Sun | Sep 22, 2019

Orville Higgins | Archer was a late bloomer

Published:Saturday | August 24, 2019 | 12:20 AM
England’s Barbados-born pace bowler Jofra Archer prepares to bowl to Australia’s Travis Head during play on the second day of the third Ashes Test match at Headingley in Leeds, England, yesterday.

The phenomenal rise of Barbados-born English pacer Jofra Archer is ­dominating all the headlines. His raw pace and general bowling skills have made him the most exciting new bowler in world cricket at the moment. Caribbean fans cannot help but look on with regret to see him cranking it up for England instead of donning the maroon Windies cap. The obvious question is, how did we let him slip through the cracks?

The story is known that Archer was so disappointed with not making the Windies under-19 team to the Youth World Cup in 2014 that he decided to migrate to England and try playing for them instead. He did not mince words about the issue in an interview United Kingdom newspaper The Times a year and a half ago.

“I was angry with the West Indies, so that helped me with my decision to try and play for England,” Archer said then. The more his stock rises in international cricket, the more questions are asked of the selection panel that left him out of that Windies youth team five years ago. Clyde Butts, who was selection chairman then, is taking some flak right across the region.

I did some checks and spoke to a few members of that 2014 Windies youth team, and the general impression I am getting is that Butts and his panel may be getting more criticism than they are due. The selectors picked four pacers for that 2014 squad. Marquino Mindley and Jerome Jones had played in the previous tournament in 2012 and had impressed. Both were therefore considered automatic. It is not an unreasonable position. In these international age-group teams, it is the norm to bring back players who would have played before to add vital experience.

UNEASY CALL

The other two pacers in the squad were Preston McSween and Ray Jordan. McSween was a left-arm bowler who was swinging the ball all over at good pace and was seen as a real prospect. Jordan, I am told, was arguably the quickest of the lot. Interestingly, Alzarri Joseph and Archer were the other two fast bowlers in contention. It was not an easy call for the selectors. They played a seven-game practice series against Bangladesh in Guyana before the tournament, where Archer, I am told, never quite touched the levels he had in regional youth cricket that year. He was therefore not included ahead of the other pacers, who were supposedly ahead of him. The fact that the others have not gone on does not necessarily mean that the selectors blundered.

It is impossible to say that the selectors got it wrong or right without actually witnessing the bowlers at the time. To merely to say that Archer being better than them now means that he was better than them then is, quite simply, ‘fool-fool’ logic. Sports does not necessarily work like that. We are all being wise after the fact. Hindsight, after all, does make all of us geniuses. Sports is replete with examples of stars who made a phenomenal rise after their teenage years. Elaine Thompson, for example, never medalled at the ISSA/GraceKennedy Boys and Girls’ Athletics Championships. She never made a Jamaica junior team. Her meteoric rise after high school saw her becoming double Olympic champion and joint national record holder over the 100m. People simply develop at different rates.

Yes, it is reasonable for Caribbean fans to be disappointed that Archer is not playing for the Windies. However, we must not use that to berate the ­selectors who didn’t pick him then when we ­simply do not know whether he was ahead of the others at the time.