WITH a top speed of 95mph, Jofra Archer makes the art of fast bowling look easy.
But the Barbados-born star, who has shone for England at the 2019 Cricket World Cup, has endured a tough path to get to the top.
Raised in humble beginnings just outside Bridgetown, he was desperate to follow West Indies heroes Courtney Walsh, Curtley Ambrose and Michael Holding and play for his country.
And he seemed to be on his way, representing the Windies at Under-19 level three times in 2014.
But when he was snubbed by the senior side for the 2014 Cricket World Cup, Archer, 24, decided to move to the UK – where his father was born – and he soon became a hit with Sussex just two years later.
His meteoric rise has continued this year on the international stage, as Archer’s aggressive style has had the world’s best batsman quaking in their boots.
We’d spend every day practising. He’d be up at the crack of dawn and after work we’d practise until the sun was down.”
Patrick Waithe, the stepdad of Jofra Archer
DEAD MAN BOWLING
However, moving to England wasn’t part of the original plan.
As a youth, Archer did nothing else but play cricket with his stepdad, Patrick Waithe.
“We’d spend every day practising,” he told the Sunday Mirror.
“He’d be up at the crack of dawn and after work we’d practise until the sun was down.
“He was just the loveliest of boys, so easy to coach. He has grown into a fine young man, one we are proud of. We speak every day. I love him as though he was my own.”
Waithe would take his adopted son to a pitch next to a graveyard with a load of tennis balls wrapped in tape to mimic the movement of a cricket ball.
There, a then-9-year-old Archer would bowl over and over, from dawn to dusk, until his bowling technique improved.
One day, he just clicked. I was stood facing him in the nets and in four consecutive balls, he clean bowled me.”
Locally, he played for Pickwick Cricket Club – and at home Patrick created a makeshift wicket next to their modest bungalow.
“One day, he just clicked. I was stood facing him in the nets and in four consecutive balls, he clean bowled me,” Waithe revealed.
“It was like his bowling had been plugged into the mains and 240 volts were running through him.
“Everything just seemed to fall into place. Batting too. One time Jofra got hold of a ball.
“It was like he hit it into space. I could see this car and knew what was going to happen. Sure enough, it hit the car. The driver got out and I feared the worse, but he was delighted to have been hit by a ball hit by Jofra!”
‘TIMID AND FRAIL’
At 15 Archer wanted to be a wicket-keeper, which is what he did for Christchurch Foundation School. But it was his skinny appearance that hindered his confidence.
However, his former PE teacher Nhamo Winn revealed that a growth spurt soon helped his protege’s talent accelerate.
“When I first came here Jofra was a wicket-keeper who used to bowl leg spin and bat, Winn told The Telegraph.
“When he came back from vacation in 2010 he had grown quite a bit and I asked him about bowling and trying to be a fast bowler.
“We tried off a couple of paces. It went pretty well. He had all the attributes of being a fast bowler.
“His approach to the crease was good and he had a quick arm action. Within about six months he was bowling close to 80mph.”
WINDIES LOSS IS ENGLAND’S GAIN
The West Indies must have rued the day they ignored Archer’s ability when his three-wicket haul earlier in the World Cup helped England to an eight wicket victory.
No one showed much interest so I just thought I’d try and come to England and give it a couple of years.”
Jofra Archer on moving to England
But the ambitious all-rounder knew he had to leave Barbados to achieve his dreams and try something different.
“It’s really hard to get a chance in Barbados,” he told Wisden.
“It’s either the first team or no team. There’s no second XI, there’s no academy really. From under 19 you’ve just got to try and break into the senior team. It’s just a long list.
“I was injured at the time so I put myself pretty much to the bottom of that list. No one showed much interest so I just thought I’d try and come to England and give it a couple of years.
“If it didn’t happen I could always go back and try again.”
THIS WORLD CUP NEARLY PASSED HIM BY
Although Archer’s real father was English, and he’s a British passport holder, he initially wasn’t allowed to play for England until the winter of 2022.
Ancient ECB rules stated that because he didn’t live in England until after his 18th birthday, he would have to complete a seven-year residency period.
However, in November 2018, the ECB announced a change to its rules, reducing the eligibility period from seven years to three to bring it into line with ICC regulations.
Archer was fast-tracked into England’s squads in April for the limited overs series against Pakistan and the one-off One Day International against Ireland.
He made his debut against Ireland in May, then two days later played in the Twenty20 International against Pakistan.
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Initially, he wasn’t called into England’s preliminary squad for the 2019 Cricket World Cup.
That decision prompted cricket legend Andrew Flintoff to say at the time he would drop “anyone” from the squad to include Archer.
However, when the final 15-man squad was announced – the new boy was in it, and you could say that was the best decision England’s selectors made this summer.