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
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
MICKEY ARTHUR: MA: MA: MA:
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
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
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
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