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Ashes 2019: Why Does Jofra Archer Play for England and not West Indies?

Ashes 2019: Why Does Jofra Archer Play for England and not West Indies?

Jofra Archer

Not many times is a player, in his first match, expected to be one of the best. Not many times is a bowler, playing his second Test match, expected to bail his team out of trouble. Jofra Archer has been such rarity. Playing his second match, he has already drawn the fear factor in the minds of batsman.

After two quick wickets, David Warner and Marnus Labuschagne started to build a partnership. Fielding captain Joe Root began to worry. Warner somehow survived Stuart Broad, and started to play freely. Labuschagne wasn’t troubled by Woakes. Ben Stokes didn’t threaten to break the partnership. The score was moving forward. To break the partnership, Root could have gone to the experience of Broad, but he went to Archer. Not by force, but by choice. Such was the impression left by Archer. And he delivered. A breakthrough created. It was bulls eye from the archer. As one of the oldest cliche goes, one brings another- Warner’s wicket was immediately followed by another, and another, and eventually had Australia bowled out for 179. That they managed to score 179 was mainly due to the first concussion substitute in the history of Test cricket, Marnus Labuschagne, who largely looked unperturbed by Archer, or any other bowler. The scorecard following Labuschagne read 0,0,11,2,0,1,1. It would by no means be an overstatement to credit Archer for England’s bowling performance. After all, he had claimed six of the ten wickets.

Only in his second test match, Archer became the most important bowler for England. Perhaps, he was supposed to become a ferocious bowler. But was he supposed to play for England in the first place?

The Jofra Archer from Barbados

Born in Barbados, Archer honed the art of fast bowling in his hometown. He was reported to have wanted to become a wicket-keeper in his early days, but his natural talent in bowling couldn’t hide for long. He started playing for West Indies U-19, but wasn’t picked for the 2014 World Cup.

“It’s really hard to get a chance in Barbados,” he told Wisden in March. “It’s either the first team or no team. There’s no second XI, there’s no academy really.”

“I was injured at the time, so I put myself pretty much to the bottom of that list. No one showed much interest so I just thought I’d try and come to England and give it a couple of years. If it didn’t happen I could always go back and try again.”

Jofra Archer could have played for West Indies, but then, the world would have had one topic lesser to debate on.

He came to England in 2015. Started playing cricket for Sussex and grew very quickly though the ranks. His father being English, Archer obtained England citizenship and play for Sussex as a local rather than an overseas player, which according to Archer was extremely helpful in his development.

“I only did it so I could play for Sussex as a local,” Archer told Wisden recently. I was a young boy. I knew I’d stand more of a chance playing county cricket as a local than an overseas. I never knew things would have turned out the way they have so quickly.”

England’s rule change- just in time for Archer

Having broken into the Sussex team as a regular, Archer began to impress as a fast bowler. But he still could not play for England. According to ECB, for a player to play for England, he was required to be a resident of the United Kingdom for a minimum period of 7 years. But just as the 2019 World Cup was nearing, the rule was changed to 3 years. Whatever the reason for the change, it had come just in time for Archer to break into the international arena.

It was still not as straight forward for Archer. He was first overlooked in the World Cup probables by England, but he was just too good.

Once he was picked, Archer played the World Cup, won the World Cup, and transformed himself as one of the best in no time.

Then The Ashes was about begin. The talk was as much about Jofra Archer bowling, as it was about James Anderson. And once Archer came in, he lived up to all the expectations.

But the main inflection in his career was probably England Cricket making an amendment in one of its rules. If Archer had to wait for 7 years to play international cricket, would he not have preferred to play for West Indies?

With West Indies also playing a test match against India, would Archer have been bowling to Virat Kohli rather than David Warner on Thursday?

Wherever Archer is playing, you would expect him to be an intimidating force. He could have been running through the Indian batting lineup in Antigua. But there he was, in Leeds, throwing fireballs at Australia’s quest to retain The Ashes.

At a time when West Indies badly needed a superstar, a protagonist, one of their own shone on the big stage, but he was no longer their own.

Jofra Archer could have played for West Indies, but then, the world would have had one topic lesser to debate on.

The World now, can either run endless debates on why a West Indian is playing for England, or it can just awe at the marvel of a fast bowler showcasing his undeniably impressive set of skills.

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