Jofra Archer, England’s hottest property, has joined Sportsmail as a new columnist and Nasser Hussain was in Auckland ahead of next week’s two-Test series against New Zealand to meet him.
Jofra Archer (left) speaks to England legend Nasser Hussain in Auckland on Saturday
Nasser Hussain: Jofra, a couple of months after the summer that changed your life, can you believe how well things went?
Jofra Archer: I can believe it, but I can’t really say I expected it. It’s OK to be a good county cricketer but when you take the step up, you never know how your career might go. You might have one bad game and everyone thinks you were never really worth the pick. Here in New Zealand I’ll be bowling with a red Kookaburra — I’d never even seen one until a few weeks ago. It’s been challenging at times and I welcome those challenges. I’m very grateful.
NH: Some people think they have to fit in, but from the outside it looks as if you’ve not really had to change your ways. You bowl left-arm spin during the warm-ups and have snoozes in the dressing room. Have you always been that relaxed?
JA: Yeah, you don’t need to change. Eoin Morgan and Joe Root have a really calm and open changing room. There’s no tension there. You don’t have to be walking on egg shells around any of the players. It’s pretty hard to come into this and not fit in. Everyone has their own routines. I know what I’ve got to do and it’s about having the confidence to do your own thing.
NH: So what’s with the left-arm spin?
The England bowler’s life has changed after an incredible summer playing for his country
JA: It just stretches the other side of your body. I don’t really like doing a lot of stretching anyway. I’d much rather bowl than sit and do the warm-ups. I was very close to bowling it in a dead game against Warwckshire last year. I just ended up bowling leggies well, but I was itching to bowl left-arm.
NH: So Root didn’t ask for any slow left-armers against Steve Smith during the summer, given his record against left-arm spin? Would you have done it?
JA: Why not? He scored 600 or 700 runs against my right arm — any more with the left wouldn’t hurt.
NH: Is it fair to say the thing you’re most remembered for from the summer was the super over in the World Cup final?
JA: I thought you were going to say it was for chucking the beach ball back at Headingley.
NH: You’ll be remembered for that as well! But did you realise what winning the World Cup meant for England fans and how important it was for them?
Eoin Morgan speaks to Archer as he prepares to bowl the super over in the World Cup final
JA: Not really. Not many England fans knew who I was anyway, so if they saw me in the street they probably thought I was a footballer, or something. I guess that was the beauty of it, being able to go under the radar.
NH: Were you nervous during that over?
JA: I had mixed emotions. I don’t think the wide from the first ball was a wide. I often watch the replay and I still don’t think it was a wide. I asked Morgs to review it! But I was calm. When they hit a six, I thought they were probably going to win it. I just needed to get Jimmy Neesham off strike — it took longer than I would have liked, but we got there in the end. Neesham was probably the only one who was going to hurt me.
For Martin Guptill, it would have had to be a terrible ball for him to hit me for six. I could bowl that ball with my eyes closed anyway. Morgs said, ‘Just back yourself’.
NH: Have you relived that last ball in your mind? Morgan said it all happened in slow motion.
JA: Yeah, I thought Jason Roy might fumble it, because he’d fumbled one already in the over. But he attacked the ball and he placed his throw — he didn’t want to overthrow it. That just shows how much it meant to everyone, no one wanted to mess up.
Archer falls to the floor after helping England win the World Cup in dramatic circumstances
NH: Then came the Ashes. Your battle with Smith at Lord’s was incredible. When you hit him, what was your initial thought?
JA: Whether he was all right. I got a lot of grief for the way I reacted, but a lot of people don’t know the full story. A lot of people don’t know what I did as soon as the innings was over anyway. I went to the dressing room but he’d already left. I’d already spoken to the physio to make sure he was all right.
NH: You got grief because Jos Buttler came and said something to you, and you smiled. What did he say?
JA: Not long before I hit Smith, I’d got the wicket of Tim Paine. Before he came in, Jos said, ‘If you get Paine out, you can have anything you want’. So I told him my car was dirty. He said, ‘I’ll hire a bucket and a chammy and wash the car myself’. When I got Paine out, I forgot what Buttler had said and it was only when we were standing together later that I told him, ‘Jos, I think you’ve got to order that stuff now’.
There was no reason to laugh at Steve. We’d just spent two months with him at the IPL earlier in the year. I did see how it looked, but that’s why I am a bit frustrated, because seeing it on TV doesn’t show the full side.
NH: Was that the quickest you’ve bowled?
JA: The quickest spell, yeah. I bowled some quick balls. Sometimes it’s hard to tell. Sometimes, you think everything’s come out well and you look at the gun and it says 87.
The paceman bowls at Steve Smith during the second Ashes Test at Lord’s in August
NH: After that spell, people like Michael Holding said you’ve got to look after Archer. He will break down if you don’t. Do you agree?
