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Joe Root backs Jofra Archer to put isolation troubles behind him for Test recall

Captain backs fast bowler to be mentally ready for Test after 'disgusting' social media abuse

Andrew Miller
Andrew Miller
Joe Root has denounced as "disgusting" the racist abuse that Jofra Archer received on social media during his period of self-isolation, but has backed him to come out all guns blazing in the third Test after bowling at "the speed of light" in England's practice sessions.
Archer was a late omission from last week's 113-run victory over West Indies after it was revealed that he had broken the team's bio-secure protocols following the first Test at the Ageas Bowl, and paid a visit to his flat in Brighton while en route to Manchester.
He was fined £15,000 and handed a written warning, and was required to spend the five-day duration of the Test alone in his hotel room overlooking Emirates Old Trafford as a precaution against a Covid-19 infection.
It was during that period that Archer received racist messages on his Instagram feed, on which he has nearly 300,000 followers, and writing in the Daily Mail, he admitted that he had had doubts about his mental readiness to get back into action.
However, Root insisted that Archer had since overcome his doubts, and had returned to training with "a smile on his face" as England look to build on last week's series-levelling victory and reclaim the Wisden Trophy following their 2-1 defeat in the Caribbean 18 months ago.
"I think Jofra will be ready for it," said Root on the eve of the Test. "He's had two good days of training and he's got a smile on his face. He's bowled at the speed of light over the last couple of days in spicy nets, so it wasn't much fun for our batters.
"It was disgusting to see some of the stuff he's had to put up with over the last week, it really is," Root added. "As a squad we'll try to be around him and make sure he knows we're all there for him.
"No-one should have to deal with that, whether you're a professional sportsman or a kid growing up at school. No-one should go through anything like that and it's deeply disappointing, and there's no other word for it other than disgusting."
Archer's predicament has also drawn sympathy and support from the West Indies camp, in particular their captain Jason Holder, who wrote in his own Daily Mail column that both teams needed to "unite behind him and show as much support as we can". Archer's former mentor, the West Indies assistant coach Roddy Estwick, said that he had been in communication throughout his period of lockdown, and would continue to be "there for him".
It was a sentiment also shared by Root, who admitted that Archer's period of isolation would have been an especially tough time for him - particularly when you are a sportsman with a profile as high as his has become - and that it had been important to sit down with him after his return to the team environment and gauge his well-being at close quarters.
"I had some good conversations with Jofra over the past few days," Root said. "It is really important he's mentally in a good enough place to play the game. That will be factored into things as well. We're all here to support him and get around him, he knows he's not going through this on his own and that is really important.
"It's about being there for him more than anything, trying to spend time with him," Root added. "Nobody in this squad should feel they are isolated or on their own. That can be difficult if you're left in a room at night, thinking about the game. It can be quite a low place sometimes.
"Everyone has felt that, if things are going against you or things that don't feel right. Regardless of if you've got five or six of your closest mates in the team, you can feel lonely.
"It's very important that he's willing to talk to the guys in the dressing room and that we're willing to listen to him. We're desperate for him to be smiling and enjoying his cricket, so it was great to see that in the last couple of days."
While all the signs point to an immediate return to the team, Archer has been named as one of six frontline seamers in England's 14-man squad, comprising each of the bowlers who played in one or other of the first two games.
But with Ben Stokes likely to play as a batsman only after picking up a niggle in the second Test, Archer's versatility as a bowler - not to mention his ability to bowl extreme pace - is likely to tip the balance.
"We need every eventuality covered as a squad," said Ed Smith, England's national selector. "We've got more players we want to pick than there are places in the team. The aim for all of us involved in English cricket is to create the most amount of good headaches that we can.
"The overwhelming feeling with Jofra is that he's available for selection," he added. "He's a spectacular talent and a brilliant cricketer with an exceptional record in England. It's good news for England cricket that he's back in the squad again."
England's final selection will be determined by the Old Trafford surface, having had a sighter of the likely conditions in last week's Test.
"In terms of pace, every captain wants pace in their attack," said Root. "If you look round the world, most teams want guys who can bowl up at 90 mph because they can make things happen when it isn't doing much. Then you factor in the skill of the rest of the guys in the group. We're very fortunate at the moment, it's a very nice place to be."

Andrew Miller is UK editor of ESPNcricinfo. He tweets at @miller_cricket