Joffra Archer : The latest IPL millionaire
Jofra Archer is far too laidback to pinch himself at how far he has come in the past 12 months.
But as he relaxes in his chair in the pavilion at Hove, he does reflect on an extraordinary winter that has seen him go from a second round pick for the Khulna Titans in the Bangladesh Premier League to one of the most expensive players in global T20 cricket.
In between he established himself as one of the standout players in the Big Bash Down Under, where his performances for the Hobart Hurricanes sent the ECB scurrying to ensure that he didn’t perform an about turn and switch his allegiances back to the West Indies.
The Barbadian-born all-rounder was just the bowler that England lacked during their lackluster Ashes campaign, a bowler capable of pinging it down at over 90 mph, as well as gaining steeping bounce from an action that’s as easy on the eye as any in world cricket.
On Monday, he swapped the rain and cold of the south coast for the soaring temperatures and pressure cooker atmosphere of the IPL .
There he’ll be playing alongside Ben Stokes and Jos Buttler for a Rajasthan Royals franchise still reeling from the removal of Steve Smith as captain following the ball tampering scandal on Australia’s tour of South Africa.
When he plays in his opening match of the tournament against Sunrisers Hyderabad at the Rajiv Gandhi stadium on Monday afternoon, Archer will have come a long way. In every sense.
“I was watching it (the auction) because we had a Big Bash game a couple of hours before,”
“When we got back I switched it on but didn’t have a feeling I was going to go for that much.
“I didn’t really have a feeling that many teams were going to bid for me, either. It’s in Indian currency but they converted it shortly after.
“Obviously everyone was talking about it but the fact that I was still playing in the Big Bash didn’t really mean I had time to let it sink in.
“It’s easy to get sucked into all of it, but still being involved in Australia really took the focus off it for me, which I think was pretty helpful.
“I’m a little bit nervous. I obviously can’t play any international as of yet so this is probably the biggest tournament I’m going to play in until that happens. Stokesy (Ben Stokes) messaged me shortly after the auction and (Jos) Buttler is out there too. I saw them over the winter so I’ll know a few people out there.”
His performances in the Big Bash suggest that Archer’s butterflies won’t take too long to fly away. He acquired something approaching cult status Down Under this winter, as he inspired the Hurricanes to the Big Bash final, where they were stopped in their tracks by an Adelaide Strikers side coached by Jason Gillespie, now his head coach at Sussex.
Archer took 17 wickets in the competition, a haul which put him in the top five wicket-takers. Not bad going on pitches that were largely batsman friendly. It wasn’t just the wickets that made him stand-out, though, it was the pace he bowled.
“I wasn’t too sure what was going to happen,” says Archer. “I went to Hobart having not played any international cricket and I wasn’t sure how people were going to take to me. The last pro was (Darren) Sammy and before that (Kumar) Sangakkara.
“It was good to let the handbrake down. I bowled quick as well in Bangladesh (in the Bangladesh Premier League) but it didn’t really mean anything because the pitches out there are so slow and low. You’re never going to trouble anyone, no matter how fast you bowl.
“I used to joke around with CJ (Chris Jordan) because he was the fastest bowler at Sussex last season. So when I watch a game I’ve played in and I see the speed gun, I was taking pictures and sending them to him.
“I just need to be fast enough for the batsman to not have time to react. That’s all I really want. You can’t see the speed gun generally on the ground. I think I’ve gone past that now, I’ve had my fun bowling fast.”
Batting against him Down Under was anything but, as Michael Klinger, who lost part of his helmet when he was struck by an Archer bouncer, will testify. The bad news for England – and also the West Indies, who appear to have lost their battle to have him representing the men from the Caribbean – is that Archer won’t play international cricket until 2022.
The man himself, though, has plenty to occupy himself in the meantime.
“Until then I’ll view the Big Bash and IPL as my international cricket,” he says. “I’m not too fussed about the wait, really. It allows me to do stuff in the winter and travel and experience different things – it’s hardly a lose-lose situation is it.”
A decent IPL will make that wait seem even longer. It will also make the IPL’s new million-dollar man an even more valuable T20 commodity.