Jofra Archer: I felt like a burden on English cricket

Jofra Archer in Barbados for England's T20 World Cup campaign
Jofra Archer is back in the England fold but has a long way to go before turning his attention to the Ashes - Getty Images/Gareth Copley

Sitting under the metal roof of Windward Cricket Club just a short stroll from his house on the eastern side of Barbados, Jofra Archer revealed how he worried he had become a “burden” to English cricket during his two-year injury nightmare.

Archer, smiling and chatty as he waited to train with his team-mates in preparation for Saturday’s Group B game against Australia, said he had a tear in his eye as he ran into bowl against Scotland at the Kensington Oval on Tuesday cheered on by family, friends and pupils from his old school.

His carefully plotted return to fitness confines him to white ball cricket this year and Archer himself is not yet daring to dream about playing Tests, although England are gearing everything towards him being fit for the Ashes tour next year.

“Probably the only thing they haven’t planned out is the showers I take,” he said. “I’ve got a PDF file of every single game I’m supposed to play in from now till next summer anyway. It was really planned out and even when I wasn’t playing they made me feel really involved as well. They sent me a thing saying this is what we’re thinking, just specific targets. So even when I wasn’t playing they just gave me targets that I’d keep trying to tick off and it’s really nice that they’re actually falling into place, honestly. “

Archer played five club games in the Barbados league in March and says he felt fully fit from November, but England were not taking chances, holding him back until the series with Pakistan in May because they know he might not have the stomach for another long injury lay-off. “I don’t know how much rehab I have in me,” he said. Understandably he feels he owes England to take his comeback carefully, given the investment they have made which includes multi-year central contract and sending physios and strength and conditioning coaches out to Barbados to work with him when he was not at his county base in Hove.

“I found it a little bit worrying, not really frustrating because I was able to spend most of my rehab here, because I only live 150 metres from this ground right now, and just to get away from the noise back in the UK was really good. I made a joke with Keysy [Rob Key, director of cricket] earlier, because I said I’m really glad I’m back playing because I reckon I would have lost my contract in October. And he laughed and said, ‘no you’re all right’. Sometimes you feel like a burden not playing, and sometimes I’ve seen a few comments as well, people saying ‘he’s on the longest paid holiday I’ve ever seen’. You try to not let it get to you but you can ignore 100 of them but sometimes that 101 is the straw that breaks the camel’s back. I’ve changed a lot of my social media stuff just so you don’t see a lot, but there’s a little that always filters through, but you’ve just got to keep going.”

Jofra Archer runs into bowl against Scotland at the T20 World Cup
England are managing Jofra Archer's return from long-term injury with caution - AP/Ricardo Mazalan

He said the moment he knew his injury was behind him was bowling against Pakistan at Edgbaston two weeks ago in his first competitive match for more than a year. But it was the return to Kensington Oval that pulled on his emotions, with the Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley giving Combermere (Chris Jordan’s old school) and Foundation (Archer’s alma mater) permission to have the day off.

“I felt really supported. I felt unbelievable. It was really, really emotional. I had a little bit of water in my eye and it wasn’t the rain. I feel it’s the first time I’ve played at any cricket ground and maybe 80 per cent of the people were there to see me, and actually knew my name and how to pronounce my name properly (Johfra not Jofra) as well so now I have a family there, my old school, you know, a lot of friends and it was just respect I felt.”

England will manage Archer during the World Cup. He does not bowl at every net session and they can rotate with Reece Topley and Mark Wood also in the squad but the workload is not onerous. If England reach the final he will bowl a maximum 34 overs in 25 days (he did not bowl his full allotment against Scotland). He will play in the Hundred for Southern Brave and then the three white ball winter tours - West Indies in November, India in January and Champions Trophy in February - before gearing up for a red ball return next summer.

Australia are well aware of his pace potency and Mitchell Marsh, their T20 captain, jokingly pleaded with Jos Buttler at the captain’s press conference launch event earlier in the week not to pick Archer and Wood together. There is no Steve Smith in the Australia team for Archer to torment again and after bowling at over 90mph in his first over against Scotland he dropped his speed in his second noticing the slow Kensington Oval pitch is more suited to cutters and pace off the ball. But the surprise bouncer remains nasty and difficult to pick up. He had Scotland opener Michael Jones hopping with one in the last ball he bowled before the rain fell and Tuesday’s match was washed out.

Windward Cricket Club’s picturesque ground, surrounded by farmland, offered sanctuary for Archer who has often struggled to understand why he attracts so much attention. In his downtime he opened a kennels near his home breeding American XL bullys and took Phil Salt to see the dogs before nets on Thursday. His other hobby is training two parrots, called Jessie and James, to talk. It is making the ball talk that England are hoping will last long into the future.