Chris Jordan: ‘We will be hunted but our T20 pedigree is pretty strong’

<span>Chris Jordan celebrates England’s victory over Pakistan in the T20 World Cup final in November 2022.</span><span>Photograph: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images</span>
Chris Jordan celebrates England’s victory over Pakistan in the T20 World Cup final in November 2022.Photograph: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

After England showed their hand for the T20 World Cup in the week, Jofra Archer fired up his Instagram live, transporting anyone who clicked to the sunshine of Barbados. It was a hardworking net session firing down white Kookaburras alongside Chris Jordan, his friend being the second headline recall on the day.

Their stories have been intertwined over the years, Jordan first to cross the Atlantic to pursue his dream in English cricket as a teenager and then older brother and mentor when Archer, six years his junior, followed suit. Before Archer made that stirring Test debut at Lord’s five years ago he requested Jordan present the cap, CJ nailing the speech like a trademark yorker as his young sidekick swelled with pride.

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All things being well, the pair are now about to play their first global tournament together, Jordan having missed the cut when Archer scorched England to the 50-over World Cup title in 2019 and Archer injured when Jordan walked off a T20 champion at the MCG in late 2022. Rather poetically the campaign starts (and hopefully ends, given it hosts the final) at Bridgetown’s evocative Kensington Oval.

“The Kensington Oval has a special place in my heart,” says Jordan, speaking from a spell of warm weather training before returning to Surrey next week. “Growing up at school we used to play finals there and it’s where I watched my first ever cricket match. It was West Indies versus England, I was maybe five and I remember the atmosphere vividly, the vibe that first morning, the conch shells blowing …”

Archer is yet to play international cricket in the Caribbean by dint of the injury curse that has blighted him in recent years; those repeat stress fractures that everyone hopes are in the past. “I’d say he’s in a real happy place,” says Jordan. “I feel he can see the light at the end of the tunnel. A World Cup, playing for England, and also playing in the Caribbean for the first time ... it’s one of his bucket list things to tick off. He’s working so hard and he’s pretty much up to speed from training with him this past week.

“I haven’t batted against him yet – we haven’t resumed our rivalry – but I’m not dodging him. What he gives me I can give him back, maybe not quite at the same pace – he’s a little bit quicker – but I’m quick enough. We do bowl a few bouncers at each other but it’s all in good fun; we just haven’t faced each other yet.”

Kensington Oval also witnessed Jordan’s first international in front of his family, a T20 in 2014 in which he “hit a few sixes” [four in eight balls], “took a few wickets” [three for 39] and held two catches – the kind of all-round performance that, 10 years on, England are hoping will come to the fore this June. In some ways calling up the country’s highest wicket-taking seamer in T20 internationals (96) should be no shock, equally the 35-year-old’s recall owes much to rich form as a lower order hitter: a short-form average of 30 and strike rate of 160 since the start of last summer.

“I wasn’t expecting the call but I never ruled it out either,” says Jordan, who was not picked for the Caribbean tour last December. “I had good communication with the hierarchy and they suggested they would look at franchise form. In terms of batting, the penny drops with different people at different times, I guess. Down the order can be hit or miss but I have started to manage my expectations on what a good knock looks like and play the situation. I keep my breathing under control and nice and rhythmic, and also I do my homework on opposition.”

Such level-headedness under pressure is what has made Jordan a trusted and an ever-willing death bowler in T20 over the years, while the talk of homework and visualisation brings us onto arguably his forte: fielding. Even if Jordan doesn’t make the XI – and the way Rob Key was talking, this sounds unlikely – England will be able to call on arguably the No 1 outfielder in the world any time a player leaves the field. The work that goes into this discipline – those reflex grabs, those Matrix-like dives, or the sheer Air Jordan madness on the boundary rope – is fascinating.

“Growing up I played a lot of different sports,” says Jordan. “Basketball, hockey, tennis, football, it all developed my hand-eye coordination. And one of the big things is situation awareness and a lot of anticipation. When I move into a position, within 10 seconds or so I have assessed at least eight to 10 ways the ball could come to me. It sounds a lot but over a period of time you build up the knowledge. I get a feel for my space, and visualise, so when the ball comes I’ve already played it.

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“And a lot of it comes down to practising slip catching. It really sorts out your out-fielding because you build trust in your hands. At slip you’re so close and your body is not always in the exact right spot, so you have to trust your hands in that split second. In the outfield, when the ball is in the final third [of its trajectory] and you’re running full speed or diving, a lot of the same principles apply.”

It is the kind of clear, crisp insight that sees Jordan tipped to be a fine coach in retirement, if he chooses, and perhaps a fourth tick for the selectors in the short term too. A lack of local knowledge was among the diagnoses for England’s grim 50-over World Cup in India last year but in the Caribbean there should be no shortage. Keiron Pollard, the Trinidadian T20 pioneer, has been drafted in as consultant coach, while in Archer and Jordan they have two sons of Barbados.

“We’ll definitely bring that knowledge of conditions,” says Jordan. “Understanding the cross winds is one example – that’s pretty unique to the Caribbean. It’s trying to be smart with it, not get carried away, especially during the day games as it can often drop at night.”

Phil Salt, glowing with form of late, also lived on the island for six years growing up. Jordan was 17 when they first met, Salt stopping him for a photograph at a charity match in Surrey and the pair later going on to become teammates at Sussex. “He was always really inquisitive about what it takes to succeed at the top level and we struck up a bond,” says Jordan. “He’s absolutely killing it at the moment.”

“It’s also a unique tournament and guys who weren’t in form [in the 50-over World Cup] are definitely in form now. We are defending champions, so it’s important to understand we will be hunted, 100%, so we must match or surpass the other teams’ intensity. But check it out, the last three T20 World Cups we’ve been finalists, semi-finalists and champions, so our pedigree in this format is pretty strong.”

Ten years an England cricketer, a World Cup winner who never shirks the clutch moments and is mentor to others, the same can be said about Jordan himself.