In Jaipur, on April 22, 2018- Rajasthan Royals weren’t playing just a league game. They were engaged in a face-saving effort, having lost their last two previous games, including a crushing loss to Kolkata Knight Riders at their home. A third loss would’ve meant that they would have had to face the ignominy of being placed where Delhi Daredevils are. Which team wants to be in such a precarious situation? Then a breakthrough came in 18th over of Rajasthan’s bowling inning. In seeing Krunal Pandya’s high backlift engage in a slithering action, perhaps alarmed Jofra Archer- Rajasthan’s newbie- came up with a perfect length ball to exact a skier from the fiercely striking leftie who holed up to deep mid wicket.
Jofra Archer runs through Mumbai Indians
Mumbai Indians, resultantly, were pressed at 153-4, with relief finding the hosts when Krunal Pandya was dismissed. Next up, in a space of few deliveries, the order of the game seemed to have been reversed. First up, Archer dropped Pollard in a return opportunity that was whacked with brute force, meaning the big bloke was still out there. Then, the other Pandya- Hardik- hammered a length ball straight down the ground. Rajasthan, quite like the fans, wouldn’t have pressed the panic button. All Archer could do was to watch motionless, unsure whether to rue his bowling or appreciate Pandya’s strike. At this time, this was Archer’s first IPL appearance.
Then the very next ball- on 18.3 overs- Jofra Archer hurled a faster one that landed in Pandya’s blockhole, following him into the legs, taking an inside peck of the blade and crashing onto the stumps. The crowd exulted and Rajasthan Royals triumphed at the fall of the other Pandya. At all this time, Archer was a figure of poise. Perhaps, that is where you thought any other IPL debutant may have jumped with panicky joy as if having taken a 5-for. Archer, though, was unmoved. He seemed content to be simply carrying on. Now, in command of the game and his own presence in the contest, he disturbed next batsman McClenaghan’s timber. His yorker, on this occasion, seeming vicious and inescapable for any batsman. Sawai Mansingh by now, was mini-Wankhede, producing high decibel sounds. But the reason for celebration, even as the grander cause came an hour and a half later in Rajasthan’s epic victory was their fast bowling debutant having knocked down 3 wickets in a single spell including 2 in the same over.
Jofra Archer: A character of steel and restraint
IPL’s always been a tricky challenge. Particularly for the fast bowlers, who can’t be safe competing in a batting-skewed contest. The Zaheer Khan’s and Mitchell Johnson’s who were all over their opponents initially became a shadow of their former selves in the later editions of the tournament. One of Jofra Archer’s own teammates- Jaydev Unadkat- a former Bangalore pace spearhead has been at the receiving end of big runs. Archer though, in his very first appearance has seemed as if he’s always belonged to the IPL. A part of it has stemmed from his outstanding maiden stint at the Big Bash League in 2017 for Hobart Hurricanes.
Familiar signs preceded Jofra Archer when he would run into bowl one of his slinging yorkers and good length pacers at Jaipur, mirroring a similarity to his staidly elegant appearances in the Big Bash League. A cool and collected presence, brimming with confidence and not charged with dependence on T20 shenanigans. If there were celebratory fireworks on the side of the ground, Jofra Archer would produce some with serious pace. Not rubbing his win on the batsman’s face. Not riling them up with a vague verbal volley. The only factor- if you were to consider- auguring his to be a case of a modern T20 generation cricketer would be the shuffling between the cold-blooded assassin-like stare following the dismissed batsman and a glare marked with indifference. But Archer doesn’t seem to belong to the throes of temperamental outbursts, the kinds his compatriots like Kieron Pollard have exhibited earlier in the IPL, deeply entrenched with vitriolic contempt for RCB’s Mitchel Starc.
With a measured action that hides his raw pace and a smooth uncomplicated build-up to the popping crease, Jofra Archer seems to have filled the void that was so dearly being felt by Rajasthan Royals. While his presence may take that extra pressure off Stokes the bowler, it will lift someone like Rahane with the belief that the Rajasthan can put up a better defending act of some relatively harmless scores in earlier contests.