Jofra Archer is set to miss at least the first half of IPL 2021 for the Rajasthan Royals, as the ECB has decided to send him back home from India to tend to an elbow condition, which had kept him out of the second and fourth Tests against India.
ESPNcricinfo understands that Archer will return to England after the T20I series, and will not feature in the three-match ODI series against India to be played between March 23 and 29. The IPL is scheduled to start on April 9.
It is understood that on returning home, Archer, who has an ECB central contract to play in all three formats, is going to be administered one more injection in his right elbow before being assessed by the ECB medical staff around mid-April, after which a call would be taken on whether he would return to India for the IPL or not.
Although the Royals have not issued a public statement, it is understood they have been updated about Archer's availability, or the lack of it.
England captain Eoin Morgan said that the final decision would rest with the medical team keeping the long term in mind, adding that Archer's injury had "definitely gotten worse".
"We're not quite sure yet," Morgan told the press after the fifth T20I in Ahmedabad. "We're going to wait until tonight and tomorrow to see how Jofra has pulled up. He's clearly had a progressive injury that has become worse and does need attention, so it'll be over to our medical team to make a decision and hopefully the decision that Jofra comes to will be the best for us in the long term.
"I think it's rare when a bowler isn't managing pain - what they do is a tough job and if you ask any of them, are they ever pain-free, it's a pretty rare instance if they say yes. Most of our bowlers are normally carrying niggles but certainly Jofra's situation has definitely got worse, so it does need attention."
Archer was bought by the Royals in the 2018 auction for INR 7.2 crore (US$ 986,000 approx.) and the fast bowler has justified the high price by delivering some of the best spells of fast bowling in the tournament, finishing as the MVP in 2020. Although the Royals have not ruled out Archer returning for the second half of the tournament, it is understood the franchise is considering back-up plans - including finding a replacement - but are waiting for a formal communication from the ECB.
The overseas fast-bowling contingent at the Royals includes Ben Stokes, Mustafizur Rahman, Andrew Tye and Chris Morris. Morris was picked up by the Royals for INR 16.25 crore (US$ 2.226m approx.) at the 2021 auction, making him the most expensive player in the history of the IPL.
Having missed the second Test in Chennai, Archer sat out the final Test in Ahmedabad as the elbow injury flared up, initially casting doubts over his availability for the five-match T20I series, which concludes on Saturday
After the Test series defeat, England head coach Chris Silverwood had conceded that Archer's elbow injury was a concern. Although he ruled out surgery, Silverwood had said that the ECB medical staff was "talking about how we deal with this [issue in the] long-term".
Archer received a painkilling injection to the right elbow immediately after the first Test of the India series. In a media release, the ECB had pointed out that the injury was separate to the stress fracture he had suffered during the South Africa tour in January 2020, which had then ruled him out of the Sri Lanka tour and IPL 2020, both of which ended up being postponed. England are particularly keen to manage Archer carefully with an eye on the T20 World Cup and the Ashes later this year, both of which are long-term priorities.
Archer pledged after the first T20I to "do everything in my power to make sure that I am going to the World Cup and the Ashes", and said in an in-house interview on Friday: "Managing yourself is going to become more important than ever to make sure that you're still fit or fully fit when that time comes".
England are yet to name their squad for the ODI series, which starts on Tuesday, March 23 in Pune, but have not flown any players out to India since the start of the T20Is. As a result, the ODI squad will be selected from the same group of 18 currently in India - the 16-man T20I squad, plus two reserves in Jake Ball and Matt Parkinson.
Nagraj Gollapudi is news editor at ESPNcricinfo