'How do you bowl the perfect yorker? Just keep practising, over and over'

"Contribute to a winning cause, make an impact, whether with bat, ball or on the field" Getty Images

"No World Cup, please." Jofra Archer doesn't say the words, but his expression conveys the message clearly. Over the last month in India, most of his media interactions have revolved around his international career, which is yet to take off, and it brings a smile to his face when you tell him there are no World Cup questions lined up.

As we gear up for the chat in a room where Ben Stokes is being interviewed for a documentary, Archer is glued to his mobile phone, watching videos of a bowling masterclass. The IPL shows up on the giant screen and he looks up from time to time to keep track of the scores.

When the TV crew finish filming and we get the go-ahead, Archer, who has been slouching on a bean bag, sits up and holds forth in an engaging chat about his early life in the Caribbean, the main influence in his career, T20 stardom, and much else.

Does it feel surreal to be an in-demand T20 superstar today?
It did for the first couple of years. I used to wonder why, but I'm used to it now. I realise this is the reward for the hard work I've put in. You're bound to be recognised if you do well. Although I guess in India that's taken to another level. I can't remember how many selfies I must have posed for. You go to the mall and it's a nightmare (laughs). That's the one thing about being in India. You get to experience superstardom. In England, no one bothers you, really.

When I sit back and reflect, it's humbling to see how far I've come. I watched the IPL as a kid six-seven years ago in the Caribbean, watching all these superstars playing. Now to be in this environment is fantastic.


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Was cricket always a part of your childhood?
I honestly didn't watch a lot of cricket when I was young. I still don't. My first memory at a cricket ground was going with my high-school mates for the 2007 World Cup, to the Kensington Oval. I enjoy playing the game more than watching. Being out on the field gets me pumped up.

What other sports did you play?
Sport was a way of life. If not cricket, during the off season I was playing football, or I was taking part in track-and-field events. I used to always be running around as a kid, I couldn't sit still. For me, that was very normal, I'm not sure if it was for the other kids around me (laughs). I wasn't academically inclined. Not at all.

When did you decide you were going to take up cricket professionally?
Missing out on the Under-19 World Cup in 2014 hurt me, and that's when I decided to explore all my options. I had a British passport, so I thought, why not try to play club cricket in the UK? I knew it couldn't be full-time immediately, so for a couple of years I was in England for the season and then returned to the Caribbean. When I got a contract with Sussex full time, I eventually moved.

Who has been the biggest influence in your life as far as cricket goes?
Chris Jordan, without a doubt. I first met him in 2013 at the Barbados senior-team nets. I was part of the Under-19 team and we were given a chance to train with them, just to see what the senior environment felt like. CJ had come over from England to play a few games because there was no cricket going on at the time in the UK. I met him at training, he watched me bowl, gave me tips, and then we became good friends.

He then invited me to watch a first-class game at the Kensington Oval. I still remember it like yesterday - he signed a pair of gloves and handed them over to me, which was a big thing for me.

After a couple of games, he was going back, so we had a chat just before that and I told him, "l have a British passport, and I'd like to come over there, if there's anything you could do for me?" He just said, "Leave it to me, I'll get back to you." Mark Robinson was coach of Sussex then, and I received an email from the club after a few days. They told me to come over for the summer, get a trial and see how it goes. That's how it all started.

What were your thoughts at the time?
It felt too good. I knew this is what I wanted and here was my chance. I was given a small accommodation near the club. I knew it was only for three months, because I'd do a little bit of pre-season training, get into the season, and fly back to the Caribbean after that. So basically from Christmas till about early March, I'd be home and then I'd be back in the UK. The transition wasn't too bad, to be honest. I was slowly getting used to it, so when I eventually moved in 2016, I'd already had a taste of things.

