Chris Jordan: ‘We will be hunted but our T20 pedigree is quite strong’

<span>Chris Jordan celebrates England’s victory over Pakistan in the T20 World Cup Final in November 2022.</span><span>Photo: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images</span>” src=”–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTk2MDtoPTU3Ng–/ 2e5bc44f480bf15e” data src=”–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTk2MDtoPTU3Ng–/ e5bc44f480bf15e”/></div>
<p><figcaption class=Chris Jordan celebrates England’s victory over Pakistan in the T20 World Cup Final in November 2022.Photo: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

After England showed their hand in the T20 World Cup this week, Jofra Archer fired up his Instagram live and brought everyone who clicked to the Barbados sunshine. It was a hard-hitting internet session shooting white Kookaburras with Chris Jordan, his friend the second headline memory of the day.

Their stories have been intertwined over the years, with Jordan first crossing the Atlantic as a teenager to pursue his dream in English cricket and then his older brother and mentor when Archer, six years his junior, followed suit. Before Archer made that stirring Test debut at Lord’s five years ago, he requested Jordan be presented with the cap, CJ delivering the speech like a trademark yorker as his young sidekick swelled with pride.

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If all goes well, the pair are now set to play their first global tournament together, with Jordan having missed the cut when Archer scorched England to the 50-over World Cup title in 2019 and Archer being injured when Jordan came from a T20 champion walked away from the MCG at the end of 2022. The campaign begins rather poetically (and hopefully ends, given the final) at Bridgetown’s evocative Kensington Oval.

“The Kensington Oval holds a special place in my heart,” says Jordan, speaking after a warm-weather training session before returning to Surrey next week. “When I was at school we played finals there and that was where I saw my very first cricket match. It was the West Indies versus England, I was maybe five and I remember the atmosphere vividly, the atmosphere that first morning, the conch shells blowing…’

Archer is yet to play international cricket in the Caribbean due to the injury curse that has plagued him in recent years; those repeated stress fractures that everyone hopes are a thing of the past. “I would say he’s in a very happy place,” Jordan says. “I feel like he sees the light at the end of the tunnel. A World Cup, playing for England, and also playing in the Caribbean for the first time… it’s one of his bucket list things to tick off. He works so hard and he’s pretty much up to date from last week’s training with him.

“I haven’t fought him yet – we haven’t resumed our rivalry yet – but I’m not avoiding him. What he gives me, I can give back to him, maybe not quite at the same pace – he’s a little faster – but I’m fast enough. We throw a few bouncers at each other, but it’s all in good fun; we have not yet met.”

Kensington Oval also witnessed Jordan’s first international for his family, a T20 in 2014 in which he “hit a couple of sixes” [four in eight balls]”took a few wickets” [three for 39] and took two catches – the kind of all-round performance that England will hope will come to the fore in June a decade later. In some ways the recall of the country’s highest wicket-taking seamer in T20 internationals (96) should come as no shock, equally the 35-year-old’s recall owes much to his rich form as a lower-level hitter order: a short-form average of 30 and Strike Rate of 160 since the start of last summer.

“I didn’t expect the call, but I never ruled it out,” said Jordan, who was not picked for the Caribbean tour last December. “I had good communication with the hierarchy and they suggested that they look at the franchise format. When it comes to batting, the penny drops for different people at different times, I think. The order can be hit and miss, but I’ve started to manage my expectations of what a good knock looks like and play the situation. I keep my breathing under control and nice and rhythmic, and I also do my homework on the opposition.”

This level-headedness under pressure has made Jordan a reliable and ever-willing death bowler in T20 over the years, while the talk of homework and visualization brings us perhaps his forte: fielding. Even if Jordan doesn’t make the XI – and as Rob Key said, this sounds unlikely – England will be able to call on arguably the world’s No. 1 outfielder every time a player leaves the field. The work that goes into this discipline – those reflex holds, those Matrix-esque dives, or the sheer Air Jordan madness on the boundary rope – is fascinating.

“Growing up, I played a lot of different sports,” Jordan said. “Basketball, hockey, tennis, soccer, it all developed my hand-eye coordination. And one of the most important things is situational awareness and a lot of anticipation. When I get into a position, within about ten seconds I have assessed at least eight to ten ways the ball could come to me. It sounds a lot, but you build up the knowledge over time. I get a feel for my space and visualize, so when the ball comes, I’ve already played it.

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“And a lot of it comes down to practicing slip catching. It really takes care of your out-fielding because you build confidence in your hands. With a slip you are so close and your body is not always in the right place, so you have to rely on your hands in that split second. In the outfield, when the ball is in the final third [of its trajectory] and you’re running at full speed or diving, many of the same principles apply.

It’s the kind of clear, sharp insight that tips Jordan to be a fine coach when he retires, if he chooses, and perhaps also a fourth tick for the selectors in the short term. A lack of local knowledge was one of the diagnoses for India’s grim 50-over World Cup in England last year, but there should be no shortage in the Caribbean. Keiron Pollard, the Trinidadian T20 pioneer, has been called up as consultant coach, while they have two sons from Barbados in Archer and Jordan.

“We will certainly take that knowledge of the circumstances with us,” says Jordan. “Understanding crosswinds is an example of that – that’s quite unique to the Caribbean. “It’s trying to be smart about it and not get carried away, especially during daytime matches because it can often disappear at night.”

Phil Salt, radiant in form lately, also lived on the island for six years growing up. Jordan was 17 when they first met, Salt stopped him for a photo at a charity match in Surrey and the pair later became teammates at Sussex. “He was always very curious about what it takes to succeed at the highest level and we built a bond,” Jordan says. “He is absolutely devastated at the moment.”

“It is also a unique tournament and guys who were not in shape [in the 50-over World Cup] are definitely in shape now. We are defending champions, so it is important to understand that we are being hunted 100%, so we have to match or exceed the intensity of the other teams. But look, in the last three T20 World Cups we have been finalists, semi-finalists and champions, so our pedigree in this format is quite strong.”

An England cricketer for a decade, a World Cup winner who never shies away from clutch moments and is a mentor to others, the same can be said about Jordan himself.

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