June 14, 2019 / 11:24 AM / 6 days ago

Cricket: West Indies rue what might have been as Archer unleased on 'home' nation

(Reuters) - Listen carefully and when Jofra Archer took aim at the West Indies top order on Friday you might have heard a collective sigh of regret from the Caribbean contingent inside Southampton’s Rose Bowl.

Cricket - ICC Cricket World Cup - England v West Indies - The Ageas Bowl, Southampton, Britain - June 14, 2019 England's Jofra Archer reacts Action Images via Reuters/Peter Cziborra

In parallel universe, the 24-year-old Barbados-born paceman would have walked out of the West Indies dressing room with his sights set on Jonny Bairstow and Jason Roy.

Instead it was the West Indies batsman shifting uncomfortably in the crease as Archer unleashed the seemingly effortless 90mph bouncers honed in Bridgetown.

It was not quite the impact Archer would have hoped for, however, as Chris Gayle put him in his place with a flurry of boundaries as his first five overs went unrewarded.

Whatever pans out later on Friday, the overriding emotion back in the Caribbean is bound to be how could they have let Archer slip through their grasp.

He was not stolen. Archer’s father is English which is how he qualifies for a British passport.

It was his future stepfather Patrick Waithe who introduced him to cricket though, and Archer quickly developed into a prodigious talent with ball and bat at schoolboy level.

When he shone for the country’s under 19s in a regional tournaments it seemed Archer was destined to join an illustrious list of Barbadians to grace the West Indies senior side.

The fateful day he was left out of the squad for the 2014 Under 19 World Cup squad inadvertently paved the way for the impetuous Archer to look elsewhere to fulfil his ambition.

“At the beginning, he really, really wanted to play for the West Indies. After being disappointed, his heart’s desire changed and it became just a matter of playing international cricket,” former team mate Zachary McCaskie told The Times.

He joined English county side Sussex in 2016 and his career took off in 2018 when he signed for Rajasthan Royals in the IPL auction for 800,000 pounds.

Even then, with eligibility rules stating that he needed a seven-year residency to play for England, his international ambitions were still on hold.

However, last November, the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) announced, conveniently, that they were reducing the eligibility rule to three years in line with ICC regulations.

Suddenly Archer was seen as the X-factor to help England win the tournament on home soil and the clamour to include him in Eoin Morgan’s squad grew louder with each passing week.

He has not disappointed either.

His display in England’s opening win against South Africa was superb. He took three for 27 and anyone still in the dark about Archer’s searing pace had only to witness the bouncer that rattled into Hashim Amla’s helmet.

Archer took three more wickets against Bangladesh and is England’s leading wicket taker in the tournament so far.

One can only imagine the longing looks of those watching the action at Wildey Cricket Club back in Bridgetown — the place where a teenaged Archer once used to smash sixes into the adjacent graveyard and skittle opposition battling lineups.

One of his former coaches, Corey Yearwood, recalls a “bony” 16-year-old Archer roughing up West Indies test player Shane Shillingford in a net session.

“Shane said to me afterwards, ‘It is unbelievable that his small frame could bowl that pace. This guy is going to play for the West Indies,’ Yearwood was quoted in The Times.

Sadly, for the West Indies, that did not happen but their loss is England’s gain.

Reporting by Martyn Herman, editing by Pritha Sarkar

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