By Richard Edwards
World Cup qualification could hold the key to whether Jofra Archer throws his lot in with England or the West Indies.
That’s the view of Johnny Graves, the CEO of the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) and comes after a week which has seen Archer become one of the most expensive players in the 2018 Indian Premier League (IPL).
The former West Indies Under-19 all-rounder will have to wait until the winter of 2022 to become an England player – a target that’s some way off for a cricketer whose reputation has soared this winter.
He could, conversely, play for the West Indies tomorrow if he chose to.
Graves admits that Archer appears set on playing for England but says that qualification for next year’s World Cup could give the West Indies a stronger set of cards to play when it comes to changing his mind.
Particularly with the Twenty20 World Cup in Australia coming the following year.
“As a cricketer you always want to play at the highest level and, for the moment at least, the highest level by a considerable distance, is international cricket,” says Graves. “In which case, you would hope that he says, ‘I’ve done it against domestic competition and now I want to test myself at international level’.
“From our point of view we need to give him another option and the first part of that is for us to qualify for the World Cup.
“Then Jofra’s only opportunity to play in the 2019 World Cup in England, will be with the West Indies. His only opportunity to play in the T20 World Cup in Australia in 2020 is with the West Indies, too.
“Ultimately, if we’re not in that 2019 tournament then we’re probably not doing all we can to convince him that his international future lies with the West Indies.
“Financially he’ll be far better off in the short to medium-term being a West Indies international. With the Caribbean Premier League, a West Indies white-ball retainer along with its match fees and insurance policy, along with the ability to go and play IPL as well as other leagues would dwarf his Sussex contract once he has paid back two months of it for playing in the IPL.”
Ultimately, that decision will be made by Archer and his advisors, who will also need to keep an eye on how many days Archer spends in the UK each year outside of his commitments to ensure that that 2022 qualification doesn’t slip back further.
For those desperate to see the West Indies back and competing on the biggest stage, the arrival of Archer would appear heaven sent.
Graves, though, insists that the WICB isn’t sat there crossing their fingers and looking skywards in the hope of him changing his mind.
“We’re not sat here praying for Jofra, because we’ve got some very capable all-rounders here,” says Graves. “We’ve got two of our captains in that position with Jason Holder and Carlos Braithwaite and we’ve got Andre Russell coming back. We’re not lacking talent in terms of players who can bowl and bat.
“Clearly if Jofra continues to progress the way he has done then any international side would want him in and around their team or their squad.”
England will be thinking exactly the same, particularly after a winter where the lack of a pace spearhead was brutally exposed on Australian pitches.
The danger for both, of course, is that Archer ends up earning so much playing T20 cricket that he decides to ditch international cricket altogether.
Both England and the West Indies will do their best to make sure that doesn’t happen. It’s Archer, though, who holds all the aces.