'Cult hero' Jofra Archer a revelation West Indies cricket cannot afford
There is an instant buzz every time Hobart Hurricanes take the field in the Big Bash League 2018. No, it isn't because they boast the most friendly Australian skipper of all time - George Bailey, in case you are wondering - holding the reins or because at 27, D'Arcy Short has discovered a newfound love for clubbing the ball into the stands. It is because a crowd favourite, unsurprisingly from the West Indies, Jofra Archer, plays for them.
Whether it is stifling a run-chase with pin-point yorkers or exciting the crowd with a 150kmph hour rocket or snapping catches out of thin air, Archer has managed to stand very close to the headlines if not hog them completely. Truth be told, Archer is caught between two teams - West Indies and England.
A Sussex player, Archer caught the eye of England fans quicker than the pace at which he hurls his thunderbolts at batsmen. He was Sussex's highest wicket-taker in the County Championship in 2017 with 61 scalps at 25.29.
Last season went a lot better than I expected," he had said. "Even after how the second half of my debut season went, it surpassed any of my imagination."
"My debut season went as well as I could have hoped, and this season has been the same for me. I am always mindful that I need to keep backing up my performances - so hopefully if all goes well, I can continue to add more runs and wickets onto the targets I set for myself this year", Archer added.
But before any West Indies fans get too happy, bear in mind that England have an eye on him and, importantly, he has an eye on England too. Michael Vaughan was quick to comment on Archer after watching him at the BBL.
It was clear that England, after their futile search for a quick seamer before the Ashes and the debacle in Australia, wanted a seamer who could shake batsmen up at the crease with sheer pace. Archer could do that and more. Crucially, and happily for England fans, he remains faithful to the country which brought him fame.
"I want to play for England. I think the conditions over here suit me a lot more than anywhere else, so I feel I would be better suited for a longer career in England", Archer once said in an interview with Sky Sports.
Make no mistake, this tall, intimidating tearaway is as scary as they come. He has the pace combined with the consistency in line and length, a rather rare combination in modern day cricket. And guess who brought him to England? Another Bojan (Archer's father is a Bojan), Chris Jordan, the England all-rounder.
After facing him in a net session, Jordan was quick to inform the Sussex faithful of the availability of Archer and the rest was history. Archer would not have figured in the Big Bash League if England hadn't opted to pick Tom Curran for the Ashes.
Luckily for Australian fans, they chose Curran (no sarcasm intended !) and Big Bash got a taste of some fresh West Indian blood. He set the League alight with his terrifying pace alongside another quick pace bowler, Tymal Mills and pulled off enough antics on the field to grab a lot of attention.
After bowling a match-winning final over against Adelaide Strikers, where he dismissed Jake Lehmann and Michael Nesser off consecutive balls in the final over, Archer once again made headlines when he pulled off perhaps the greatest return catch of all-time.
The catch caught the attention of social media and it was safe to say that fans were blown away by his reflex. After all, he was from the West Indies, and pulling the crowd is not a new skill for them.
Interestingly, he played under-19 cricket for the West Indies in 2013 but vanished after that owing to an injury. The Windies have only themselves to blame for letting through such a wild, yet promising, talent.
“He’s got a very high action, bowls at 85mph and he’s got a very easy, relaxed action – his pace comes from nowhere,” the former England seamer and Sussex's assistant head coach tells in an interview. “I think there is a lot more to come from him pace-wise. He has spent time this winter working hard on his body and now we are exploring his run-up and how fast he can actually bowl."
With such eye-catching performances and pace to send chills down the spines of batsmen, Jofra Archer is surely the kid to watch out for in 2018. England would hope and pray that he doesn't change his mind until 2022 when he becomes eligible to play for them, while the West Indies will be looking to lure him in before the qualifiers for the 2019 World Cup.