England should consider themselves fortunate and privileged to have a player like Jofra Archer, according to West Indies cricket legend Sir Garfield Sobers.
The man widely thought of as the greatest all-rounder in the game’s history said England came close to skipping on Barbados-born Archer, who took 22 wickets in his debut Ashes series this summer, writes Rhodri Morgan.
Sobers said: “He’s a wonderful player, I think the West Indies missed out.
“I think England were about to miss out too, from what I heard about the rumours they weren’t too keen.
“But they decided to go with him and I think they are very happy to have him on their team.”
Before moving to England in 2015, Archer represented the West Indies under 19 side three times.
In November 2018, The England and Wales Cricket Board’s (ECB) decision to reduce the eligibility period from seven years to three meant Archer got the platform this summer to produce stunning performances, three years ahead of schedule under the old rule-set.
“He has proven great and he can bat too, looks like he has some skill there. So, bully for England as they say, bad luck for us!” Sobers laughed.
Phil Simmons was re-appointed head coach of the West Indies last month and Sobers believes his reinstatement is overdue and spells out good things for the side.
“There was no doubt in my mind that he would get it because when he was in charge of Afghanistan they beat the West Indies badly in an ODI so he’s got something in him that helps improve teams,” Sobers said.
Simmons guided the team to a Twenty20 World title in 2016, but was dismissed months later due to “differences in culture and strategic approach” with the West Indies Cricket Board, a decision he sued against and subsequently won an undisclosed amount for.
“Unfortunately he had to leave when he didn’t really want to because he was very honest and sincere in what he said about some things,” said Sobers.
“But when he was with Ireland he had them up there with all the top countries; that shows that he must have been doing something very, very good.”
Simmons’ re-appointment comes ahead of the Windies’ much-anticipated tour of England in 2020.
Asked who he thought could be the difference makers in the series, Sobers said: “It’s very difficult to forecast and predict far ahead these days.
“I think Ben Stokes is a wonderful player, a tremendous all-rounder and his innings against New Zealand was absolutely wonderful.
“I think if you’ve got an all rounder like Stokes, I don’t think you can get rid of them.
“Then with fast bowlers like Archer as well, I think England are very fortunate.”
The series will open England’s international summer and Sobers, for one, is excited to see two of the best sides in the world play the purest form of the game.
“Test cricket seems to be ‘by the way’ these days; Twenty20 has come in and has taken over a lot,” he said.
“It not only gets people a lot of money, but it helps to entertain and bring people to the ground and that is alright but Test cricket will always be, for me, the utmost.
“If you can get your players playing at that level and prove yourself at test cricket then you are proven.”
Sobers was speaking at the World Travel Market at London’s Excel centre earlier this month, an event he has been representing his beloved nation at for more than 40 years as a Parliament-elected National Hero of Barbados.