How Jofra Archer is a natural pace express

Fast-tracked into the England squad for the Cricket World Cup 2019, the Barbados-born Archer made the batters smell the ball, knocked off helmets and claimed 20 wickets in the process.

Published : Jul 17, 2019 15:22 IST , Mumbai

Jofra Archer with the World Cup trophy at The Oval on Monday.
Jofra Archer with the World Cup trophy at The Oval on Monday.

Jofra Archer with the World Cup trophy at The Oval on Monday.

The aggressive cricketing transformation of England didn’t happen overnight. There was a process to it; if Jason Roy and Jonny Bairstow had the license to kill with the bat, Jofra Archer was fast-tracked for speed injections throughout a game. He never tires.

The ECB relaxed its residency rules barely five months prior to the Cricket World Cup 2019 and that welcomed the Barbadian in English colours in the showpiece event. Former English players Michael Vaughan and Andrew Flintoff had started pushing his case on social media.

READ: England hero Archer grieved cousin's death during World Cup

The 24-year-old Sussex paceman forced the batsmen to smell the ball, knocked off helmets and finished the third-best bowler of the tournament with 20 wickets – behind Lockie Ferguson (21 wickets) and Mitchell Starc (27)

Hard to believe that Archer had made his ODI debut barely four weeks before playing the first Cup game against South Africa. Even he must not have expected to bowl the crucial Super Over in the Cup final against New Zealand at Lord’s.

Sportstar assessed the natural talent of Archer via renowned fast-bowling coach Steffan Jones who trained the bowler right before the Cup in the Indian Premier League in Rajasthan Royals.

Jofra Archer with Steffan Jones during his stint with the Rajasthan Royals.

How he bowls fast

Archer holds the record for the joint-fastest delivery of the tournament (154 kmph) along with compatriot Mark Wood and Australian pace express Starc. Jones had done an extensive study on Archer’s anatomy that helped him identify his dopamine and adrenaline in the Royals camp.

“I assess fast bowlers on run-up speeds, the time they spent on back foot contact and front foot contact, jumping numbers, bowling velocity, arm speed – I have a database for all those bowlers so that I can compare.

“Fast bowling is not about jumping at the crease, it is about continuing sprinting and Jofra does that brilliantly. It is about maintaining acceleration and being strong on the collusion of front foot and not slowing down,” said Jones, adding a bit of background on Archer’s cricket inception.

READ: Archer says Ashes talk can wait as he targets World Cup final glory with England

“There are various reasons why he bowls quickly. A lot of it is to do with where he was brought up. The central nervous system had already developed in the West Indies. There, he would be bowling on sand, bowling on grass that means his tendons are really stiff and is receptive to sort of power, speed. Bowlers in this country bowl a lot more on concrete, so the tendons get lazy and desensitised. He is like a kangaroo, really stiff, and that’s why he bowls effortlessly fast.”

Jones feels training is secondary for Archer, specially the heavy weights. “He is tendon-driven, so weight training is worthless for him. Weight would add mass, that would mean his tendons, which currently work like spring, will work like a piston.

“As long as he keeps doing some stability work around his core, jumping, sprinting, medicine-ball throwing he will be fine. His hip is dominant, weight training is not the main component of his training programme. It is different with knee-dominant fast bowlers like Ferguson and Matt Henry – you can see the angle of their back foot and the knee as they land. They rely on creating rotation through a bent back knee which allows them to separate hip and shoulders but Jofra is hip dominant.”

England team-mates Jofra Archer and Ben Stokes celebrate the team's victory at Lord's.

Short ground contact

The Welshman encouraged Archer to bowl faster in the IPL. The duo mainly worked on tactics and how to bowl at the start and end. The learnings may have benefited Archer while he was trying to defend 15 runs in the Super Over against Jimmy Neesham and Martin Guptill.

“When there is competition, Jofra is sensitive to dopamine. It is the excitement. He is good because he hits those attractors and levers. He got great levers that generates a lot of torque at key joints, shoulders, knees and ankle. He has massive ground reaction forces. When he lands on his front leg, he pulls himself forward like a catapult. Very few bowlers do that.

“He is relaxed, cool and calm but in the heat of the battle, he drops a gear and goes up a notch. I knew he was doing that in the Super Over. But I knew they wouldn’t be getting 15 off his over. I don’t know why he went round the wicket [to left-hander Neesham], I would have bowled over the wicket.

“Archer is getting the best out of every stride, because his feet contacts the the ground slightly in front of centre mass and not too far ahead. He doesn’t decelerate. He lands and then, pulls back. He cycles,” reasoned Jones.

The physics in Archer

Jones’ study suggests a strong presence of physics in Archer’s athletic strides on the pitch. “He is like a third class lever. Effort is hamstrings, fulcrum is trunk and the load is the ball. It is a mechanical advantage he enjoys over other bowlers. His forearm length is longer than his bicep as well.

“He gets momentum through the crease. He can’t get too slow because he is not side on, he is front and mid-way and he needs momentum. If you are not side on, you need arm speed and momentum. My advice to him was to always attack the crease and you can see when he does that, he bowls quicker.

READ: Jofra in Tendulkar's World Cup XI

“When running, the foot needs to land only slight in front of centre of mass with shin angle of 90 degrees. This is what  Archer does better than most. Every stride is going forward and pulling back. Most bowlers would land further in front so decelerate in every stride and lose momentum,” said Jones, who has also been a coach to Stuart Broad and a consultant with Indian Test bowler Ishant Sharma.

Indian pacers Varun Aaron, Dhawal Kulkarni and Jaydev Unadkat also dial Jones' number in times of trouble.

The former Somerset all-rounder often runs his ‘Pacelab’ camp in India.

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