Who is whispering to Michael Vaughan about Jofra Archer?

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We used to work with a girl who had access to a secret weather report.

“It’s going to be 40 degrees on Thursday,” she would say. And she would state this as a fact.

How often is it 40 degrees in the United Kingdom? The answer is never.

Armed with this common knowledge, we would reply: “No, it isn’t” – because really, you can’t let things like that stand.

“Well, that’s what they’re saying,” she would say, adopting a real ‘I’ll be having the last laugh on this one’ sort of tone.

And then we would say, “no, it isn’t,” again, before explaining why it wasn’t going to be 40 degrees on Thursday. After that, there would be a bit of a to and fro and she’d eventually wander off all smug because she just knew it was going to be 40 degrees on Thursday. “That’s what they said on the weather,” she’d argue, matter-of-factly.

And then obviously it wasn’t 40 degrees on Thursday and we would just spend the whole day sulking because she wasn’t visibly drowning in shame about being insanely wrong about that day’s temperature.

We have no idea whether she misheard or made it up, or whether there was some mad weather forecast at 2am on an obscure commercial radio station where they genuinely predicted this kind of thing.

All we know is that whatever the source of the whispers, they weren’t to be trusted.

And so to Michael Vaughan

In a Telegraph column that rather passed us by last month (because it was in the Telegraph), Vaughan wrote of Jofra Archer: “There are whispers he does not love Test cricket. As a captain you have to establish the facts and find out if that is true and why.”

You may well have felt moved to complete this paragraph with the implied, “But as a newspaper columnist, I do not have to establish the facts and find out if that is true before penning a ruddy great article about it.”

Because this is bad, isn’t it? This is not cool.

We’ve all been guilty of reading a player’s feelings from a distance before now. Judging whether a bowler is dispirited or a batsman nervous of the short ball is part of the game. But questioning a player’s affection for cricket is different. It’s not just a professional slight – which would be bad enough – it also picks them out as being different to the fans.

If you love Test cricket and want your team to do well, you expect the players to have the same sort of affection for the game as you do. Caring about the game is the foundation of everything. You basically want players to try as hard as you would, only a lot more skilfully. If a player isn’t perceived that way, they can become a target.

So you should be pretty careful about throwing around these sorts of accusations – even indirectly. And that’s doubly true for Archer, an England cricketer whose motivations are questioned more than most for… reasons.

Some of the people who question Archer’s attitude are only too aware of what these reasons are, but a lot of his detractors probably aren’t. Not consciously anyway. Theirs is just an opinion formed off the back of a whole load of assumptions they’ve unknowingly swallowed wholesale.

“Archer isn’t trying.”

“Archer isn’t interested.”

“Archer looks like he’d rather be somewhere else.”

People say it. People repeat it. It becomes a thing that people talk about.

But where does it come from?

A lot of this stuff is just insane. Remember that time Archer bowled at 96mph in his 23rd over of an innings?

That, for many people, would be proof enough that he’s willing to push his body to superhuman levels of endurance during a Test match. But some people took it differently. Some people decided to set that effort as a new minimum requirement for Archer, concluding that every subsequent time he didn’t deliver these almost impossible athletic feats he must be slacking off.

It’s the old “natural talent” trope.

“He makes the game look easy” segues to “he finds the game easy” segues to “he doesn’t need to try” segues to “he doesn’t try”.

No-one ever seems to talk about how Archer rolled his own wicket in the yard across the road, put a net around it and slogged away for nine months.

You probably shouldn’t build a column around whispers if a lot of those whispers are rooted in this sort of thinking and likely to exacerbate it.

The only way to find out how someone feels about something is to ask them. For internal feelings, you have to go to the source.

Writing about Vaughan’s comments in the Daily Mail this week, Archer said: “We’ve never had a conversation about cricket, so I found it a bit odd. He doesn’t know what makes me tick. He doesn’t know what’s driving me.”

Archer also said that he “always dreamed of playing Test cricket” that he has “always wanted to play all three formats” and that “you simply cannot beat the feeling of winning a Test”.

If we’re looking for facts about how Jofra Archer feels about Test cricket, these comments are all we really have to go off.

“There are whispers he does not love Test cricket.”

People whisper all kinds of things. You don’t need to lend them an air of legitimacy by writing a column about them in a national newspaper.

