These Pak­istan boys are have to start be­liev­ing

Saj Sadiq talks to Pak­istan coach Mickey Arthur about the de­vel­op­ment of the team and his blue­print for the fu­ture

The Cricket Paper - - FEATURE -

You seem to have found great re­spect among the Pak­istan play­ers who con­sider you more as a men­tor and guide.

I am start­ing to build re­ally good re­la­tion­ships with the play­ers. They are a won­der­ful bunch and very tal­ented.We are start­ing to build a good re­la­tion­ship with each other but that doesn’t mean I am soft or tough in any­way; I just call it as I see it. I am hon­est with them and that is how I feel you de­velop good re­la­tion­ships. I don’t like to su­gar coat any­thing, I will tell the play­ers ex­actly as it is and how I see it. They work very hard and are won­der­ful and re­ally good crick­eters and I am de­vel­op­ing a close bond with them. It’s all about trust. What is the most dif­fi­cult part of deal­ing with Pak­istan play­ers?

There is ab­so­lutely noth­ing dif­fi­cult at all. I just feel that it’s all about be­ing bru­tally and to­tally hon­est with them. As I have al­ways said that wher­ever I have worked be­fore, I have en­cour­aged the play­ers to talk to me about any­thing and not just cricket. Once we are down to that level of re­la­tion­ship, then you know that you have be­come that men­tor-type of per­son to the play­ers. I be­lieve I am at that level now and I have good re­la­tion­ships with the play­ers and that is pretty heart­en­ing for me. Are there any generic weak­nesses in the play­ers that you would like to work with and iron out?

No, they have just got to be­lieve that they are as good as they ac­tu­ally are. The Pak­istan boys are very hum­ble and soft in­di­vid­u­als. I guess, I have come from a pretty tough school where the soft get eaten a lot and I am pretty keen to see them toughen up a lit­tle and give back what they get and stand their ground which they are do­ing now. Did tak­ing over a well gelled and co­he­sive play­ing unit, es­pe­cially in Tests, help in your task when you took charge as head coach?

Def­i­nitely. Mis­bah has been out­stand­ing with the work he has done with the team as was my pre­de­ces­sor Waqar You­nis who did a great job with the Test team. The Test team I in­her­ited was in a very good state. But, I don’t like just keep­ing it in a good state, I be­lieve in con­tin­u­ally im­prov­ing our­selves and in con­tin­u­ing to im­prove our prod­uct. That is my role. So, I am con­stantly chal­lenged and try­ing to im­prove each of the play­ers five or ten per cent and if we can do that, we get five or ten per cent more out­put which will make them a for­mi­da­ble unit.

I am also en­joy­ing work­ing with the one-day team as our white-ball cricket needs a lot of work.We have changed the brand of our one-day game where we are hav­ing the guys play a more ex­pan­sive

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game. They have taken that on board and are work­ing ex­tremely hard and that seems to be work­ing out nicely as well. Has the ab­sence of a reg­u­lar bowl­ing coach been a hin­drance to Pak­istan’s progress in re­cent times?

Let me clear that up and say that we have iden­ti­fied a bowl­ing coach and the gen­tle­man will as­sume the role within two weeks’ time. The only rea­son this has not hap­pened yet is that we are in the mid­dle of ne­go­ti­a­tions but that has all been sorted out now.

As for the Pak­istan team’s per­for­mance be­ing af­fected by the ab­sence of a bowl­ing coach, let me say that this is sim­ply not the case as I am very pro­fi­cient around this as­pect of coach­ing. Tech­ni­cally speak­ing, we know where our play­ers are at and what is ex­pected of them. The play­ers are on in­di­vid­ual bowl­ing plans and we are mon­i­tor­ing them day-in and day-out.What it does do is di­lute my role a bit which is a lit­tle tough on me as I haven’t got to some of the other things that I would like to do. Tele­vi­sion pic­tures showed you ex­tremely frus­trated dur­ing the re­cently con­cluded series against Eng­land. Is that some­thing we can ex­pect more of dur­ing your ten­ure?

