Secret heartbreak of England World Cup ace Jofra

Jofra Archer spearheaded England’s World Cup triumph while grieving for his murdered cousin, the star’s father has revealed.

As the World Cup began, Archer was told Ashantio Blackman, 24, had been shot dead in Barbados on May 31 – the day after he had bowled his side to victory over South Africa in the tournament’s opener.

But the 24-year-old quick bowler, who broke Sir Ian Botham’s England record by taking 20 wickets in the competition, kept the family tragedy secret to concentrate on his side’s quest for glory.

Jofra’s father Frank Archer, 55, told The Times: ‘[His cousin] is the same age as Jofra and they were really close, he even messaged him in the days before he died. Jofra was really affected by his death but had to carry on.’

England's Jofra Archer holds the trophy at a victory event held at The Oval in London a day after England won the 2019 Cricket World Cup final against New Zealand

England's Jofra Archer holds the trophy at a victory event held at The Oval in London a day after England won the 2019 Cricket World Cup final against New Zealand

England’s Jofra Archer holds the trophy at a victory event held at The Oval in London a day after England won the 2019 Cricket World Cup final against New Zealand

As the World Cup began, Archer was told Ashantio Blackman, 24, (pictured) had been shot dead in Barbados on May 31 - the day after he had bowled his side to victory over South Africa in the tournament’s opener

As the World Cup began, Archer was told Ashantio Blackman, 24, (pictured) had been shot dead in Barbados on May 31 - the day after he had bowled his side to victory over South Africa in the tournament’s opener

As the World Cup began, Archer was told Ashantio Blackman, 24, (pictured) had been shot dead in Barbados on May 31 – the day after he had bowled his side to victory over South Africa in the tournament’s opener

The 24-year-old quick bowler, who broke Sir Ian Botham’s England record by taking 20 wickets in the competition, kept the family tragedy secret to concentrate on his side’s quest for glory (pictured: England captain Eoin Morgan is sprayed with champagne as he raises the trophy on Sunday)

The 24-year-old quick bowler, who broke Sir Ian Botham’s England record by taking 20 wickets in the competition, kept the family tragedy secret to concentrate on his side’s quest for glory (pictured: England captain Eoin Morgan is sprayed with champagne as he raises the trophy on Sunday)

The 24-year-old quick bowler, who broke Sir Ian Botham’s England record by taking 20 wickets in the competition, kept the family tragedy secret to concentrate on his side’s quest for glory (pictured: England captain Eoin Morgan is sprayed with champagne as he raises the trophy on Sunday)

Mr Blackman was gunned down outside his home in South Philip, southeast Barbados – the same area Archer grew up in – while his girlfriend and four-year-old son were inside.

Speaking to local media in Barbados, a neighbour of Mr Blackman said she heard ‘about eight gunshots’ before rushing outside to find his body lying across the street in a pool of blood. She described Blackman as ‘a good person’.

Two people were arrested but released without charge.

Jofra was three years old when Mr Archer, who was born in Catford in southeast London, split from his Barbadian mother and returned to the UK. 

His father’s British citizenship allowed Jofra, who was born and educated in Barbados, to get a British passport at the age of eight.

‘It has been his dream to play for England ever since he was eight years old, so to see it happen is surreal,’ said Mr Archer, who watched the final on his mobile phone at a bar because he could not get a ticket.

‘People have been questioning his Britishness, but him playing for England has shown he will inspire everyone to play cricket, because it’s usually seen as an elitist sport.

‘I emailed him after the semis and said ‘this is your moment, go for it, the moment has arrived to show the heroes of England your worth’.’

BPrime Minister Theresa May shakes hands with England's Jofra Archer outside 10 Downing Street as England players arrive for a reception in London on Monday

BPrime Minister Theresa May shakes hands with England's Jofra Archer outside 10 Downing Street as England players arrive for a reception in London on Monday

BPrime Minister Theresa May shakes hands with England’s Jofra Archer outside 10 Downing Street as England players arrive for a reception in London on Monday

Despite being picked to play for the West Indies Under-19 team just two years earlier, Archer moved to Britain in 2015 having growing disillusioned with the state of cricket in the Caribbean, after he was not picked for the Under-19 Cricket World Cup.

The snub devastated Archer, but it also strengthened his resolve to represent England. Another Barbadian fast bowler who had crossed the Atlantic to play for England, Chris Jordan, helped Archer get a contract with Sussex – where he took 61 wickets in his first full season with the county.

His mother, who was at Lord’s to watch him lift the World Cup on Sunday, banned Archer from living with his father – so he went to live with his maternal uncle instead.

England fans had expected to wait until 2022 to see Archer turn out in their colours. Official rules stated that because he did not live in England until after his 18th birthday, he had to complete a seven-year residency period.

But, last year, the England and Wales Cricket Board shortened its residency requirements – a move widely interpreted as being designed to fast-track the exciting bowler’s path into England’s World Cup squad.

Despite his heroics throughout the tournament, Archer’s career nearly went down an entirely different path.

His father said: ‘He had call-ups to play for both cricket and football teams as a child, and he asked me ‘which one should I do?’. I told him cricket had more scope, so he should concentrate on that.

‘I couldn’t afford football boots for him when he was younger, so I made sure I bought all the cricket kit for him when he got older.’

Mr Archer also revealed that, despite his 90mph rockets casting fear into opposition batsmen throughout the World Cup, when Jofra was born doctors warned that he might be disabled because of under-developed muscles – and recommended he play computer games ‘to get his fingers working properly’.

He said: ‘After that I had a sense it was going to happen, he was born for it. When he was two, his grandad made a mini bat for him and he would drag it around the house.’

Whenever Jofra visited his father in London he always wanted to play cricket, Mr Archer recalled.

‘One time we were walking past a casual cricket match in Hyde Park, any time he saw cricket he would always make a beeline to play too. He played with them for an hour, and was so mad to leave the game.

‘When he was eight, we made a mission statement to get him a scholarship so he could play for England or the West Indies. He was famous at school as he was the best cricketer, he was always winning prizes.’

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