Roddy Estwick, the West Indies assistant coach who mentored Jofra Archer as a young cricketer in Barbados, has encouraged the player to “lay low, focus on the game and on people you can trust”, after hearing of the racial abuse he suffered on social media while isolating in the team hotel during the second Test.
Archer was fined £15,000 and required to stay in his room at Emirates Old Trafford for the full five-day duration of the last week’s Test, after breaching the biosecure team “bubble” for an unauthorised home visit after the first Test in Southampton.
And while Archer’s decision to turn his back on West Indies and qualify instead for England was spurred, in part, by Estwick’s decision to leave him out of West Indies’ squad for the Under-19 World Cup in 2014, the pair have retained a strong relationship in the years since, and his support was in evidence during a difficult week in Archer’s career.
“Jofra will be fine,” said Estwick. “I’ve been in constant contact with him. I wasn’t prepared to leave him out there on a limb and I’ve been in constant dialogue, talking to him and trying to reassure him that we all make mistakes and you learn from them and move on.”
Writing in his column in the Daily Mail, Archer described a career in sport as “fickle”, adding that he had “decided that enough is enough” after encountering racist abuse on his Instagram account, which has almost 300,000 followers.
His predicament attracted sympathy from James Anderson, who admitted that he had not seen much of his team-mate in recent days given his isolation, but backed him to be mentally ready for an England recall, should the selectors turn to him for the series decider in Manchester that begins on Friday.
“He’ll want to play in this game, I’m sure, with it being a such a crucial game, the series resting on it,” he said. “Obviously, he said about his frame of mind and that’s something that over the next few days is going to sit down with the captain and coach, and figure out if he’s in the right place to play.”
“It can be difficult for guys coming into the international set up, because the scrutiny is very different,” said Anderson, who made his own England debut in 2002. “You do feel more under the spotlight.
“I was fortunate when I came into the England team,” he added. “There was no social media back then, so the ways that people can get their opinions out there is quite difficult.
“So it’s about finding methods as a player to deal with that, and I think using the team around him as well – whether that’s family, friends, management and obviously the players and coaches. It is important that everyone does that, not just Jofra.”
For all that this has been a socially-distanced series, the two camps have lived in close proximity for the past weeks, and have shared statements of solidarity with regards to anti-racism, with both teams kneeling in support of the Black Lives Matter movement prior to each Test.
Estwick confirmed that he would continue to lend an ear to Archer for the duration of the campaign, and while he maintained that his recall would be a matter for England’s selectors, he backed the player to rise above his recent difficulties and get back to performing on the pitch.
“I spoke to him yesterday, and he’ll be in a good space,” he said. “The support has got to be there for him. He’s a young man and I will continue to support him, there’s no doubt about that. He knows that if he needs a chat he can ring me any time and I’ll support him.
“I think that once you do well, there’s always pressure wherever you come from,” he added. “Test match cricket is a pressure game and you’re a role model to a lot of people. He knows what he’s done. He’ll learn from it, and he will understand that he will get criticism.
“It’s obviously disappointing to hear a player being racially abused but it does happen,” he added. “I’ve seen him come out and say he’s got to try and stay off social media a bit and that’s a start – I think if you’re off social media, they can’t racially abuse you from there.
“He’s got to lay low for a while. He knows what’s coming, so he’s just got to lay low, focus on his game, focus on getting back on the park, and focus on the people that you can trust and the people that are there for you, and try to block out the rest.” (ESPNCricinfo)