Yes, that is how I am. I wear my heart on the sleeve and don’t hide things in these mat­ters. Com­ing to those tele­vi­sion pic­tures, yes, I was ex­tremely frus­trated dur­ing the ODI series. For ex­am­ple, at Head­in­g­ley in the fourth ODI, we were just one wicket away from get­ting a re­sult that would have given us con­fi­dence in the brand of cricket we wanted to play.

If you look at where we started in Southamp­ton and where we fin­ished in Cardiff, there was a lot of work which went in there. So, at Head­in­g­ley we were keen to get over the line as that re­in­forces the brand of cricket we want to play and the work we are putting in. I was very keen to see us do that and was im­mensely frus­trated for sev­eral rea­sons.

I wanted to so­lid­ify what we had been do­ing and I wanted the guys to get con­fi­dence out of that. As you know I have been vo­cal about the fact that fit­ness and field­ing are the two big­gest chal­lenges that Pak­istan face. I was ex­cited when the West Indies man­age­ment told me that this is the fittest Pak­istan team they have ever seen. But we have some way to go.

When we are not fin­ish­ing off games be­cause we are not fit or strong enough I do get frus­trated and vent my feel­ings. Bat­ting and bowl­ing are not mea­sur­able as some guy may get out for nought or you may bowl your best ball and get hit

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for four. Field­ing and fit­ness, we can mea­sure and those are non-ne­go­tiable. Gone are the days when you could be rock­ing up to the team and be not fit.We are now set­ting up proper stan­dards and these are com­pa­ra­ble to most in­ter­na­tional teams around the world.We can­not rely just on skill any more. You had a chance to see Umar Ak­mal up close dur­ing the re­cently con­cluded ODI series against the West Indies.Your im­pres­sions of him as a player?

Umar Ak­mal is a fan­tas­tic player. I feel he plays the brand of cricket that we want to play in ODIs and T20. He can come in and take the game by the scruff of the neck and get a 40 in 25 balls.We didn’t have guys in that po­si­tion be­fore. So, I think he can play. How­ever, he, like ev­ery other player, knows there are stan­dards to be ad­hered to. Con­form to those or you won’t get another chance. In my

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first deal­ings with Umar I found he trained hard and well.Yes, you have got to keep watch­ing or he tends to wan­der a bit, but he showed ev­ery­thing dur­ing I wanted to see from a Pak­istan player.

A slight re­gret, if you can call that, and this ap­plies to Umar and Mo­ham­mad Rizwan, is that we saw Umar at No.5 in the IT20s and Rizwan at No.6 in ODIs but be­cause we played so well, we didn’t get to see them un­der pres­sure or they didn’t get a proper op­por­tu­nity. I would have liked them to play as that would have helped to push their ca­reers on a bit. There have been mur­murs about a pos­si­ble con­flict of in­ter­est in terms of you coach­ing Pak­istan and the PSL side Karachi Kings. How do you re­spond? Let me put a few things on the ta­ble. Be­fore I signed the con­tract with Pak­istan I was con­tracted to be with the Karachi Kings for the whole sea­son. So, talk­ing purely com­mer­cially, that was my con­tract ar­range­ment with Pak­istan that I could work with Karachi Kings as well and, fi­nan­cially speak­ing, that was good for me. In terms of any con­flict of in­ter­est, I am way more pro­fes­sional for peo­ple to think that I am go­ing to be favour­ing any­body from Karachi Kings or any­one else in my Pak­istan role. I’ll knock any such no­tion on the head straight­away.

The re­ally pos­i­tive thing in this ar­range­ment is that it al­lows me to see all the best young Pak­istan play­ers up close. If I wasn’t in­volved in the PSL, then I wouldn’t get to see these young guys in ac­tion. I think this is a win-win sit­u­a­tion for ev­ery­one and in my opin­ion there is no con­flict of in­ter­est in­volved. Have you any con­cerns about Babar Azam’s abil­ity to cope with the pres­sure of Test matches and in spe­cific his weak­ness against the short-ball?

Gone are the days when you could rock up to the team and not be fit. We are now set­ting stan­dards com­pa­ra­ble to most in­ter­na­tional teams

PIC­TURES: Getty Im­ages

Teach-in: Pak­istan's head coach Mickey Arthur and bowl­ing guru Mush­taq Ahmed, right, talk to Ra­hat Ali dur­ing a nets ses­sion at the Kia Oval last month

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