Han­dle with care – Archer must not be changed just to suit cor­po­rate tem­plate

Let pace­man be him­self within lim­its and find his own ways to shine, writes Paul Hayward The num­bers fail to tell the story of how he can ex­cite the masses

The Daily Telegraph - Sport - - Cricket -

Two of the most en­ter­tain­ing cameos in the Ashes came with a qual­ity of eye­balling a box­ing pro­moter would envy. The pug­na­cious, ver­bally in­con­ti­nent Matthew Wade squar­ing up to the taller, much less gar­ru­lous Jofra Archer had crowds roar­ing their ap­proval.

Archer vs Wade was a com­i­cal but also clas­si­cally in­tense sub­plot to the last two Tests. In the first episode, at Old Traf­ford, Wade turned to take a sec­ond run and found Archer’s glar­ing pres­ence block­ing his path.

Daunted and dis­com­bob­u­lated, Wade hit re­verse gear and scur­ried back to his crease. At the Oval, Aus­tralia’s last-in­nings cen­tu­rion was not will­ing to climb down a sec­ond time and bus­tled up the pitch to meet the ad­vanc­ing Archer after be­ing smashed on the body at 95.6mph.

In homes and in the sta­dium, English cricket could see the other string of Archer’s bow: ag­gres­sion, machismo, a love of bat­tle and an ea­ger­ness to im­pose him­self on bats­men – es­pe­cially those with the big­gest rep­u­ta­tions.

His face-shake and mock­ing grin at Wade as the space closed be­tween them will be re­played 50 years from now as an ex­am­ple of what lurks be­neath the Ashes ri­valry.

Archer’s blitz­ing of Steve Smith at Lord’s elec­tri­fied the home of cricket and ended up re­mov­ing Aus­tralia’s most pro­lific bat­ter for the Head­in­g­ley Test. Put all this to­gether and you have a fairly un­usual de­but sum­mer for a 24-year-old with Bar­ba­dian her­itage step­ping into an Eng­land dress­ing-room with set­tled routines and great per­sonal fa­mil­iar­ity among the play­ers.

If Archer brings a new chemistry and tem­per­a­ment into that set-up, it falls to Eng­land to shift to­wards him, to let him be him­self and not bend him out of shape to fit a cor­po­rate tem­plate. No­body would dis­cour­age him from de­light­ing the crowds by eye­balling a Matthew Wade, but there may be times, per­haps on tour, when con­ser­va­tive voices pipe up to say he is go­ing too far or al­low­ing him­self to be wound up by op­po­nents.

That line may one day be crossed – per­haps in Aus­tralia two years from now – but English cricket would need

its head ex­am­in­ing if it failed to wel­come the point of dif­fer­ence Archer brings, and al­low him time to adapt to in­ter­na­tional cricket, in his per­sonal and pro­fes­sional routines. Good man­age­ment finds the line be­tween free spirit­ed­ness and im­pos­ing the nec­es­sary ba­sic dis­ci­plines of life on tour.

The un­spo­ken el­e­ment here, of course, is that Archer is very new to the Eng­land camp and new to this set of play­ers, which is why Joe Root said on Sun­day night: “I am still learn­ing how to get the best out of him as cap­tain but he is go­ing to en­ter­tain and make things hap­pen.”

Archer took 20 wick­ets in the World Cup and bowled the defin­ing su­per over un­der in­tol­er­a­ble pres­sure. In the Ashes, he grabbed two six-fers and 22 wick­ets in all at 20.27. This is an as­ton­ish­ing re­turn on a de­but in­ter­na­tional sum­mer. The num­bers fail to tell the story of how he can ex­cite the masses, desta­bilise op­po­nents and change games, all the while with con­trol and ac­cu­racy to com­ple­ment his pace.

The grum­bling at Old Traf­ford when his speeds dropped showed how high he has set his bar. He came thundering back at the Oval with a man-of-the-match per­for­mance and a bril­liant on­slaught against Wade, who, to be fair to him, was gra­cious af­ter­wards. “I felt like I could deal with what he was de­liv­er­ing, and he ob­vi­ously thought he could rip my head off or get me out,” Wade said. “It was a good bat­tle, there was a lit­tle bit of ban­ter, no words re­ally. Just good, hard Test cricket.

“That’s what I ex­pected com­ing into an Ashes se­ries. I’d never played an Ashes se­ries be­fore and the way Jofra has taken to Test cricket – I knew he was ob­vi­ously a freak­ish tal­ent. When he was around the Eng­land team I knew he’d be play­ing this se­ries. That’s what Test cricket is. Es­pe­cially Ashes cricket, you’ve got to be ready for the con­test.”

Archer was ready for the con­test and now he is ready for care­ful han­dling that should not be about mak­ing him con­form. Eng­land dress­ing rooms have a mixed record of manag­ing non­con­ven­tional play­ers (and yes, some­times play­ers from eth­nic mi­nor­ity back­grounds), so it would be fa­tal to 1. bowl Archer into the ground (he sent down 156 overs in this se­ries) and 2. mi­cro­man­age his ev­ery move. The fa­cil­i­ta­tion of tal­ent is meant to be the aim.

His per­son­al­ity, crick­et­ing abil­ity and gift for com­edy (see his Twit­ter ac­count) are a once-in-agen­er­a­tion wind­fall and, within lim­its, he needs to be al­lowed to find his own way to keep shin­ing. Matthew Wade was not mess­ing with him – and nor should Eng­land.

Hot sum­mer: Jofra Archer has made his mark in im­pres­sive style

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