‘Like a Formula 1 car’: Jofra Archer setback leaves England searching for answers but hope remains
It was the news everyone expected, but it still dealt a bitter blow when England announced Jofra Archer was ruled out of the most highly-anticipated home Ashes series in over a decade.
Rob Key, the ECB’s managing director for men’s cricket said the Barbados-born quick bowler was ‘distraught’ after a chronic elbow injury – which has already required five operations – has re-emerged.
When the Ashes schedule was announced back in September, one of the most eagerly-awaited contests for those who shelled out eye-watering sums upwards of £100 per day was a potential re-run of the thrilling clash between Archer and Australian great Steve Smith.
Their first tête-à-tête in 2019 was one of those individual battles that captivated the audience, a true test of bat and ball. Making a Test debut in an Ashes series can be a baptism of fire, but Archer took the world by storm with his 90+ mph bouncers.
His pace and skill even proved too much for Smith, with the speed gun reading almost 96mph, the Australian took a vicious blow to the helmet and had to leave the field due to concussion.
Over the last two years however, Archer has spent more time on the treatment table than the cricket field with a series of elbow and back problems.
The signs had been there that an Ashes recall would be out of the question when Archer flew back early from the Indian Premier League and his time with Mumbai Indians, having already spent time away from the franchise to see a specialist in Belgium.
A brief international return for a white-ball England team in South Africa this year had offered a glimmer of hope for the summer, but now the ECB will have to re-examine their approach, with aspirations shifted to the World Cup in the Autumn in India.
As Key explained: “I’m hoping at some point Jofra deserves a bit of luck with this to be honest because the poor lad is pretty distraught about what’s happened and it’s only just happened recently obviously. You just hope that luck turns for him at some point as I’m sure it will.
“The one thing I would say about Jofra, sometimes reading things you get the feeling that people think he’s going to go down the white-ball road and that he’s not going to be interested in Test cricket, that there’s other things on his mind that come first - that’s absolutely not the case.
“He is desperate to play all forms of cricket. He’s been desperate to play Test cricket as well and I hope that he gets the chance to do that.
“I’m sure there is going to be a fairly taxing road that he’s got to go down now to get this fixed and get this sorted but I’m sure we’ll see him back at some point.”
Archer’s injury is not an isolated case however, and there will be warning signs for England with just how many quick bowlers are facing time on the sidelines.
Brydon Carse and Olly Stone sustained issues recently, with the latter having already suffered four stress fractures during his career. Jamie Overton has already all but ruled himself out of contention with a back stress fracture, and Key admitted when it comes to Archer, England have to start again.
“At the moment, all cricket’s been too much for his body to cope with and we need to get past that,” added the former Kent batter.
“With someone like Jofra, he’s like a Formula 1 car almost, and he goes through the period he’s been through which has been really tough and then you just think you’re getting to the point where he can come back and be able to play, and there’s another setback.
“But you just hope that down the line he will overcome this, that his body will get robust enough to be able to deal with the rigours of everything. And I wouldn’t sit here now and rule anything out.
“As you get through and start solving this problem for Jofra, then you can start making those decisions. But I don’t see the point in doing that at the moment.”