JA: No. I remember bowling 50 overs for Sussex against Leicester. I guess in England it won’t be as hard on your body as it is in Australia or the Caribbean or India. It’s just the feel on the day. In the next Test at Headingley, I probably touched 90mph about four or five times in the whole game. But if the pitch isn’t bouncing, there’s no reason why you should get an injury. And you’re only going to go for runs if you’re trying too hard.
NH: It also strikes me that you want to show your skills. Does it frustrate you that people always expect you to bowl fast, because you want to show the world you’re a skilful bowler?
JA: It doesn’t really frustrate me. It doesn’t bother me what people are saying. Social media is there for people to voice their criticism, so you shouldn’t take that to heart. But obviously I want to be seen as skilled. I don’t want to be seen just as someone who bowls fast.
NH: It was a cold, blustery day on the first morning of the fourth Test at Old Trafford. One or two suggested you didn’t want to put it in on a cold day. Was that a bit harsh?
JA: A bit. A lot of the guys said it was the worst conditions they’ve played in and they’ve lived here for 25 years. I guess it’s easy to bully the new boy. The next game, I got another five-for and everyone was singing my praises again. It doesn’t really matter to me.
Australia batsman Smith lies hurt on the floor after being hit on the head by Archer’s bouncer
NH: Was Test cricket everything you expected it to be?
JA: It did live up to expectation. Without Smith, we would have 100 per cent won the Ashes. We probably would have won it by the third Test. But he’s a good batter and I don’t fancy bowling at him any time soon.
NH: Your other memorable battle was with Matthew Wade, who questioned your loyalty to Hobart Hurricanes in the Big Bash. Does that kind of thing get you going? Are you someone not to wind up?
JA: It depends. Obviously because I knew him, you still need something to brag about in the changing room. But you do need a good battle as well, because sometimes it can get your heart pumping again. It’s not that you’re going through the motions, but there can be times in a game when it’s just slow. Anything that can help to push the game forward — I have no interest seeing the second new ball. If we can get them all out in 80 overs, I’m all for it.
NH: You’re wearing your Manchester United top. I don’t know how aware you are of racism in football, but a couple of people were ejected during the Old Trafford Test for shouting things at you. Were you aware of that? Does it happen a lot in English cricket and would you ever consider saying, skip, I’m not going to put up with this?
The Manchester United fan is proud of the diversity within the England cricket team
JA: I was aware what the guys were saying — something about my passport — but I blanked them. It was only later that Rooty said the guys got ejected. It was the first time I’d seen someone get ejected from a ground, because there were some abusive fans when we played Pakistan at Trent Bridge.
They were having a proper go at Stokesy, swearing and stuff, and I thought they were going to get kicked out, but they watched the whole game.
I had probably one other incident at cricket. I was 12th man for Sussex at Tunbridge Wells and I was sitting with my bib on and an old guy in the pavilion asked if I was playing for Sussex. I said, ‘Yeah’. He said: ‘How are you playing for Sussex?’ I was like, OK, right. But it doesn’t really happen so often in cricket and I’m well aware of the stuff that’s going on in football.
The world’s changing. It’s becoming more multicultural. A lot of people have accepted it for what it is. Look at the England cricket team — there’s huge diversity. It’s the same with any football club in the world. I think people have to accept it. Times have changed, it’s not 2007 any more.
NH: I grew up in an era where there were a lot of players from African-Caribbean communities — Devon Malcolm, Chris Lewis, Phillip DeFreitas, Gladstone Small. Do you feel any kind of responsibility to young British West Indians, who might see you as a role model and want to play for England?
JA: Yeah, to let them know it’s possible. It doesn’t really matter where you’re born. If you know that cricket’s what you want to do, you never know where you’ll end up. I didn’t know my dreams would come true and I’d end up playing cricket for England. If it happens for me, it can happen for anyone.
NH: On the flipside, Sir Garfield Sobers said recently what a talent you were and what a loss to West Indian cricket you’ve been. It must be nice when the great man speaks highly of you?
JA: I saw that. It does feel good. He said they didn’t do enough to try to keep me, but they didn’t do anything at all! I made my choice a long time ago and I don’t regret it.
NH: How do you juggle all your commitments — England, Big Bash, IPL, The Hundred — and keep your hunger and pace? Are you going to play everything?
JA: You can’t play everything, you’ve got to pick and choose. If you know you can be bowling a lot of overs in a Test series, it doesn’t make sense to be go to a franchise tournament two weeks later. I’d much rather take the rest.
NH: But if you had the choice of being an all-time Test great like Jimmy Anderson, or ending up like Andre Russell, a franchise player making a lot of money around the world, which gets your juices flowing more?
JA: It’s a hard question to answer. I’m still young and I’m fit enough to play everything, so I guess until the time comes and I have to make a choice… but I’ve got more than enough energy to play everything. Guys like Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins and Kagiso Rabada play everything. So there’s no need to make a choice that doesn’t have to be made at the moment.
Archer shakes hands with Hussain after opening up to his fellow Sportsmail columnist