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Jofra Archer: 'I had a bit of a cry' on return to action in Barbados

England quick savours the emotions of his successful return after fearing he was a 'burden'

Melinda Farrell
Jofra Archer savours the prospect of another World Cup match in Barbados, England training, T20 World Cup, Barbados, June 6, 2024

Jofra Archer savours the prospect of another World Cup match in Barbados  •  Getty Images

Jofra Archer had tears in his eyes as he surveyed the scene at Kensington Oval, about to represent England but, for the first time, in his motherland. When his name was announced at the start of the second over, his first in the match against Scotland, the cheering could hardly have been louder or warmer than if he had been wearing maroon.
The loudest applause came from a large group of children in yellow uniforms, students of Archer's alma mater, Christ Church Foundation. They had been given the day off lessons, along with students from Chris Jordan's former school, to join friends and family and fans alike in welcoming the not-so-old boys home.
"Yeah, it was a little bit emotional," Archer said, speaking at Windward Cricket Club, just a stone's throw from his Barbados home. "I had a little bit of water in my eye, a bit of a cry but I was just settling.
"The prime minister invited us up to the box when [the match] got cancelled, but she said she pretty much cancelled school, and CJ's old school, so the kids could come and watch us. It was really, really emotional. As I said earlier, I had a little bit of water in my eye and it wasn't the rain. It was really, really nice. I saw a clip of one of the reporters as well - she went to primary school with me - and she was going around to people in the ground, by the statue, and that was touching. I felt really supported. I felt unbelievable."
Archer had avoided talking to the media ahead the game, preferring to concentrate on getting his return to Barbados under his belt.
"Once you get the first ball out of the way, any nerves are gone," he said. "You tend to forget everything else and just focus. I feel that's the best way. There's so much surrounding the cricket before you bowl a ball. So much goes into playing a game."
Certainly, a lot has gone into getting Archer ready for this tournament, so great is his value to the England side. Since he flew home from last year's IPL and underwent surgery on his right elbow, his return has been carefully managed with England's T20 World Cup defence in mind, the caution sharpened by his history of back and elbow injuries.
"It was just a little bit of luck because, you know, if we'd gone a little bit… it could have gone wrong," he said. "Maybe I could peak too early and could have missed this. Or I didn't get up to speed fast enough and I miss it again. So I just feel very lucky that everything had checked along with this block. Hopefully I can peak for all of it."
Archer raised eyebrows during England's tour of the Caribbean last year when he was spotted playing a local league match for his old school during the Barbados leg of the series, apparently without the knowledge of the ECB. However, he said he had been careful to monitor his own levels to ensure a gradual return to action.
"I've been playing cricket since November. I've been fit since November," he said. "I've just been trying not to do too much or too little. Just trying to be okay for this period, for this summer. Just really glad that everything seems to be going all right. Not just this tour but to finish the summer and continue playing a part. Obviously it's been a while. I don't know how much rehab I have in me."
He signed a two-year contract with the ECB in October - he was offered three years but turned it down - and was anxious to return to the fold and repay the faith shown by England Men's Managing Director, Rob Key.
"I found it a little bit worrying, not really frustrating, because I was able to spend most of my rehab here," he said. "I only live 150 metres from this ground right now, so being able to do your rehab, just get away from the noise back in the UK, was really good. I made a joke with Keysy as well earlier. I said 'I'm really glad I'm back playing because I reckon I would have lost my contract in October'. And he laughed and said, 'no you're all right'.
"Sometimes you feel like a burden not playing, and sometimes I've seen a few comments as well, people saying he's on the longest paid holiday I've ever seen. You try to not let it get to you, but you can ignore 100 of them but sometimes that 101 is the straw that breaks the camel's back. I've changed a lot of my social media stuff just so you don't see a lot, but there's a little that always filters through. But you've just got to keep going."
In March, Archer played his first competitive cricket since his elbow injury in Barbados. He felt he was fully fit from the first of five club matches. But it wasn't until he bowled against Pakistan at the Oval in the fifth T20I that he knew his body was up to the rigours of international cricket.
"It's alright to train and it's alright to play in games here, but to get that last 10% intensity and [feel] actually, the body is okay. You know when you are able to step it up and the body takes it, then that's really, really refreshing."
Archer will not play Test cricket this summer. But his (hopefully) eventual return to Test cricket is being managed just as carefully as his rehab leading up to this tournament.
"I've got a PDF file of every single game I'm supposed to play in from now till next summer anyway," he said. "Yeah, they've really planned out almost everything. Probably the only thing they haven't planned out is the showers I take. It's been really, really good. Even when I wasn't playing, they made me feel really involved as well. They sent me targets that I'd keep trying to tick off and it's really nice that they're actually falling into place, honestly."
England have one more match at Kensington Oval before moving to Antigua for the rest of their group matches, the highly anticipated clash with Australia that, after the washout against Scotland, may be crucial to their T20 World Cup hopes. The majority of fans will again be cheering, not just for England, but for one of their own. But there are a few extra guests Archer would like to sneak into Kensington Oval; his beloved dogs. Whether he can get them past security is another matter.
"I can definitely try. I can put one of those service jackets on him and probably get caned, something like that."
The animal lover has added a couple of parrots to his menagerie, named Jessie and James. Not after the American outlaw, but for two characters in the Pokemon video game. They play for Team Rocket.
England would dearly love to see Archer fire a few rockets of his own when they face Australia on Saturday.

Melinda Farrell is a journalist and broadcaster