India vs England: England pacers ready to grind it out against India - Jofra Archer
- The fast bowler is yet to play a Test in Asia, but is unfazed by the tough pitch conditions he could face in the four-Test series.
For a speed merchant like Jofra Archer, compulsory bio-bubble living and a cramped schedule post the Covid-19 halt in sport has meant taking forced breaks to recharge mind and body. The fastest among England pacers thus goes into the Test series against India starting on Friday without any red-ball cricket in the last five months.
Archer was rested for last month’s two-Test series in Sri Lanka and was in the first group of England cricketers to land in India for this series. The Barbados-born player is unfazed by a lack of red-ball cricket going into the tough series.
“I am not that desperate, if you get me in that sense. I have been training. It didn’t stop when the cricket stopped,” Archer said in a virtual media interaction. “I haven’t seen the pitch yet. It only got uncovered today. But it can change on Friday, so it doesn’t make any sense (to comment on it).”
Archer has been a revelation in India since his IPL debut in 2018. The 25-year-old has consistently ranked in the top bracket in terms of wickets as well as his express pace. Archer though has never played first-class cricket in Asia, having featured in only 11 Tests since taking 22 wickets in a memorable debut in the 2019 home Ashes series, after helping England claim their first 50-over ICC World Cup.
Along with the experienced James Anderson and Stuart Broad, and all-rounder Ben Stokes who played in the 2016 series in India, Archer thus may have to play a supporting role this time.
“I have never really played any red-ball cricket here. White balls are a lot different (and) can’t really compare. My (role) doesn’t really matter. For the team, whatever way I can contribute; if it means seamers doing the hard work, so be it,” Archer said.
Though many players in the England squad, coming off the series win in Sri Lanka, are used to the sub-continent heat, Archer and Stokes didn’t play there. He was asked if he would prefer shorter spells in Chennai.
“Probably the combination of the team will decide the length of the pace attack’s spells,” he said. “If it is three seamers, then I guess it will be about bowling long spells. Either way, short or long, doesn’t matter to me. We already had a bowling meeting. We’ll have more meetings in the coming days. We will stick to the plans and then see how to adjust.”
Archer was part of the back-to-back home series against West Indies and Pakistan when international cricket resumed last July after a break of more than four months. During the West Indies series, he was guilty of breaching the bio-bubble protocol while travelling between venues.
Archer though is not alone to feel the strain of life in the bio-bubble and the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) has been sympathetic.
In the current tour too, players will be rotated. Wicket-keeper Jos Buttler will leave after the first Test while Jonny Bairstow will play only in the final two Tests. This has drawn criticism with former skipper Kevin Pietersen questioning the prospect of England not fielding their best eleven against India.
It will be a packed calendar, especially for Archer. He will return to play IPL, with the home Test series against India in the summer and the T20 World Cup in India to follow.
“All I can say is it is going to be very long year. February has just started. It will be a long, long year with a few series coming up. Body management will be crucial. Anyone criticising (rotation) never spent months in a bio-bubble. One golfer left after four days. We’ve been here for almost a year now,” Archer said.
“Humans are social people. Sometimes it can be hard if you are not having a great game or if you are not feeling good with the cricket. There is nowhere to go. There is no escape. The ECB has done a great job. Like I got six weeks’ leave; Jos is going after the first game while Sam (Curran) is gone after the first two games.
“I don’t have a choice really. I don’t mind. I will get my time away, so for now I just want to focus on the job. Anyway, the board has said there is no shame in saying if you have had enough. I am good to go till at least July.”
Skipper Joe Root will play in his 100th Test on Friday, and Archer wished for him to play a lot more.
“He is extremely assuring. Not just for me but for every single person in the team. He is a great man-manager, a great person as well. No surprise he has played 100 Tests. He has probably got another 70 Tests in him.”