Rajasthan Royals have not given up hope of Jofra Archer playing some part in this year’s IPL, according to their head coach, Andrew McDonald, in spite of the fast bowler being diagnosed with a stress fracture of the right elbow.
Archer missed the last three Tests of England’s tour of South Africa, amid concerns about his workload, having bowled more than 400 overs for his country since debuting in May last year – more than any other England player for the entire calendar year.
He was left in tears after being withdrawn from the fourth Test in Johannesburg on the morning of the match, and after returning to London, a low-grade fracture was detected in his elbow once the swelling had gone down.
The ECB duly confirmed on Thursday that Archer would be sitting out the two-Test tour of Sri Lanka that gets underway in mid-March, adding that he was ruled out of the entire IPL season too, with a view to being fit and ready for a home international season that features Test series against West Indies and Pakistan, and an ODI campaign against Australia.
However, with another scan anticipated in four weeks’ time, and England’s first Test against West Indies not beginning until early June, two weeks after the anticipated conclusion of this year’s IPL, McDonald said that Rajasthan Royals would await further updates before considering any replacement for their premier strike bowler, whom they secured for £800,000 (INR 7.20 crore) at the 2018 IPL auction.
“It is a blow but these things always confront teams,” McDonald told ESPNcricinfo. “These are the setbacks that you have to contend with. First and foremost, our thoughts are with Jofra. Getting an elbow injury when you are at the top of your game is far from ideal, but watching him from afar it’s been great to see what he’s been able to achieve this year.
“We’ll see what happens,” he added. “The ECB have been reasonably solid on ruling him out of the IPL, but we still hold out some hope that he may recover. We’ll get those details over the next 24-48 hours as to the extent of the injury, and we’ll work with the ECB as to what that may or may not look like.
“I’m sure he’s keen [to play in the IPL]. He loves playing for Rajasthan, but injuries happen, and until more details come to light, we will always hold out hope for a player of that quality. It doesn’t look good at the moment, but we won’t be in any rush to replace him at this moment in time.”
Were Rajasthan to consider a replacement for Archer, that player would have to come from those names who registered for December’s auction but went unsold. Among the fast bowlers who might come into consideration are Archer’s fellow England quick Mark Wood, who is one of only a handful of players capable of matching his consistent 90mph-plus pace, and the West Indian Alzarri Joseph. But given the pool of seam bowlers still available to Rajasthan, McDonald backed the rest of his squad to fill the void.
“We’ll work out ways to cover off his absence,” he said. “There’s no rush to sign a replacement unless other teams have injuries and are fighting for the same players. And we might not even be looking for a like-for-like either, because we feel like we’ve got some depth there in the bowling category.
“There aren’t too many Jofra Archers out there but, off the back of the auction, we’ve been able on build a pretty flexible and adaptable squad.”
McDonald singled out his overseas trio of Tom Curran, AJ Tye and Oshane Thomas as three of the likeliest men to step into Archer’s role, but added that the success of India’s squad at the Under-19 World Cup had potentially increased his options as well. The team take on Bangladesh in Sunday’s final in Potchefstroom, with Kartik Tyagi and Akash Singh having excelled along the way with 18 wickets between them.
“It’s been exciting to watch them,” McDonald said. “The coverage of the tournament has been sensational, you get to see them closer than ever before on TV, and with Yashasvi Jaiswal impressing with the bat too, we’ve got some really good young talent in our team list. It feels as though we’ve got the coverage there already, so we may be able to structure up differently with that last overseas slot if we do have to replace Jofra.”
For McDonald himself, the Archer news has been a setback ahead of his first stint as an IPL head coach, but he has no concerns that it will destabilise the team dynamic in the final lead-up to the tournament.
“Coaching is all about that preparation phase,” he said. “If you can get that right, you can prepare your players for everything that may be coming up in a game or a series, or over a period of time.
“Commentary is all about the hindsight, but our job as coaches is the preparation. You are constantly looking to evaluate, and have conversations with your players that break them down into individuals before bringing them back together as a team closer to the game.
“That may be a two-minute conversation, or 60 seconds with the group as a collective, but also making sure that you have a team behind your team with the right blend of personalities in the back-room staff to give the players the best preparation.
“if you can do that, and stay level throughout the ups and downs of a tournament, including the moving parts such as Jofra’s injury, then you’re giving yourself a chance to get more decisions right.”