Joe Root, England’s Test captain, has denied suggestions that Jofra Archer has been overbowled since making his international debut before last year’s World Cup. Archer was diagnosed with a stress fracture in his right elbow earlier this week, ruling him out of England’s Sri Lanka tour and, potentially, the entire IPL.
There have been frequent questions about England’s deployment of Archer, who was their leading wicket-taker during the World Cup and then played four out of five Ashes Tests during a whirlwind summer. He bowled 44 overs on debut at Lord’s, and then 42 in one innings at Mount Maunganui on England’s New Zealand tour in November – the most he has sent down in a first-class innings.
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Having featured in the first Test in South Africa, taking his third five-wicket haul in seven appearances, he missed the rest of the series with elbow soreness, breaking down on the morning of the final game in Johannesburg after failing a fitness test. However, Root suggested the amount of cricket Archer had played in his career to date, including stints at various franchise leagues, was likely to have taken a toll.
“I wouldn’t say he’s been overbowled,” Root said. “You look at the amount of cricket he’s played before he played for England, he’s played a huge amount, and he came into international cricket and took the world by storm. He’s had a phenomenal start on the international stage and should be extremely proud of what he has achieved already in his short career.
“You just look at the international schedule and it’s full on if you’re playing all three formats. Chuck an IPL in there as well and the Big Bash and stuff he’s played beforehand, that’s a lot of cricket. That’s a lot of mental fatigue as well as physical. I think it will be good for him to have a mental break, to get some time away from the game, to get refreshed.”
Archer has only played ten games (two T20 and eight first-class) since the World Cup final in July, and was rested by England for the five-match T20I series in New Zealand. He played with a side injury during the latter stages of the World Cup and required a painkilling injection before bowling the Super Over at Lord’s.
But while he did bowl more overs in 2017 (624 across all formats) than last year (523), when he debuted for England against Ireland in May, there is an appreciable difference between long spells for Sussex in Division Two of the County Championship, or playing T20 in the Bangladesh Premier League, and the intensity of World Cup and Ashes cricket. In his Test career, Archer has only bowled fewer than 36 overs in a match on one occasion – against Australia at Headingley, when he sent down 31.1 over two innings.
Root did concede that England would have to “manage him efficiently” on his return, which is expected to be in time for the Test series against West Indies in June. With a T20 World Cup later in the year, his availability for the shortest format might be considered a priority.
“One of the pleasing things is we are really clear on what the injury is now and it ended up being the right call for him not playing in that last Test match [against South Africa], because it could have done further damage and been a really tough one for him. We’re all gutted for him missing out,” Root said.
“We’ve just got to make sure now we build him up very well from the start of the summer and make sure when that first opportunity for him to play comes he’s absolutely ready to go and can then look forward and start to really manage him efficiently.”