mid Wicket, on the Caribbean Broadcasting Corporation 100.7 FM on Tuesday nights.
Email: [email protected]