(Photo: Getty Images)
By Charlie Talbot-Smith
Our little secret is now out of the bag! – Luke Wright is putting it mildly to say the least. Anyone who watched even a second of Sussex in the County Championship last summer already knew about their ‘little secret’ Jofra Archer, 22. And to describe the Barbados-born all-rounder as now ‘out of the bag’ is also an understatement.
What he has been doing this winter, first in the BPL, now in the Big Bash and soon in the IPL is much more – Archer has torn the bag to smithereens. That is why the Rajasthan Royals have just parted with £800,000 for his talents and why Sussex team-mate Wright – himself a veteran of seven Big Bashes – is predicting even more to come.
“I haven’t been surprised at all,” said Wright, 32, who was with the Melbourne Stars again in this year’s BBL 7. “A lot of Australian players laughed when they found out that Hobart had signed someone they’d never heard of. They’re not laughing now.
“We’ve seen at Sussex for a while he was always going to be a superstar. It was a matter of when everyone else found out. He is destined to be one of the top, top players. Not just in T20 cricket but, if he got to play Test cricket as well, he would be the same.
“It’s a shame for England’s case that he is going to be such a long time away. I think he could go in straight away – tomorrow – and do really well. He is a fast learner, who loves the pressure moments. And he can bat and field as well – one hell of a cricketer to have in your team.”
The Archer story is becoming well known – jettisoned from West Indies U19s following a back injury, the tall Bajan followed countryman Chris Jordan to Sussex who re-built and unleashed the beast on the English county game and last summer he was a revelation.
Now Archer’s sights are set on an England call-up – but under current eligibility rules that will not be until 2022.
“The loyalty Sussex have shown him is big. He could go back to the West Indies tomorrow, break down injured and get tossed to the side again,” said Wright.
“You don’t want to be in that position, whereas he knows in England that Sussex are always going to look after him. And if they can get him to the position where he is going to play Test cricket as well then great. But he is going to be a fairly wealthy boy by the time that comes around, I would imagine!”
Archer is headed for pastures new, the PSL and then the IPL will keep him busy and – unfortunately for Sussex – unavailable for the start of the English summer. But Wright – 33 in March – has finally decided to put his suitcase away and his feet up.
After concussion issues hindered him in the Big Bash, plus a hip flexor problem in Bangladesh, not to mention a bruised lung – he has earned the rest.
“I have been doing summer-winters now for nine years, so to have a bit of a break before the summer will be important,” he said.
“I have had these ongoing niggles that don’t go away. It was affecting my batting slightly in terms of power. It made sense, with the Stars wanting to go down a different route with some overseas, to get on a plane and come home.
“It wasn’t the way I wanted to go out but they gave me a great send-off. It has been amazing. I mean, seven years I’ve been going there. There are not many overseas players that get to play for someone for seven years. It has been an unbelievable run and I’ve luckily done really well for them.
“Everyone wants to play in the Big Bash. It is not an easy gig to get and keep hold of, which is why playing for seven years is something I am extremely proud of. If the right opportunity came about then, sure, I’d consider it again but at the moment my focus is getting ready for Sussex.”
And what an exciting time it is for the county – with one of the most highly-rated coaches in all of cricket, Jason Gillespie, set to take charge.
He will be the breath of fresh air that Sussex so badly need according to Wright, who resigned the captaincy last year and admits the set-up had gone stale. But now he has inked a new three-year deal, and cannot wait to get started.
“It’s tough when we had Mark Robinson here for such a long time, and then we had Mark Davis who was his No.2,” he added.
“They both did fantastically well in their own time. But we have been crying out for someone to come in with new ideas and it is great to see someone like Dizzy (Gillespie).
“Everyone is just really excited and it also gives everyone a lift and makes them get that spark to go again. He is a huge name with a great record behind him. Everyone is excited. The challenge for us is obviously that we have got a young group.
“Looking back, in white-ball we should have gone further last year which was disappointing. But that squad is ready to go deep into the competitions.
“We didn’t actually play great cricket in the four-day stuff but I think we still ended up fourth and were in the hunt right the way through after a terrible start. We lost our first three games of the season, and had most of our players out injured.
“Obviously missing Jof (Archer) will be huge but if we can get the other guys fit and firing then we could have a really good chance of going up as well.”
And would he be tempted to take on the captaincy again if it came around?
“It was more the off-field stuff – I just seemed to be sitting in a lot of meetings,” he added. “It had got to the point where I had stopped enjoying cricket.
“When you are captain, you want to feel like you are making the decisions yourself. And I didn’t particularly feel I was getting all my say. But I really enjoyed the on-field bit so whether anything comes around again in terms of captaining a team I don’t know.”