How does your family react to your new-found fame?
For them and for me, nothing has changed. They're as happy today as they were when I first left home to pursue cricket. They know I've worked hard. I understand that the position I'm in right now, the last thing I can afford to do is relax. So that keeps me grounded. They're always around. Sometimes the time zones can make it difficult for them to follow the games, but everyone's always up. Sometimes my parents take the day off from work to watch.

When I go back home, it's all normal. I go to the beach for a run, sit around, catch up with friends, and stuff like that.

Did you follow last year's IPL auction, when teams were frenetically bidding for you?
I was at the Big Bash in Australia. We had a game during the day. After that, I came home and switched on the laptop and called my parents. Chris Jordan was on a video call with me, on the phone. So here I am with three devices, with all of us on video, talking to each other. And then my name comes up. I was listening, not really watching. It was a good atmosphere. After my auction bid, we waited for CJ's turn - he was there too. I guess the adrenaline was still running from the game before, because we had to win and then hope another side lost to qualify. So that and all of this combined, I don't think I got to bed till around 4 or 5am the next morning.

When you're bowling, how do you assess a surface?
I guess the fact that I rarely bowl with the new ball helps. By the time I come in, I've seen a fair bit. How much the ball is bouncing, where the keeper is collecting the ball, is there skid, is the ball holding up? So I take markers from these and formulate a plan, whether to bowl cutters or hit the hard length or just look for yorkers.

Who is the ideal T20 fast bowler today?
Not sure of a fast bowler, but all-round, Rashid Khan's pretty cool. He's bowling with great success in all conditions, but I can't pick up his tricks (laughs). Yeah, in general I look out for which fast bowler is doing well, their statistics, how they get their wickets, and see if I can do something they have.

Do you look at data and analytics?
Of course. There's a basic idea about what areas a particular batsman is good at, but at the end of the day you have to still go out and execute your plans, so that's my focus. I can't think, "Oh, he's good here, so I should bowl here" and then I end up bowling there. Don't want to overthink. Just keep it simple.

How do you train to bowl the perfect yorker?
It's a boring plan, really. Nothing special, just keep practising it over and over. Obviously I have pace, so that helps, as the batsman has little time to react. Stuff like the shoe bit [Lasith Malinga's method, where he bowls at a shoe], I don't do it. (laughs)

What gives you more thrill as a bowler - the perfect yorker or a bouncer?
Winning games! There's no bigger thrill. Not speed, not bouncers. Contribute to a winning cause, make an impact, whether with bat, ball or on the field.

Is there a game you remember where you got it horribly wrong, and what did that teach you?
There's just one game I regret so far, in the Natwest Blast in 2017. I played and missed in the final over. Can't really figure out how we lost, but we did. It was one of those days. I was down after that for a bit, but I soon realised you will get bad games - it's part of sport. Since then, whenever I have a bad game, I try and leave it on the field, get rid of it as soon as possible. It's important, especially in a tournament where there's hardly any time between games. You can't live in the past. The team needs you to do a job and you owe it to them.

What have you enjoyed the most about Rajasthan Royals?
Win or lose, everyone's treated the same. There is no pressure from the team management or the owners. They're all level-headed and welcoming. It's a chilled-out environment. Yes, we haven't been as successful as we would've liked this season but we've competed in all games, barring one.

Do you read what's said about you on social media? Does it affect you?
I use social media quite a bit, but I don't let it influence me a great deal. Yes, you do get trolled by keyboard warriors at times. But they're not the one picking you, they're not the selectors. If the guys who have invested in you have the belief, why should what anyone else says affect me?

But yes, I do take constructive criticism from people. The thing is, any former player or someone who has played a high standard of cricket won't criticise you on social media. If you're doing something wrong, they'll probably pick up the phone and find ways of conveying the message to you. Social media isn't the place for that. So yeah, I try to balance things out.

What does playing for England mean to you?
It's the reason why I moved, why I've trained hard. I want to play, I want to be there. I just don't want to play for some time, I want to play for a long time. Not just T20 cricket or ODIs, but Test cricket too, definitely.