Archer blindsides ECB with surprise return for Barbados school team
The England and Wales Cricket Board’s (ECB) plans to take direct control of Jofra Archer’s rehabilitation from a long-term elbow injury hit a snag this week when it transpired the fast bowler had turned out for his old school team in Barbados without the knowledge of the England management.
Archer was recently handed a two-year ECB central contract despite having played just seven white-ball matches for England since March 2021, a period of time in which he has been beset by a fractured right elbow, as well as a stress fracture of the back.
The contract was a show of faith in a player who starred for England in their 2019 World Cup victory and remains one of the biggest names on the world stage, and who – at the age of 28 – still has scope for a long career as and when he can recover his full fitness.
It was also an attempt to oversee the speed of that recovery, away from the competing demands of the T20 franchise circuit.
Speaking to the media in the wake of England’s Test-squad announcement for the upcoming tour of India (for which Archer was not considered), the team’s managing director, Rob Key, explained that Archer had been withdrawn from next week’s IPL auction so that the management could “be in control” of his rehabilitation.
However, Key was caught unawares when it was put to him that Archer had featured for his old school, Foundation, against Lords in Division One of the Barbados Cricket Association League over the weekend.
With his team facing permanent relegation in the event of a loss, Archer claimed 4 for 18 on day one of the three-day match, helping to bowl Lords out for 114, largely bowling pace but with one wicket falling to his left-arm spin.
He also made 11 as Foundation reached 78 for 8 at the close of play, with the match scheduled to be concluded next weekend.
“I’m not aware of that,” Key said, when Archer’s exploits were relayed to him. “I’ll find out.”
Archer had been training with the England white-ball team during the recent ODI series, although he is now believed to have returned to the UK.
With the T20 World Cup looming in the Caribbean in June and July, England remain hopeful that he can be eased back to fitness in the coming six months and play a role in defending the title that Jos Buttler’s team won in Melbourne in November 2022.
“Jofra was bowling out here,” Key said. “As you often see with Jofra, he rocks up and you think ‘what’s going to happen here?’, and he ends up bowling 95 miles an hour and he looks like he’s an absolute genius. But we’re just going to take it slow with him. We don’t want to put any sort of deadlines on him. That’s what we’ve done in the past, we’re trying to learn from what we’ve done in the past with Jofra.
“Now we’re taking control of him coming back. We’re not going to say you need to get back for this part here. From what they’ve said, an elbow injury is a complicated place to have an injury. So we just want to take this as slow as possible.
“Jofra was keen to go into the IPL auction but we just feel like, actually, the best way to do this now is just for us to be in control of it. There’s no commitment either way, and we can then just bring you back.
“If it takes an extra couple of months, but he gets another couple of years out of his career, and gets back fully… I think he’s worth his weight in gold.” (ESPNcricinfo)