Dubai: Cricketer Jofra Archer’s Instagram account boasts of a picture of him with Raheem Sterling, English football’s million dollar boy. It was almost on expected lines that the two upcoming superstars, both born in the Caribbean but naturalised English citizens now, will be bonding together — though not much other details are forthcoming.
It’s hard to escape the similarities between the two — in terms of the adverse personal circumstances and tragedy that they overcame to step into the stratosphere they belong to at the moment. The Manchester City striker admits that the trauma of his father being shot dead in Kingstown, Jamaica, when he was only a nine-year old continues to haunt him. Archer, on the other hand, had to put a stone on his heart to play a key role in England’s World Cup-winning campaign as his cousin Ashantio Blackman — with whom he shared a special bond — was shot dead in Barbados right in the middle of the tournament.
Archer’s father Frank told the media: “[His cousin] is the same age as Jofra and they were really close, he even messaged him in the days before he died. Jofra was really affected by his death but had to carry on.”
Sterling’s ‘Kick it Out’ campaign against racism in the game has made him an icon against the malaise in European football — an area where Archer may not have intervened so far — though he had been no stranger to discrimination on his way to rising like a Phoenix on the England cricketing horizon. When the 24-year-old qualified for a British passport only this March — thanks to his British father — there were still enough doubters about the wisdom of roping him in for the World Cup campaign.
Chris Woakes, Archer’s senior partner in the England pace attack now, said it would be ‘morally’ not right to include Archer in the national squad and the allrounder was not even named in the provisional 15-member squad of the World Cup. A number of injury issues to other pace bowlers threw open the doors for Archer, who was named in the pre-World Cup one-day series against Pakistan in May.
It was with the experience of three One-day Internationals for England, albeit with a considerable amount of franchise league exploits — including the Indian Premier League — that Archer was eventually named in the World Cup squad. The rest, as the cliche goes, is history as Archer went on to capture 20 wickets to pave the way for the hosts ending a 44-year wait to put their names on the 50-overs World Cup trophy.
The last six months had been nothing short of a dream for the cricketer, who will be now testing his skills to make the red ball talk as he has been named in the squad for the first Ashes Test starting at Edgbaston from Thursday. Archer is now being talked in the same breath as Sterling and Maro Itoje of the Rugby Union team — the trio gradually capturing the imagination of a nation ready to embrace new heroes.
“People have been questioning his Britishness, but him (Archer) playing for England has shown he will inspire everyone to play cricket, because it’s usually seen as an elitist sport,” the cricketer’s father said after the thrilling Lord’s final on July 14 when England beat New Zealand in a cliffhanger to win the World Cup.
Can Archer then really be the change agent, as his father hints between the lines, that English cricket needs? We will have to wait and watch!