Jofra Archer on playing in bio-secure bubbles: 'You are counting days down till you are free again'

Scyld Berry
·3-min read
Jofra Archer celebrates a wicket.
Jofra Archer celebrates a wicket.

Of all cricketers since lockdown began, Jofra Archer and Jos Buttler have become the two most experienced at playing in a bio-secure bubble, firstly for England during the summer, and this autumn in the Indian Premier League for Rajasthan Royals.

Batting and bowling under lockdown in the UAE, where the IPL is being staged, has its compensations. Archer and Buttler can keep their families with them, and their hotel has a beach, which the hotels inside Old Trafford and the Ageas Bowl did not. Yet Archer, even while he has been enjoying his best IPL season, is still counting down the days and thinking of buying a calendar to tick them off. 

“Having your family helps you stay sane,” Archer said, ahead of Rajasthan Royals’ big game on Friday which will determine whether he, Buttler and Ben Stokes, will reach the IPL play-offs. If they do, they will not be enjoying too much spare time before they fly off to South Africa with the England team on 16 Nov for two white-ball series. 

“It’s a really nice hotel and we’ve got a beach and other activities,” Archer said. “It’s a little bit better than being trapped at the cricket ground (as in England) but you still can’t get away from cricket. After four or five days you’re getting cabin fever. You’re counting days down till you’re free again.”

To this luxurious, sanitised and restricted existence Stokes has brought a refreshing input after arriving from New Zealand, where his father has been seriously ill, and doing his week of quarantine. “He’s a great guy to have around and everyone’s spirits and the performances have gone up since he’s been here,” said Archer - especially when Stokes scored the century which kept Rajasthan Royals in contention for the play-offs.

Another dampener is the absence of crowds. Along with being locked down in hotels, this is the other major change wrought by covid. Archer rather eloquently summed up what it is like to play cricket without a crowd as “like a net session.”

But Archer himself has done what he can to “make the most of a bad situation.” His T20 bowling has become consistently economical and he believes he is taking more wickets than ever before in the six-over powerplay. This experience being gained by Archer, Buttler and Stokes in the IPL, and by Moeen Ali, Sam and Tom Curran, and Chris Jordan in other franchises, can only increase England’s chances of adding the World T20 trophy - to be contested twice in the next two years - to their 50-over World Cup.

Jofra Archer swings hard.
Jofra Archer swings hard.

Archer says he is not doing anything new in his bowling other than bowl fewer slower balls - a delivery which he has overdone at times in white-ball matches for England. He has dismissed David Warner twice in the powerplay, and says he dismisses more lefthanded than righthanded batsmen in general. But, with only a year to go before the next Ashes, he refused to answer any question about the other controversial Australian, Steve Smith, who is his Rajasthan Royals captain.

Archer’s batting has progressed too. England give the appearance of having given up on his batting - never higher than nine in Tests, a couple of times at ten, and down to eleven in their last ODI - but he has been doing some serious hitting this autumn - 107 off only 54 balls - in addition to his 17 wickets at 18 runs each and 6.7 per over.

Archer said he is now enjoying “more of an opportunity to bat at number seven. Just having that assurance you’re going to be needed, that goes a long way.” Similarly, giving Archer the new ball, instead of consigning him to third or fourth seamer, might do wonders for his Test career and England’s chances of regaining the Ashes.

Watch the Rajasthan Royals take on the Kings XI Punjab in the team’s next Dream11 IPL match on Sky Sports - Friday 30th October 14:00