Michael Vaughan has voiced his fears that injuries could put Jofra Archer’s Test career in jeopardy after the pacer was ruled out of all cricket for the rest of the year due to a stress fracture in his right elbow. Michael Atherton, Alastair Cook, and James Anderson, too, expressed their concerns.
Despite being an automatic pick in the England XI across all formats, thanks to the searing pace and pin-point accuracy, Jofra Archer hasn’t been a regular feature in the national setup. He first donned the English colours during the 2019 home summer, during which he was England’s leading wicket-taker in the victorious World Cup campaign and the following Ashes series. Come 2021, the 26-year-old has featured in no more than 13 Tests, 17 ODIs, and 12 T20Is, the recurring elbow injury being his undoing.
Earlier this year, he was forced home from the India tour and was subsequently ruled out of the IPL after a pain in the right elbow. He had then undergone surgery to remove a bone fragment from his right elbow in May. However, he felt increasing discomfort while bowling for Sussex, his county side, earlier this summer and was sent for further scans.
As it turned out, the elbow stress fracture has now ruled him out of action for the rest of 2021, which includes the T20 World Cup in the UAE and the Ashes series Down Under. Vaughan wondered about the prospects of Archer’s Test career longevity, given how frequent injury concerns have halted cricketing careers in the past.
“You have to fear for Jofra Archer’s Test career now. Graeme Swann had floating bone fragments removed from his elbow and was eventually forced to retire because of chronic problems with the joint," Vaughan wrote in his column for The Daily Telegraph.
“Archer is younger and will receive the best care and hopefully he will make a full recovery given time, but it is a worrying development.”
Vaughan further opined that Archer would be better served if he primarily focuses on the shorter forms of the game.
“At least cricketers have an alternative now and if the elbow is that bad why would he want to risk further injury by bowling 25 overs a day in Test cricket?” Vaughan wondered.
“Players can now earn a very good living in Twenty20 and Archer is one of the world’s best white-ball bowlers. Arguably, his loss from England’s Twenty20 World Cup team is a bigger blow than missing the Ashes. England had put a lot of faith on attacking Australia with pace on flat pitches this winter, but Archer has only performed occasionally in Test cricket whereas he boasts a proven track record in Twenty20.”
Michael Atherton, too, was sceptical if the Barbados-born quick could be a regular feature in red-ball cricket.
“We shall wait and see. Fingers crossed that is not the case,” Atherton said on Sky Sports.
“He has gone on record as saying he wants to play Test cricket and play all formats. All the top players still want to prove themselves across all formats. Let’s hope his body allows him to do that and that he is not just reduced to playing short-form cricket.”
Alastair Cook expressed his disappointment, given that England will now tour Australia without the services of their out and out quick and stressed how elbow injuries could be a career-changing factor for fast-bowlers.
“We spoke all this time about England going to Australia with a battery of fast bowlers and Jofra Archer is another one joining Ollie Stone who is out,” Cook said on BBC Test Match Special.
“Tim Bresnan was never the same bowler after his elbow injury – they’re so hard to get right. He lost that yard of pace and Jofra’s point of difference is that he can bowl genuinely quick. It’s a game-changer. The only thing now, though, is the advances in medical research and recovery of these injuries is better now. So if there is ever a chance, they can get it right.”
James Anderson, England’s most successful Test bowler, hopes for Archer’s smooth comeback.
“It’s a huge disappointment for Jofra and the team,” said Anderson, whose twin strikes on Day 2 of the ongoing Trent Bridge Test has put England back in the hunt.
“He’s been a really influential part of the team for the last couple of years since he started playing for England a huge miss with what’s coming up in the rest of the year. I also think this injury has been bugging him for quite a while. Hopefully now this can be the end of it – get it settled, get it healed, rehab it and come back stronger. He’s been great for this team and we want him back, fully fit and firing.”