The English team is trying to live by the code of courage, unity and respect and Jofra Archer has broken it
Courage, unity, respect. They have been the buzzwords for cricketers in England since a revision of team culture after the Bristol brawl in 2017 and the embarrassment of drink-related incidents on the Ashes tour that followed.
Those rules are at the heart of a code of conduct that was partially introduced to make Jofra Archer feel part of the English collective. Rules that, as Eoin Morgan says, are about a ‘sense of belonging’ where ‘nationality is not important’.
Those three words are the mantra of both English captains – Morgan and Joe Root – and, as explained in the insightful new book Morgan’s Men charting last year’s World Cup victory, the code that their players have to live on embodies both as next to the field.
Jofra Archer has not respected both his English teammates and the West Indian players
They are told, “Live your life in a way that respects your teammates and what you are trying to achieve together.” Well, Archer has broken a code partially created to embrace him as an important member of English teams in all formats.
He has disrespected his teammates and everyone at the ECB who has worked so hard to make cricket possible in this miserable summer.
And he has disrespected the West Indian players who sacrificed so much to come here for very little personal gain, and then acted so dignified and professional in their defense of the Wisden Trophy.
Jofra Archer imagined dancing with a friend Druanna Butler at a festival in Barbados last year
He has shown a lack of unity with all those, inside and outside the English team, who have been deeply involved in improving a game where livelihoods have been significantly compromised by the Covid-19 crisis. Not only players, management and broadcasters, but also unsung heroes such as catering and hotel staff.
And he has shown a lack of courage not to fulfill his obligations as a player of England, who acted responsibly through an easy journey from Southampton to Manchester.
There may be no defense against Archer, 25, on his unplanned trip to Hove on Monday en route to Emirates Old Trafford for the second test. It may seem like a trivial fact. After all, what damage can be done by going home for an hour?
Archer posted this tweet on Wednesday ahead of the second test at Old Trafford
Actually a lot of damage. Because in the context of this biosafe environment, this is a very serious violation of carefully constructed rules.
Make no mistake, Archer jeopardized the financial future of a game that, according to ECB CEO Tom Harrison, would have lost £ 380 million if the entire international season had been wiped out.
A halt to this test series, and probably that against Pakistan which is soon to follow, would certainly result if there was an outbreak of Covid-19 within the strict biosecure environment created by Steve Elworthy and his ECB team.
And that’s without the very real risks Archer took with the health of his teammates, the players of the West Indies and those workers behind the scenes by spending an hour in the company of a friend at home before heading to Manchester .
Archer drove from the Ageas Bowl to his home in Hove before heading to Manchester
The most charitable statement is that Archer was naive, that he did not take instructions hammered at all the players who agreed to put their lives on hold to get the international show going again.
After all, this is a unique situation, and there’s a lot to do for youngsters who would rather focus on their cricket than the 75-page rule document that even the 12 written media members invited into the bubble had to digest.
If naive, he can get the benefit of the doubt as a truly gifted special cricketer who has already received an unfair amount of criticism in his short time as an English star, perhaps because he is still considered an outsider by some.
But if Archer has deliberately ignored the rules, if he has just decided that he is above the clear instructions that the English team would have given about their travel arrangements, then he must be fined and banned from this series.
Archer casts into the nets at Old Trafford on Tuesday ahead of the second of three tests
Remember the words of Ben Stokes, who has changed his life since that Bristol brawl to become the embodiment of a dedicated, selfless team man, before the first test?
“I feel that both sides have shown great respect for making this work,” said the then stand-in captain. ‘Cause if we get one thing wrong, it can blow this whole’ blowing sport back on the radar for people ‘.
“So we’re grateful for the opportunity to get back on the field and we’ll do everything we can to make sure we don’t ruin this.”
Archer could easily have messed up the whole thing on Monday.
Archer was effective with the ball in the first test against the West Indies in the Ageas Bowl
The last person to exceed England’s mantra was Alex Hales, Stokes’ drinking partner on that fateful night in Bristol.
He has to ‘regain the trust of the team’ and remains in exile after failing a second test for social drug use.
Obviously, what Archer did is not that bad, but it could have had disastrous consequences.
He now needs to extract a sheet from the reformed Stokes book by looking at how he handles the responsibility associated with being a high profile sportsman.
And maybe he should prove again that he can show courage, unity and respect in the way he behaves like a player from England.
Players drove from the Ageas Bowl at Southampton to Old Trafford in Manchester – a 227-mile journey that takes approximately four hours if the most direct route is taken
The detour from the Ageas Bowl to Archer’s home in Hove added about 100 miles to the trip