LONDON – Barbadian fast bowler Jofra Archer capped off a meteoric rise when he was selected today in England’s final 15-man squad for the World Cup starting this month end.
The 24-year-old, who holds a British passport through his father and only became eligible for selection in March, has played just three One-Day Internationals – all earlier this month – but bowled with pace and movement which convinced selectors of his quality.
Chairman of selectors, Ed Smith, said today the decision to include Archer had been “straightforward”.
“Archer does bring different things to the squad. We saw that in advance and when he has had an opportunity in an England shirt he has shown what he is capable of,” he said.
“He’s a special cricketer. He has pace, athleticism, dynamism and he can get you a wicket in any circumstances. There was a broad desire for him to be in the squad.”
Archer’s possible inclusion in the squad had sparked widespread debate in recent weeks. While several former England cricketers like Michael Vaughan and Andrew Flintoff argued for his inclusion, some members of the current England ODI squad had urged caution.
Seamer Chris Woakes was quoted as saying it would be “unfair morally” for Archer to be included and a settled member of the squad to miss out.
Smith, however, said the selection panel had no such fears about any negative impact arising from Archer’s inclusion.
“Clearly it will not affect team spirit,” he stressed.
“We’ve seen Jofra Archer play for England in the last few weeks against Pakistan, we’ve seen the skills and quality he has and seen the team perform with Archer in the squad – the success of the team carried on and I don’t see that changing.”
Archer turned his attention to representing England after playing a handful of matches for West Indies Under-19s back in 2013 but then being ignored for the ICC Youth World Cup the following year. He cited that snub as the main reason he decided to look elsewhere for an international career.
Snapped up by Sussex, Archer made an instant impact at the club. In his first full season in 2017, he snatched 61 wickets and scored 638 runs to earn the club’s Player-of-the-Year and Young Player-of-the-Year awards.
Lucrative deals in the Australian Big Bash in the Indian Premier League followed, propelling the speedster from literal obscurity into the international spotlight.
Archer is now expected to form a lethal new-ball pairing with Mark Wood for the May 30 to July 14 World Cup where England will begin their campaign as the world’s number one ODI side and heavy favourites.
Archer was one of two changes announced today with Hampshire left-arm spinner Liam Dawson included at the expense of Joe Denly.
“I got a call from Ed Smith yesterday, maybe at about six o’clock or so,” Archer told Sky Sports News. “I was actually driving at the time and I just felt the phone vibrate and I answered it without looking at it, then that to stop myself and say ‘good evening’. “But it was really, really exciting to be a part of a big summer for English cricket.”
He added: “I had got it in my head that I’d have to wait seven years. Then back in December, they obviously changed it a little bit, but I was prepared to wait however long it would take.”
Today, in a social media post Willey said he felt “absolutely gutted” at losing his place in the World Cup squad to Archer but stressed that he was still 100 per cent “behind the lads”. He added that on “a positive” he was still winning at life.
“David could easily have been in and was deserving of being in,” said Smith. “They were more players deserving of selection than there were spots in the squad. Someone was going to be unlucky and that happened to be David.
“The phone call that I had with him was exactly what you would expect from the outstanding man that he is.
“He was disappointed, extremely dignified and polite. I explained the reasons and he took it in exactly the way that characterises this one-day side,” Smith said.
Archer said he believed that his experience of performing under pressure at the IPL would help him to deal with the spotlight of his maiden World Cup.
Archer’s regular encounters with some of the best players in the world on the T20 circuit mean that he is arguably better prepared for dealing with the talent in the World Cup than many more experienced international bowlers.
“I think I probably have a bigger advantage over some of the other guys in our team,” he said. “We play [these guys] twice a [season] in the IPL, so you know their weaknesses, you know their strengths, you know if they can’t run between the wickets … it gets you an extra bit of inside information.
“To be honest, I think international cricket is probably the same intensity as the IPL,” he added. “’I think the only thing that changes is the amount of overs but, ever since I’ve started, the pressure is really intense. It’s different, but it still isn’t different.”
He listed India’s Virat Kohli and West Indies Chris Gayle as among the scalps he would like to take in the World Cup. Gayle was West Indies’ leading scorer in the recently drawn 2-2 ODI series against England in the Caribbean. (CMC/Cricinfo/WG)