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Joe Root denies England workload to blame for Jofra Archer’s injury | Sport


Joe Root has denied England overworked Jofra Archer before the injury that has curtailed his opening spell as an international. It emerged on Wednesday that Archer had suffered a stress fracture of the right elbow, previously undiagnosed by scans, ruling him out for at least three months.

A countback across all formats shows Archer bowled more overs than any other England player in 2019, despite the fact he did not make his debut until May. Archer also sent down the third most overs of any seam bowler in international cricket during that period even though he is still a novice at the top level.

Speaking before England’s third and final one-day international in Johannesburg, Root maintained Archer was not overworked. This despite the bare facts of number of overs bowled, 274 of which took place on his watch as Test captain, including 42 in a single innings in Archer’s first overseas Test. Instead Root pointed towards the volume of county and franchise cricket Archer played before he burst on to the international scene as the key factor in his injury.

“I wouldn’t say he’s been overbowled,” Root said. “You look at the amount of cricket he’s played before he played for England, he’s played a huge amount.

“An important part of it now is the amount of cricket there is, it’s pretty full-on if you’re playing all three formats. Chuck an IPL in there as well and the Big Bash and stuff he’s played beforehand, that’s a lot of cricket.

“One of the pleasing things is we are really clear on what the injury is now and it ended up being the right call for him not playing in that last Test match [against South Africa], because it could have done further damage and been a really tough one for him. We’re all gutted for him missing out.”

Root also echoed England one-day captain Eoin Morgan’s suggestion that time away from the international treadmill may have other benefits. “That’s a lot of mental fatigue as well as physical. I think it will be good for him to have a mental break, to get some time away from the game, to get refreshed.

“We’ve just got to make sure now we build him up very well from the start of the summer and make sure when that first opportunity for him to play comes he’s absolutely ready to go and can then look forward and start to really manage him efficiently.”

Root’s comments on the handling of Archer address the criticism levelled by some outside the England team. Quite how successfully they do this is open to question.

The suggestion that any overwork of England’s quickest bowler comes from his pre-international days is not entirely supported by facts. Archer did play a lot as a year-round franchise favourite but he was largely bowling short T20 spells, or operating in the less intense arena of four-day county cricket.

The numbers show that in his time as an England player Archer has bowled on average 10 overs more per month than in his pre-international days and that 27% of all deliveries in his professional career came in an England shirt from May to December last year.

Root’s comments are open to question in other ways. If England believed Archer had carried an unhealthily heavy workload in the year before he made his debut, it seems strange they chose not just to match this but increase it – and to do so in the full glare of Test and ODI cricket. Quite how the mantra of “managing workloads” under central contracts stands up in this context is debatable.

Root’s words also reflect relief in the England camp that doctors have been able to diagnose the exact nature of the injury. However, England’s coaches will not want to dwell on the eight-over, full-speed bowl-off with Mark Wood that preceded Archer’s omission in Port Elizabeth, something it is now clear he endured with a stress fracture of the elbow.

At the time Archer was publicly urged to “bust a gut” in training, the implication being, presumably, that he was not already doing so.

Focus will now shift to Johannesburg and the chance for the 50-over team to level the three-match series, rain permitting. There may be some changes to England’s team from Durban, if only to give a run out to those in the squad short of action before the T20 series.

England are also expected to finalise their Test squad for the tour to Sri Lanka on Monday. Root confirmed that Jimmy Anderson’s inclusion is “a discussion point”, depending on fitness and workload in the months to come.

There was no indication Moeen Ali is, as yet, ready for consideration again. “We’ve given [Moeen] the opportunities to have a few days to really mull it over. We’ll have a clearer indication when we make that selection.”

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