Glowing praise has been showered on Barbados-born, new England fast-bowling star Jofra Archer, who was one of the architects of his team’s first ever World Cup title following a nail-biting win in the Super Over against New Zealand at Lord’s last Sunday.
The 24-year-old Archer played in a maximum 11 matches, grabbing 20 wickets at an average of 23.05 with an excellent economy rate of 4.57. He sent down 100.5 overs – the only bowler in the ten-team tournament to bowl over 100 overs.
Archer jointly hauled in the third most wickets with 23-year-old left-arm fast-medium Mustafizur Rahman of Bangladesh. In eight matches, he bowled 72.1 overs and had an average of 24.20, with an economy rate of 6.70.
Experienced Australian left-arm pacer Mitchell Starc, 29, was the top wicket-taker with 27 from 92.2 overs, at an average of 18.59, having played ten matches. His economy rate was 5.43.
Next among the wickets was New Zealand fast bowler Lockie Ferguson. In nine matches, the 28-year-old picked up 21 wickets off 83.4 overs. His average was 19.47 and economy rate (4.88).
Therefore, in a nutshell, Archer was the most economical bowler among the top four wicket-takers.
Born to a Barbadian mother, Joelle Waithe and an English father, Frank Archer, Jofra was educated in Barbados at Hilda Skeene Primary School in St. Philip and Christ Church Foundation Secondary School, where he made his mark as a cricketer before representing both the Barbados and West Indies Under-19 teams.
Archer has never played first-class or one-day cricket for Barbados, but he made his first-class debut in 2016 for Sussex against Pakistan and impressed with four for 49 in the first innings.
He has now played 14 One-Day Internationals and one Twenty20 International and is expected to make his Test debut in the imminent Ashes series against Australia.
Speaking with this columnist, among those lauding Archer for his showing in the World Cup were former Barbados captain and West Indies opening batsman Philo Wallace, former Barbados and West Indies ‘B’ team wicket-keeper/batsman Mike Worrell, Archer’s Barbados club coach at Wildey, Rohan Nurse, who also played at the first-class level and Nhamo Winn, who was Archer’s coach at Foundation School, whose best known cricketer is Joel Garner, a former Barbados captain and West Indies fast bowling great.
Also joining in the kudos were former Barbados leg-spinner Dave Marshall, who is the Spartan Club coach and Pedro Greaves, a club-mate of Archer.
“Jofra Archer’s decision to represent England and not West Indies did not surprise me,” Wallace said.
“He had issues with the authorities of cricket in Barbados where he felt left out and having been given the opportunity in England and being cared for by the County of which he plays for (Sussex), his decision was made with a clear conscience.
“We in the Caribbean have lost a good cricket talent and should learn from this experience how to deal with players with the talent of Jofra because others are waiting to do the same,” Wallace asserted.
“Jofra has made an instant impact on the World Cup because of the professional setup in England and the handling of their players, so the transition was not that difficult. Watching Jofra in the matches he played in the World Cup, he is really enjoying being in England colours and commanding the respect of his teammates,” said Wallace, who is also a former Barbados team selector.
“Ed Smith and the selection panel should be commended for trusting in their gut feelings about him and for Jofra to know that he has the ability to play at the highest level of cricket with little pressure on him, as well as the ECB for their part in getting certain obstacles removed to allow the passage shorter and easier for Jofra.
“Jofra has allowed England breathing space in their pace department because he has the correct skills to become a great fast bowling all-rounder in world cricket. One can see improvements in Jofra’s attitude from the start of the World Cup up to the Final.
“In my view he has made the right decision to move his cricket career in the right decision. Up, up and away,” the outspoken Wallace said.
Worrell remarked: “I was very vocal in calling for Jofra Archer to be included in the West Indies set up, way before the World Cup.
“Once again England has benefitted in us not being able to recognise exceptional abilities in a player. It’s every player’s dream to display their abilities at the international level, to compete against the best in the world.
“With our lacklustre attitude to our cricket in the West Indies we probably would not be able to get the best out of him.
“I have no issues with him playing for England. In fact I was rooting for them to win because of his inclusion in the team.
“In the Final he bowled well. There was pace in the first spell and variations in the second. He has been an asset in the team. Deceptively quick, and he hit a few batsmen in the tournament. He has been used well by the captain throughout. It was a great performance for someone so young.
“It’s a pleasure hearing all the positive thoughts about a West Indian, albeit for another team. And I know he can bat better that what we have seen of him so far,” Worrell said.
Nurse said he respected Archer’s decision to represent England.
“As a player, you are faced with several decisions throughout your career and the key is once you have made a decision that you make it work,” Nurse said.
“Jofra has surely done that. I am very pleased for him, especially with the uncertainty in the lead up to the World Cup Tournament as to whether or not he should play. He has been excellent both on and off the field and I wish him all the best in the future. I look forward to seeing him in the Ashes.”
Winn, a very proud coach, and who was in charge when Archer spurred Foundation to the 2013 Barbados Cricket Association (BCA) Intermediate division title by grabbing five for 50 after top-scoring with an attacking 86 at No.9 against Isolation Cavaliers in the four-day Final at Foursquare Oval to earn the Church Hill school promotion to the First division Championship, was over the moon with his success for England.
“What I grasp from the general public I would describe as a bitter sweet feeling looking at a West Indian doing great for England and on the other hand the West Indies doing poorly,” Winn said.
“The feeling from his true fans and I as his coach growing up, is fantastic seeing where he has come from to where he is at and performing on the world stage. We wanted him to perform with every possible chance and win the World Cup for England.
“The cricketing fraternity understands the choice he has made in the modern era. I was up very early this morning (Sunday) and turned on the television to watch him bowl and I was hoping for great success,” Winn said after returning from Trinidad where he was the assistant coach of the Barbados Under-17 team who repeated as champions of the regional age group one-day Tournament.
Greaves was ecstatic with Archer’s success.
“Jofra got the blessings from Wildey Sports Club as opportunities at the time did not present themselves for him,” Greaves said.
“We knew he was special and while no one expected such a quick progression, we are delighted with this young man, both on and off the field.
“We actually thought he would play Test cricket first as he is even more devastating with the red ball.
“Jofra has provided a steady opening spell each time. He sets the tone for the match, as teams have not managed to get healthy starts against the English side.
“The fact that he got the most wickets for England in the World Cup, which I think is a record for England in a World Cup, speaks volumes to his contribution. What better way to set back teams by taking wickets?
“England played a great tournament with all the players chipping in, but I think most people from the Caribbean were backing England in the Final and it’s probably because of Jofra,” Greaves said.
Marshall said Archer had impressed him from the outset.
“The first time I saw Jofra bowl, it was in a night game in a local parish tournament held at the University of West Indies and he bowled very quick. I told one of my friends that he is going to play top level cricket but unfortunately it wasn’t for the West Indies,” Marshall said.
“But I wasn’t wrong in my prediction, so I am very pleased to see him playing for England and doing so brilliantly.
“From the time he was selected, I had England as my second team to win the World Cup. So I am looking forward to the Ashes series with great enthusiasm.”
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).