English cricket speedster Jofra Archer has been hammered after being stood down from the nation’s side to play the West Indies in the second Test of the series.
The 25-year-old Archer terrorised Australia during last year’s Ashes series to become one of England’s top players but was stood down after a biosecurity breach in the strict COVID bubble that’s in place for the series.
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England have been in their bio-secure camp for four weeks and travelled from the first test bubble at the Ageas Bowl in Southampton to Old Trafford in the northern city of Manchester, a 368km trip.
Players are expected to follow strict guidelines regarding social distancing, hygiene and not having contact with anyone from outside the bubble.
The players must also stay in certain hotels near the Test venues and travel between the ground and their hotels in their own cars.
But it was discovered that Archer had taken a 130-mile (208km) detour to his apartment in Brighton.
The Sun reported that people close to Archer had denied that he was visiting his girlfriend, which was in some early reports, and had instead gone to see his dog, which he shares with his best friend and fellow cricketer Chris Jordan.
ESPN‘s Alexis Nunes, who is a close personal friend of Archer, said he “stopped off at his flat for approximately an hour, and avoided any close personal contact while he was there”.
”Home is his safe place,” she added, ”which is why he didn’t think it was that much of a risk.”
The trip has seen Archer forced to self-isolate for the five days of the Test and requiring two negative COVID tests to be able to return to the squad.
“I am extremely sorry for what I have done,” he said in a statement yesterday. “I have put, not only myself, but the whole team and management in danger.
“I fully accept the consequences of my actions, and I want to sincerely apologise to everyone in the bio-secure bubble.
“It deeply pains me to be missing the Test match, especially with the series poised. I feel like I have let both teams down, and again I am sorry.”
But Archer’s actions sent some concern around English cricket with the quick bowler getting slammed by former greats and officials.
English director of cricket and former Test spinner Ashley Giles said Archer’s actions narrowly avoided “disaster” and that his actions could have cost the game “tens of millions of pounds”.
This was broken down by former English skipper Michael Atherton, who wrote in The Times that he had “no sympathy” for Archer as each Test is worth $A36 million (£20m) or $A215m (£120m) for the summer. And as the first canary in the mine, it could cost world cricket $A360m if the season was unable to go ahead.
“There have to be consequences to every action and there will be a (disciplinary) process we go through,” Giles said. “This could have been a disaster. The ripple effect of this small act could have cost us tens of millions of pounds. The potential knock-on effect, I don’t think he could have understood. We made it clear what we expected but maybe he did not quite understand.”
Former West Indies bowler Michael Holding said he had no sympathy for the 25-year-old.
“Sacrifice? Nelson Mandela being locked up for 27 years for doing nothing. That‘s sacrifice,” he said.
“I want to ask a few questions of the ECB and these protocols: why aren‘t the England team travelling on a bus? If they have passed their COVID tests, everyone is together, moving from one venue to another, why are they allowed to be going in cars?”
Former England captain Michael Vaughan said Archer might miss out on playing in the next test as well.
“I don‘t think he will play next week, there needs to be some kickback and Jofra can’t think he can just walk back into the team. It could be a few Tests,” he said.
Similarly, West Indian legend Sir Curtly Ambrose said it would be tough for Archer to slot back into the team with five days away from the nets to keep fresh.
“It is always going to be tough because as a bowler you do need to spend some time in the nets to get yourself into some kind of shape for the Test match to come,” Ambrose said.
“With Archer not able to do anything for the next five days or so and then only a couple of days between the second and third Tests, it will be a challenge for him.
“For him to break the protocol was a bad move, not a very smart move. We all make mistakes and I‘m sure it won’t happen to him again.”
He didn’t miss much however with England opener Dominic Sibley taking the slow and steady approach as he remained 86 not out after 82 overs as England made its way to 3/207 at the end of the first day’s play.