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27 comments

  1. Excellent, KC.
    Someone may mention Gower and it’s true that some white players who make the game look easy have attracted similar criticism. But Archer (and other black and Asian players) have had way more of this kind of stuff. You may have seen that a group of former players have asked the Equality & Human Rights Commission to look into racism in cricket: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2021/mar/10/human-rights-commission-asked-to-examine-racism-in-english-cricket

    1. There is a study to be done on how people perceive and describe Jofra Archer’s “effortless, natural” bowling action versus, say, Chris Woakes’.

  2. Woakesy? Model pro, always gives 100%, great bloke to have around the group, never complains when he’s left out, works hard on his game.
    All of which I could imagine is true by the way.

  3. This is shocking, KC.
    You actually wrote an article about Micheal Vaughn. That is exactly what the kid wants. ATTENTION! He is like a little kid that needs constant attention.
    If I had my way he would be banned from cricket commentary, newspapers and social media

    1. Many a Vaughan article has gone unwritten before now – but we do think it’s sometimes worth explaining why many of us feel he should be ignored.

      We felt like in this instance, attention-seeking had tipped over into something worse.

      1. I understand your point and agree with you there.
        I suppose Vaughn will now whisper in his newspaper articles that Archer’s elbow issue is because he doesn’t want to play Test cricket.
        And to be honest I don’t care if players don’t want to play Test cricket. If they feel that playing white ball matches only would be better for their career then let them do that. Adil Rashid is a perfect example. After his shoulder problems he decided to totally focus on white ball cricket to extend his career. That is logical to me and a I totally agree with him.

      2. I’ve stopped listening to the TMS podcast lately.

        Say what you like about Sky, but their pundits are consistently thoughtful, balanced and mature.

        Rob Key has been one of the best things about this tour.

    2. Sam, the Tailenders podcast is probably more wholesome if you don’t listen to it yet, Go Well if you do.

      Also Dave, it is Michael Vaughan rather than Micheal Vaughn.

      1. I’d tread extra carefully when correcting someone else’s spelling, Felix, in case I trod on a grammar landmine…

  4. There’s a small but growing pile of English cricketers who seem determined to tarnish their legacies as phenomenal players. Vaughan is one of the worst.

    Perhaps he’s going for a place on the GMB sofa, idk.

    1. This is true. She definitely meant centigrade though and much the same conversation would be had in winter about the prospect of “three feet of snow”.

  5. Root is at least partly culpable. Wasn’t he the first one to suggest Archer should bowl faster after bowling him for 40 overs?

    1. Yeah, he made some unhelpful comments early on. Batsmen don’t get fast bowling. They thing speed is directly related to effort but at that sort of level it really, really isn’t.

      1. They also seem obsessed about speed per se. Vaughan’s primary argument seems to be that Archer (or wood, who is also referenced in his article) is ineffective if he’s bowling at 83 Mph.

        Sure it helps to be faster, but it’s reductive to equate success with speed, particularly for a young bowler like Archer who’s still developing.

  6. Daisy is a bit of a weather forecast offender herself. She’ll latch on to the most extreme thing she hears or sees on a weather forecast without paying much heed to whether…

    …see what I did there?…the “three feet of snow” report (for example) is London, Lanarkshire or Labrador.

    She also tends to get words and number mixed up with predictably hilarious results at times. When I came out of my Zoom this afternoon, Daisy reported to me that England were on the verge of a win and that “Virat Covid” did not look happy.

    I’m not going to be able to think of the Indian Captain as anything other than Virat Covid from now on. The same sort of thing happened with Sir Alf Ganguly years ago. In a different field of endeavour, Dustbin Hoffman deserves better too.

    As for Michael Yawn…well writ, KC. He was a fine captain but really is an abomination as a pundit and/or journalist.

  7. To play devil’s advocate, Archer hasn’t demonstrated any particular growth in skills in Tests, he also seems selective about going all-out on his primary skill – pace – in Tests since his breakout season.

  8. In other news, I am now a little league dad, having (somewhat foolishly, perhaps) volunteered to coach a team of 8 and 9 year olds in a sport I’ve never played, even recreationally. The odd game of rounders 30 years ago stands me in good stead, though, I’m sure. And at least the professional team that most of them support has been useless their entire lives.

    I note that one of the players on the team can throw and hit harder than I ever could, though. I shall be asking him to play in every position.

  9. Vaughan is a massive, massive, enormous wanker. I wish we could cut him out of cricket completely.

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