These days, global T20 leagues are known for the big money involved, the razzmatazz of the event, and the superstar names on show. Such features have attracted millions around the world to watch a form of the game that is growing by the season.
Yet, an advantage of T20 franchise cricket that is perhaps not as recognised or appreciated as much is its ability to give youth and the relatively unknown a chance. India are certainly a side that have benefitted from the chances give to up and coming talents in the IPL, and Australia and South Africa are also those who are beginning to reap the rewards. It’s a chance for the lesser-known to make a name for themselves.
So, when Jofra Archer arrived on the scene for this season’s Big Bash, one of the fastest growing tournaments in the world in terms of popularity, not a vast amount was known or expected. Sure, those who follow county cricket in England will have known about his talent in all three facets of the game but, around the world Archer was an unknown quantity. He was signed by Sussex in 2016 and quickly made an impact, taking the most wickets in Division Two last season, as social media videos of him ripping through batsmen with raw pace began to excite many.
Archer, who played for West Indies Under-19’s and joined Sussex on the advice of England bowler Chris Jordan, also impressed in the white ball game and such form earned him a Big Bash contract with the Hobart Hurricanes. He was a replacement for Tom Curran, who was called up to England’s Ashes squad. He joined his Sussex team-mate Tymal Mills and although much was known of Mills’ ability after his big money IPL move to Royal Challengers last year, only few would have predicted the impact the lesser known Archer would have on the tournament.
In his first match against the Melbourne Renegades, Archer took an impressive 2-17 off his four overs and made people stand up and take notice of his abilities. No other bowler from the Hurricanes had an economy of less than nine. It was quickly becoming clear that Archer would be a man to watch.
Archer then showed superb skill in the death overs to lead the Hurricanes to victory against the Adelaide Strikers, one of the best teams in the competition. And after losing their first two matches, Archer and batsman D’Arcy Short drove the Hurricanes to five wins on the bounce.
While the Hurricanes’ form dipped towards the end of the tournament with three losses in a row, Archer’s displays refused to wane. So far in the tournament, he has taken 15 scalps (the fifth most overall and fourth most from a seamer) at an impressive economy rate of 7.50. And with the Hurricanes into the semi-finals, those numbers are set to improve.
“This is a player to get excited about,” former England spinner Graeme Swann told BT Sport. “He’s young, he’s an all-rounder, he has a very repeatable action and I know people on the south coast who are very excited about what he can bring to England cricket.”
Yet it’s not just fearsome bowling that has people talking about Archer. He has proved to be extremely athletic in the field. In addition to a stunning one-handed return catch off Ben Cutting against the Brisbane Heat, Archer also ran out Perth Scorchers’ Adam Voges with a direct hit from the boundary at the WACA.
If that wasn’t enough, Archer also possesses powerful striking ability with the bat. And although we haven’t seen the best of it in the Big Bash due to a lack of opportunities down the order, the all-rounder boasts an average of 37.86 in First-Class cricket and a strike rate of 143.93 from 37 T20 matches. You would be forgiven to think Archer may be better utilised slightly further up the order.
Nevertheless, after his BBL exploits, Archer was expected to attract big bids at the IPL auction and that was exactly what happened. The 22-year-old was bought for 7.2 Crore (£800,000) by the Rajasthan Royals after a heavy bidding war between several franchises. It’s clear that Archer is now hot property and it should be fascinating to watch his performances in cricket’s richest and biggest T20 tournament.
What does this mean for England? Despite being a regular for Sussex over the past couple of years, Archer is not eligible to play for England until 2022, the year he completes his seven-year residency period – a requirement for players who arrive in England after they turn 18.
By 2022, Archer will be 27 and who knows how much of a superstar he will be by then. And England, who were punished 4-0 in the Ashes, partly for their lack of pace bowling, could certainly use a bowler of Archer’s speed and skill.
For now, though, they will have to wait. Yet, a perhaps underappreciated feature of franchise T20 cricket has allowed yet another young superstar break through the ranks. Jofra Archer has already lit up the cricketing world this winter, and the sense is that he’s only just getting started.