Jofra Archer will not be rushed back to fulfil IPL contract, Kumar Sangakkara says

Jofra Archer bowls BCCI

Rajasthan Royals will take a long-term view on Jofra Archer's fitness - for England as well as for the franchise - and not seek to rush him back to action simply to fulfil his IPL contract, according to their team director Kumar Sangakkara.

Archer's involvement in this year's tournament is set to be decided later in the week, after he underwent surgery to remove glass fragments from his hand following an accident involving a fish-tank at his home in Hove in January.

That operation was carried out while Archer was also undergoing treatment for a long-term elbow injury, having required cortisone injections to get him through England's five-match T20I series against India last month.

And while Sangakkara admitted that Archer's fitness issues had tempted the Royals to consider their options ahead of the IPL auction in February, and terminate his £800,000 contract ahead of next year's mega-auction, his pre-eminence as a T20 cricketer persuaded the franchise to give him the time he needs to get back to his best.

"It was a tough decision," Sangakkara said. "The injury concern was flagged up going into the auction but he was playing excellently for England. So the chances of him playing in the IPL from the start and being managed by the experts was realistic. But we have contingency plans in place now and no risks will be taken.

"We are certainly hoping that he will be available for some part of the IPL," Sangakkara added. "Not having him at the start is a big blow for us, because a lot of our planning is centred around his availability, and such last-minute injury concerns do affect any side, especially if it's a player of the quality of Jofra.

"But it's very important that Jofra gets fit, not just for the IPL, but importantly for his international career. He needs to be in a very good space with his body, and mentally, when he does come here, so we're all waiting to see how the assessment goes. And once the assessment is done, we'll know more."

Archer was named as the IPL's MVP at the last tournament in the UAE in November, after claiming 20 wickets at the impressive economy of 6.56. Assuming he is cleared to fly out to India in the near future, the eight-day quarantine period on arrival will eat further time out of his availability for a tournament that is set to conclude on May 30.

"We have to be concerned about him as a player because his career is long-term and is not restricted to just one season and the IPL," Sangakkara added.

"His value to world cricket and to England cricket is part of our decision and we will be guided by the experts in English cricket who look after Jofra. It's not something we look at selfishly and we take a holistic view of how important Jofra is."

Archer's mental well-being will be a further consideration, as and when he does return to fitness, given the long periods he has spent in bio-secure environments since the start of the Covid-19 outbreak. England's management factored rest and rotation into their selections for the tours of Sri Lanka and India this year, and Sangakkara said that an open-door policy would be in use at Rajasthan as well.

"It's such an important part of the current complex circumstances," he said. "Of living in a bubble, training there, and not having access to your regular support structures and families

"Keeping your players relaxed, interested, calm and happy is something that every franchise takes very seriously. Rajasthan's is a policy of treating players as people first. We take a lot of pride in getting to know our players, understanding them and supporting them, not just in terms of IPL cricket, but their overall wellbeing."

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