The man of steel with a gentle smile as camouflage
By Shahid Hashmi in Karachi and Razia Desai in Dubai.
If one goes by former South African captain Graeme Smith’s oft-repeated description of Pakistan’s new Head Coach, Mickey Arthur, one could be forgiven for feeling a little empathy for the two talented but wayward batsmen Umar Akmal & Ahmad Shahzad.
Speaking to ARY Sports Chief Shahid Hashmi from his current residence in Perth, the new coach made it abundantly clear that he will not compromise on discipline. The good news for both Shahzad and Akmal is that Arthur likes players with character. “I also want players who are not prepared to be bullied. I want players who can stand up to the opposition and always take it to the opposition. I do not mind if they make mistakes. I want to see them take the opportunity and take no backward steps”.
Known to have a meticulous technical eye, during his Pakistan Super League tenure with Karachi Kings, he felt Pakistan had a lot of talent but noted that many batsmen were mistiming their shots. Speaking to Shahid Hashmi, he expressed the same doubts; hence one can assume it is a shortcoming he will grapple with almost immediately. “I have reservations on batting, particularly against the seam and bounce and we need to address these issues.”
Describing the task of undertaking the position of Head Coach with the Pakistani team as merely ‘challenging,’ one can see the optimism his former wards refer to. He has yet to comment on the three captains of the various formats and initially, is likely to lean on the ever-approachable Test captain Misbah Ul Haq for the upcoming and formidable England tour of 4 Tests, 5 One Day Internationals and 1 T20.
Whilst Misbah is generally known to be easy to work with, the crunch of Mickey Arthur’s achievements may very well depend on his relationship with Chief Selector Inzamam Ul Haq. Arthur has already shown a reluctance to base his way of working on the team’s most recent past strategy. “With South Africa we did not chop and change and did not create confusion. That allowed us to produce good results.”
With both Inzamam and Arthur used to taking firm decisions, the Pakistan Cricket Board has yet to announce if it has indeed implemented former coach Waqar Younis’ suggestion that the new coach too have a say in selection matters. Arthur diplomatically said he looks forward to sharing ideas with the chief selector but how well the two may get along is a moot point.
With Arthur rightfully describing fitness as ‘non-negotiable,’ and several critics rehashing his unceremonious exit from Cricket Australia as being due to strictness with players, perhaps he has as much to prove as his new squad. Known to give individual focus to his players, his emphasis on ‘structure and boundaries’ may be just the anchor, Pakistan’s talented but directionless youngsters need. In this regard then, an understanding of the culture would be his best ace card in dealing with the steamroller that is Pakistani cricket.