England need to pump up Jofra Archer’s tyres before Friday’s game. They need to remind him how good he is and how crucial he will be to their chances of regaining the Wisden Trophy, which is still one of cricket’s most iconic pieces of silverware.
But they also need to make it clear that once he’s stepped over the boundary, he is 100 per cent focused on helping the team win.
Yes, Chris Silverwood and Joe Root have a duty of care to Archer but they also need to be respectful of the other players.
They have to remind Jofra that by picking him they’re leaving out one of the guys who have helped them win Tests this year – Mark Wood, Chris Woakes or Sam Curran. So the management need to be clear in their own minds that Jofra has completely bought into that idea.
We rate you incredibly highly, Jof: now you need to go out there and show us why. Bowl fast, pitch it up like you did in the second innings at the Ageas Bowl – because the West Indies batsmen tend to get trapped on the crease – and show the doubters why you’re one of the first names on the teamsheet.
Man-management has always been one of the hardest parts of captaincy and I’ve said before it’s wrong to want 11 yes-men in your team. You don’t want 11 difficult characters either but there is a balance to be struck and English cricket hasn’t always got it right with guys who might be considered mavericks – such as David Gower and Kevin Pietersen. And now, possibly, Jofra Archer.
You have to accept they’re going to do some things differently and need a bit of leeway. I’m not defending Jofra’s decision to go home to Hove: that was wrong. But he’s done his time by missing the second Test and if he’s ready to play and the management agree with him, then he is in that team.
It’s easy to forget when you’re discussing Test cricketers like this that you’re also talking about human beings and they all react differently. During my time, if Graham Thorpe had a bad back or was dealing with personal issues, I knew that would affect his performance and we’d be better off leaving him out. Sometimes he’d miss games or entire tours because of it but I knew as captain he wasn’t of much use to us unless he was fully focused.
Alec Stewart was at the opposite extreme. He might have busted a finger through his wicketkeeping or had other stuff to deal with, but the moment he walked into the dressing room and pulled on an England sweater, you knew he had switched on to the job in hand.
It’s up to Root and Silverwood to gauge where Jofra is in his head and to remind him how popular he is in that dressing room.
He might also consider taking a breather from social media. I know it’s easy for a fuddy-duddy like me to say because these young lads seem to be on Twitter and Instagram 24/7. But if he’s going to draw any lessons from what’s happened over the past week, the best one might be to shut himself off from the outside world for a while.
While the racism he has received is abhorrent and should not be tolerated for one second, people around him have to remind him that the cricketing criticism he has faced is all just noise.
I know what it’s like. You can have 50 people on Twitter praise something you’ve done on Sky but it’s the one negative comment you take to heart. So Jofra has to be strong because for every 10 idiots on social media, there are thousands who wish him well and nothing will silence the noise better than a five-wicket haul to help England win the series.
One last point – and it’s one I didn’t apply very well when I was a player. Representing England, even with the baggage it can bring, is a huge privilege and should above all be enjoyed.
It’s important that Jofra doesn’t lose sight of that.
If he can keep his perspective through all of this, he will still be what he was at the start of it: one of England’s most exciting fast-bowling talents for years.