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.
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.
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.
“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.”
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.
“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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