Eng­land and Archer still work­ing each other out

Pace bowler is a unique talent but he needs to know what is ex­pected as much as his team must learn how to han­dle him

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Sport - By Nick Hoult chief cricket cor­re­spon­dent

It will be tor­tu­ous to be so close, yet so far from play­ing; a per­fect time to re­flect on his er­ror

‘From a holis­tic point of view, we’re grow­ing to­gether.” That was Chris Sil­ver­wood, the Eng­land coach, talk­ing about Jofra Archer in Novem­ber last year. Fast-for­ward to late last night and the Hil­ton Gar­den Inn ho­tel at Emi­rates Old Traf­ford, where Eng­land’s re­la­tion­ship with Archer took an­other twist when he was put into self-iso­la­tion af­ter con­fess­ing he had bro­ken the team’s biose­cu­rity pro­to­cols.

Archer will spend the next five days in his room over­look­ing the out­field, giv­ing him a per­fect view of the Test match he is miss­ing. It will be tor­tu­ous to be so close, yet so far from play­ing; a per­fect time to re­flect on the er­ror he has made.

Archer has not grad­u­ated through the Eng­land “path­way” and, as an out­sider, they are still try­ing to get to know this ex­cep­tion­ally tal­ented bowler in the pres­surised world of top-level sport, as Sil­ver­wood con­fessed last year.

The Eng­land age-group teams un­dergo psy­cho­log­i­cal pro­fil­ing as part of their prepa­ra­tion for in­ter­na­tional cricket. Coaches work with them for years. Archer ar­rived in Eng­land via Bar­ba­dos and the first time he had any­thing to do with the na­tional team was when he was picked to play a one-day in­ter­na­tional in Ire­land, drafted in as the last piece in the World Cup strat­egy.

Picked along­side him in the squad for the Ire­land match was Chris Jor­dan, his friend from Sus­sex and Bar­ba­dos. A hugely pop­u­lar fig­ure in the Eng­land dress­ing room, Jor­dan’s job was to smooth his tran­si­tion into the team.

It worked. Archer, too, has be­come liked and ac­cepted in the group, but there have been lapses in pro­fes­sion­al­ism that have in­fu­ri­ated man­age­ment. Trevor Bayliss rarely lost his tem­per when he was Eng­land coach, but he had a chat with Archer dur­ing the Ashes Test at Head­in­g­ley last sum­mer when he was seen in the out­field wear­ing his sweater tied around his waist. In the heat of an Ashes se­ries, with Eng­land 1-0 down and bowled out for 67 in their first in­nings, Bayliss was not in the mood for a joke.

He warned him that peo­ple would soon be­come fed up if he did not be­come a lit­tle smarter about how he con­ducted him­self. Archer re­sponded with six wick­ets, bowl­ing Eng­land back into the match.

In New Zealand, he was re­buked by the Eng­land man­age­ment for rid­ing a broad­caster’s Seg­way in the min­utes be­fore the first Test. Eng­land

thought he had risked in­jury and were par­tic­u­larly aware of the fact that Tom Har­ri­son, the Eng­land and Wales Cricket Board’s chief ex­ec­u­tive, was at the ground.

This is all triv­ial stuff com­pared to Alex Hales fail­ing two tests for recre­ational drugs and the Ben Stokes in­ci­dent. Archer does not drink. He is not go­ing to di­vide the dress­ing room or have stand-up rows with coaches, like Kevin Pi­etersen might. He is not go­ing to pour a pint over James An­der­son’s head in a night­club, as Ben Duck­ett did on the last Ashes tour. He is also _ un­likely to play­fully “head-butt” an Aus­tralian crick­eter in a bar, like Jonny Bairstow did two years ago.

Archer is just a bit feck­less. He has a habit of trans­gress­ing the kind of rules that ap­pear petty to the out­side world but in a cricket en­vi­ron­ment, where play­ers spend months to­gether, can be very im­por­tant.

This lapse, though, had im­pli­ca­tions be­yond team dis­ci­pline. He im­per­illed the match and showed con­tempt for the work done by those who put in months of plan­ning to en­sure this se­ries went ahead. They gave the play­ers one mo­ment of self-re­spon­si­bil­ity, the drive up to Manch­ester, and Archer ru­ined it.

Joe Root in­vited Archer to sit with his fam­ily for Christ­mas din­ner on the tour to South Africa in a bid to get to know him bet­ter. Root has not han­dled Archer well, over­bowl­ing him in New Zealand, lead­ing to ques­tions about why his pace had dropped and whether he was try­ing hard enough. That was non­sense, and Archer’s com­mit­ment could be seen when he sat in tears af­ter he broke down try­ing to prove his fit­ness for the fi­nal Test of the win­ter in Jo­han­nes­burg.

“The dif­fer­ence in man­ag­ing Jofra is man­ag­ing the ex­pec­ta­tion of him,” Root said. “His rep­u­ta­tion gets him put with Pat Cum­mins, Josh Ha­zle­wood, these guys who are very ex­pe­ri­enced. So, for man­age­ment, it’s a question of un­der­stand­ing where he is in his game.”

Stokes proved to be an ex­cel­lent com­mu­ni­ca­tor in his first Test as a stand-in cap­tain last week and it was vis­i­ble how of­ten he tried to gee-up Archer. He made him feel like the No1 strike bowler, putting his arm around him af­ter lunch on the fi­nal day, ask­ing him to “run through a brick wall” for the team. “I’ve got a good re­la­tion­ship with Jofra,” Stokes said. “I think he trusts me and that goes be­yond the field.”

Stokes has had far more im­por­tant is­sues than Archer, but is his role model now. Stokes is the ul­ti­mate pro­fes­sional and that has en­abled him to make the most of his abil­ity and be­come one of the most recog­nis­able sport­ing fig­ures in Bri­tain. Archer has al­ready bowled Eng­land to a World Cup win. There is more to come but he needs to un­der­stand what is ex­pected of him, as much as Eng­land need to learn how to han­dle this unique talent.

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