Pakistan’s newly hired head coach has warned party is over for in-disciplined, unfit and sloppy players. The hard task master has a reputation to guard and that prompts him to speak tough. Former South African captain, who in Arthur’s company mould South Africa into world class team, once described the coach as “the most optimistic man in the world” and someone who “is ever-smiling but has a steel behind that smile,” for his discipline.
When he was lifting South Africa in the regeneration period, Arthur had tussles with selection committee and the administration but he stuck to his task and won his nation their first series win in England for 40 years and first series win in Australia for 15. The best part under his tenure was South Africa’s invincibility away from home – unbeaten in away series between 2006 to until Arthur left.
Arthur’s strong point was maintaining discipline, an attribute Western Australian Captain Marcus North would vouch for. That area is Pakistan’s weakness. Fitness and fielding are also grey areas and those weaknesses leave Pakistan way behind at international cricket.
In an interview with scoreline.org, Arthur highlighted the importance of creating a culture. A long term planning and to create values and boundaries that could take the Pakistan team far away, where it could challenge other top teams.
Here are excerpts:
Q: The job of Pakistan’s head coach is regarded as the toughest and most turbulent in world cricket, having to deal with volatile players. What inspired you to take the job?
Arthur: It was just the challenge, the sheer challenge of the job that really excited me. I know there is a massive passion of cricket in Pakistan and what I noticed during the Pakistan Super League is that there is enormous talent in Pakistan, so I think if we can put a system in place then we can really take this team far away.
Q: Do you have any security reservations coming to Pakistan?
Arthur: No, the PCB has certainly looked after me in this regard and I guess that will be the case. The issues will be there but I just want to come and really make the difference.
Q: Graeme Smith once declared that you are the “most optimistic” person in the world, so how optimistic you are to lift Pakistan cricket?
Arthur: Look, I am very optimistic. I wouldn’t have taken the job if I hadn’t think I can make the difference. I saw in the PSL that there is talent and young Pakistan players are skillful and I think what we are going to do is to really identify long term players and groom them, hopefully make them ready for bigger challenges.
Q: The first few series Pakistan due to play involve England, New Zealand and Australia, you think they are the biggest challenge right at the start of your job?
Arthur: I would be disappointed if the team is not up to the challenge. You want to really pit yourself against the best and in their conditions and we are coming up against England in my first series and in their conditions. That will be a very very tough challenge.
Q: You are praised for being a ever-smiling man, but there seems to be steel behind that smile and Western Australian players, their captain Marcus North and management can vouch for that, so would you also deal Pakistan players with an iron hand?
Arthur: Of course, I think to run a proper structure you need proper values, proper boundaries in which everyone is pulling in the right way. I will be tough in that, that’s the only way we can get better results. I want everybody in the team to start playing for Pakistan team. I want everybody in the team to start playing for Pakistan. We don’t want any selfish player around. I want players who play for the team and for Pakistan because only then we can get the best results. I also want players who aren’t prepared to be bullied. I want players who can stand up to the opposition and always take it to the opposition. I don’t mind if they make mistakes. I want to see them take the opportunity and take no backward steps.
Q: What do you expect from the team on the tough tour of England?
Arthur: I would be pretty disappointed if we don’t take the team in the right direction. I think the bowling is very good, both the seam and the spin. There are no issues in that but I have reservations on batting, particularly against the seam and bounce and we need to address those issues. One thing I really want to address is and want to really tough on are fielding and fitness because that’s where players need improvement. Players need to be fit enough to compete for longer periods of time and that’s non negotiable issues.
Look, England will be a massive challenge as the conditions will be trying for Pakistan players. We will certainly go in every series with an aim to win but if we don’t win we will take stock and move on. As long as I see that the players are getting better and better then I will know that I am doing my job.
Q: Would you press for a role in selection?
Arthur: I certainly would. I think Inzamam (ul-Haq) is experienced and is a very good choice as chief selector. I am looking forward to working with him and sharing ideas with him.
Q: So when are you coming to Pakistan?
Arthur: It happened (coaching job confirmation) happened so fast so I have to complete some work here in Western Australia and then arrange my passport and visa, so by the end of this month I will be in Pakistan.
Q: Mickey, you proved yourself as a very good coach, taking South Africa to the top of the world, to what would you attribute to that success besides having some world class players at your disposal?
Arthur: I think we were really blessed to have some world class players and some very good young players the likes of AB de Villiers, Morne Morkel and JP Duminy etc. so we gave them chance with experiences players on a long term basis and with consistency in selection. We didn’t chop and change and did not create confusion. That allowed us to produce good results.
Q: There are two very talented players – Ahmed Shehzad and Umar Akmal who are unable to turn their huge potential into performances? They are dropped from the camp on disciplinary grounds, what is your take on them?
Arthur: To be honest, I don’t know much about them to have my take. I will certainly go and find out about them because they are obviously very talented so I must know why they land in trouble, but if they are the best they got to conform. They must get their house in order and we will give them opportunity but they must prove it that they want it.