England's team spirit is unlikely to be harmed by MVP award for Jofra Archer | Vic Marks | Sport

T he English players suddenly disappeared in the final stages of the Indian Premier League. So it was quite an achievement for Jofra Arch...

The English players suddenly disappeared in the final stages of the Indian Premier League. So it was quite an achievement for Jofra Archer to be given the Most Valuable Player award at the conclusion of the tournament. His side, Rajasthan Royals, an English enclave since Archer was accompanied there by Jos Buttler, Ben Stokes and Tom Curran, finished bottom of the table. How strange would it seem if the PFA’s player of the year played for Norwich City, who came last in the Premier League in the 2019-20 season?

Archer won the award via some form of algorithm. So obviously there can be no arguments there. He accrued 305 points and was therefore ahead of Kagiso Rabada of Delhi Capitals, who came second (298 points), and Jasprit Bumrah who played for the eventual winners, Mumbai Indians (269.5 points). At last a formula has been concocted that seems to favour the downtrodden breed of pace bowlers rather than the fancy Dans up the order.

Undoubtedly Archer performed superbly in the tournament even though he was on the losing side more often than not. He bowled fast and on target and was brimful of confidence throughout as his opponents grew ever more wary of him. The stats that are spewed out may well demonstrate this: 20 wickets in 14 matches, 175 dot balls (at last the dot ball has been properly recognised and celebrated), five catches, as well as five fours and 10 sixes with the bat.

I have also been wary of individual awards in cricket (except, perhaps, when I’ve won them). The award of the MVP or the man of the match is supposed to add a bit of interest and glamour at the end of the game or tournament and this usually means that there is someone else for the broadcasters and media to talk to afterwards. But cricket is supposed to be a team game. It should not matter much who wins these awards.

The IPL seems to have a formula for deciding the winner of such awards, which is designed to be objective since it is based on numbers. Often the criteria have been more subjective, especially in the distant past. I like this example: in 1983 Somerset played Sussex in the quarter-final of the NatWest Trophy at Hove and they bowled out their opponents for 65 in 40.4 overs, Joel Garner taking four for eight, Ian Botham four for 20. Arthur Milton, the former Test opener and right-winger (the last man to play cricket and football for England) was tasked with deciding the man of the match award. “I can’t separate the performances of Joel and Ian”, he announced at the end-of-game presentation, “so I’m giving the award to Trevor Gard”. Trevor was Somerset’s wicketkeeper, who had taken five catches in the innings. This was a typically deft decision by Arthur and a universally popular one.

Peter May, then the Chairman of Selectors, trumped this at Lords after the Benson & Hedges Cup final of 1984 between Lancashire and Warwickshire. Lancashire won a low-scoring contest by six wickets and May astounded everyone, including the recipient, by giving the award to John Abrahams, the Lancashire captain. Earlier in the day he had been dismissed for a duck, he had not bowled and he had taken one catch as well as dropping a sitter. However, he had won the toss.

Richard Hadlee

Richard Hadlee won a car for being International Player of the Year in 1986, sparking unlikely controversy. Photograph: Ben Radford/Getty Images

Sometimes these awards can cause mayhem. For a while in 1986 an Alfa Romeo saloon was the most famous car in New Zealand. Richard Hadlee had won it for being the International Player of the Year after the tour to Australia. The unwritten precedent was that any individual prizes should be put into the team pool but Hadlee wanted to keep the car and had it shipped back to New Zealand. This caused many ructions within the Kiwi dressing room and a famous stand-off between the captain, Jeremy Coney, and Hadlee ensued, which was most obvious throughout the Christchurch Test match of 1987 against West Indies.

John Wright, the Kiwi opening batsman, has recalled one of his roles in that game. “I had to be a sort of go-between because they weren’t speaking to each other. I’d be asking Richard if he wanted to bowl another over and telling Coney that Richard wanted another gully – I felt like Henry Kissinger. It was absurd.” Hadlee took six for 50 in the first innings, with three of those victims caught by Coney in the slips, and New Zealand won by five wickets.

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There will not be the same friction in the England camp when the one-day side comes together for the tour to South Africa this week and no doubt the process of prize money distribution is precisely laid down. In recent times Eoin Morgan’s squad have contained an unusually tight-knit group of players who clearly enjoy one another’s company. Which is just as well. The likes of Archer, Buttler, Stokes and Sam Curran have been lurching from bubble to bubble for a long time now.

Archer, with his well-deserved award tucked away in one of his cases, will be buoyed by his performances in the IPL, the format of the game in which he excels the most. Twenty20 is not easier than the other formats but it is simpler. The longer the game the more complicated it becomes. Archer knows that he has 24 deliveries to propel starting with a shiny new ball. And he knows how to do that with pace, venom and variety. Three more games (he is missing the one-day internationals in the second half of the South Africa tour) and maybe one more man-of-the-series award to stuff into his bag and he can put his feet up – for a week or two.

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Newsrust: England's team spirit is unlikely to be harmed by MVP award for Jofra Archer | Vic Marks | Sport
England's team spirit is unlikely to be harmed by MVP award for Jofra Archer | Vic Marks | Sport
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