Jofra Archer: Why has an IPL team just paid £800,000 for a little-known cricketer?

By Matthew HenryBBC Sport
Jofra Archer bowling for Hobart Hurricanes
Jofra Archer - born in the West Indies - says his international future lies with England, but two more Ashes series will have passed before he is eligible

He can bowl as quickly as Mitchell Starc, is as athletic in the field as Usain Bolt and packs Anthony Joshua-style power when he bats.

He's also a millionaire (in US dollars terms) after being snapped up for £800,000 in the Indian Premier League auction.

But who exactly is Jofra Archer; the new T20 cricket sensation - and is he really that good?

After all, he ended the English summer as a little-known county player at Sussex.

'He's gone viral...'

Jofra Archer tweet from Big Bash League
Archer's performances and relaxed style on the field mean he has been embraced by the local fans in Hobart

Signed by Sussex in 2016, Archer finished the 2017 County Championship season as their leading wicket-taker in Division Two - but it has been over the last few months that he has shot to stardom.

He joined the Hobart Hurricanes in Australia's Big Bash League - a late replacement for Tom Curran who was called up to England's Ashes squad - and on debut bowled a double-wicket maiden against the Melbourne Renegades.

His ferocious mix of yorkers and bouncers - one ball clocked at 94mph - has taken him to 15 wickets in 10 matches, out bowling his team-mate England bowler Tymal Mills, while he has also amazed in the field in taking a sensational one-handed return catch and hitting the stumps direct from the long-on boundary to effect a run out.

Jofra Archer celebrates wicket
Archer has helped Hobart to the Big Bash semi-finals which you can hear commentary of on Test Match Special

"This is a player to get excited about," enthused former England spinner Graeme Swann on BT Sport. "He's young, he's an all-rounder, he has a very repeatable action and I know people on the south coast who are very excited about what he can bring to England cricket."

Australian cricket journalist Mel Farrell told BBC Radio 5 live that Archer has "absolutely" been one of the standout players in this year's Big Bash.

"He has created some incredibly exciting moments," she said. "They have been the moments that have gone viral,external-link including a caught and bowled and an incredible run out."

Dale Steyn tweet
Dale Steyn, one of the leading fast bowlers over the past decade, says Archer is going to be "special"

Born in the West Indies but desperate to play for England

So when can he play for England? Sadly for Joe Root and co, not for another five years.

Under ECB rules, introduced in 2012, Archer, who has an English father and British passport, is not eligible to play for England until the winter of 2022 when he will have completed the seven-year residency period required for players who arrive in England after their 18th birthday.

At that stage he will be 27 years old and both he and Sussex will be required to submit an application showing he meets the required criteria.

"He has committed to qualifying for England so we will do the process with him to make sure that happens," Sussex director of cricket Keith Greenfield told BBC Sport.

"Jofra is clear of what it means and what the undertaking is and he is currently making sure he fulfils the criteria to make sure he can qualify for England when the time is right."

Archer grew up in Barbados and played for West Indies Under-19s three times before he was left out of their squad for the 2014 U19 World Cup.

Jofra Archer and Chris Jordan
Archer, left, is team-mates with England's Chris Jordan at Sussex

On the advice of Barbados-born England and Sussex bowler Chris Jordan, Sussex gave Archer a trial on the south coast after Jordan netted against Archer while playing in the Caribbean country.

"He hadn't been looked after particularly well in the West Indies, suffering with injuries, and he came down with Chris and we had a glance at him and saw there was talent there," Greenfield said.

"We also saw a lad that needed a lot of help because his back was in pieces really.

"It was about helping him get him back to fitness and then we could have a really good look at him. We set him up at clubs down here and it stemmed from there."

Is he the answer to England's prayers?

After overcoming his injuries, Archer has since gone on to take 89 first-class wickets in 20 matches and has a batting average of 37.86 with six half-centuries.

Using an admittedly small sample size, his statistics stack up favourably with other world-class all-rounders and he has a better first-class batting and bowling average than his new Rajasthan Royals team-mate Ben Stokes.

A tall bowler with an effortless run-up and high action, the 22-year-old has aims of becoming a "genuine all-rounder" and batting at number six in the order.

But it is his pace with the ball that is getting England excited after a difficult winter in which they lost 4-0 in Australia.

England's need for a bowler who bowls above 90mph has been widely discussed and Archer has thrilled on the same wickets England's Test bowlers struggled for potency during this winter's Ashes series.

Michael Klinger dismissed by Jofra Archer
Archer dismissed Michael Klinger, top scorer for Perth Scorchers in their successful 2016-17 Big Bash campaign, with a brutal bouncer which broke the Australian's helmet

"Personally, I rate Jofra above Tom Helm, the Curran brothers and the Overtons at Somerset in red-ball cricket and the equivalent of Tom Curran with the white ball," Jon Lewis, Sussex's bowling coach, said in Julyexternal-link.

Tom Curran and Craig Overton both made their debuts in England's Ashes defeat.

"He can be world-class, there is no doubt about that," Greenfield said.

"Everyone currently sees his bowling potential but he is a gifted mover. His fielding can keep getting better, he is very handy with bat but no one has seen that massively yet.

"Remember he is still young so there is still a long way to go."