KARACHI: In the aftermath of Pakistan’s latest Test series drubbing Down Under, head coach Mickey Arthur has said that the resilience of his charges can’t be questioned, while insisting the experience of playing in Australia will hold them in good stead.
In an exclusive interview with Dawn, Arthur expressed his anguish at the outcome of the series and admitted that it is becoming increasingly difficult for teams to dominate away from home.
“Albeit we are all extremely disappointed with the way the series panned out, I really felt that we were competitive [at various stages] in this series and the players’ resilience can never be questioned,” Arthur said after arriving in Brisbane for the start of the five-match ODI series against Australia from Friday.
“It has been very depressing for all of us losing these Test matches but I can tell you for certain that the work rate of the players and staff has been outstanding and no stone has been left unturned in terms of preparation.
“The thing you have to take out of it is the fact that the players will have all grown from this experience and be far better for it. The young players will certainly bring these lessons back when they come and play here again,” Arthur, the former Free State, Griqualand West and South Africa ‘A’ batsman, added.
He conceded in modern-day cricket, a majority of teams enjoy home advantage, something Pakistan have been missing since 2009 after the terror attack on Sri Lankan deprived them of hosting international fixtures.
“I believe that it is now very evident that almost all [major] teams dominate at home and it’s getting harder to win away from home for every international team.
“This is a challenge for us going forward and I believe the players will be better for the experience of playing out here in very trying conditions,” Arthur stressed.
The former national coach of South Africa and Australia highlighted Pakistan’s bowling and fielding shortcomings as the key factors which allowed Steve Smith’s men to pile up huge totals at a fast pace.
“I think key area that we were short in was just having the ability to get those 20 wickets [in a match]. Our bowling was exposed a little and we need to get better at being more patient and controlling the run-rate because when you control the rate you give yourself a very good chance of building enough pressure to take wickets.
“We were never able to put the Australian batting order under any sort of pressure and therefore they dominated,” he said.
“It was a tough tour for Yasir [Shah] but again he will have learnt from this. He was our strike bowler but no international spinner comes to Australia and dominates and this includes Indian spinners. The Australians had a plan to attack Yasir from the word go because they knew he was our danger weapon and never let him settle at all.
“We rely heavily on Yasir to win games because he is both a defensive and attacking option for us. The pressure he was under was immense and he will go back and work very hard on his action and consistency and come back strong in our next series.
“Moreover, our fielding under pressure is also a concern and even though we are spending hours on this we are still dropping chances that put us on the back foot time and again.”
However, Arthur was satisfied the way Pakistan batsmen coped with the Australian conditions.
“I was really pleased with the way we batted and to get back-to-back scores of over 400 and have a century in every Test means that we, as a batting unit, can stand up in all conditions and the players can trust their techniques in all conditions.”
Now a naturalised Australian citizen settled in Perth, the 48-year-old Arthur admitted that he expected Smith’s side to rebound from five successive Test losses — against Sri Lanka (3-0) and South Africa — given the competitive nature of Sheffield Shield cricket.
“The [Australia’s] turnaround does not surprise me at all because their system is very good over here and they are constantly producing players who are world-class,” he observed. “Australia is arguably the toughest place to tour and teams get mentally run down out here because of the relentless pressure you face both off and on the field.”
Commenting on Misbah-ul-Haq’s uncertain future after the veteran skipper mustered just 76 runs in six innings, Arthur expected the 42-year-old to be still playing Test cricket regardless of what happened Down Under.
“I am hoping that Misbah tours and plays for Pakistan for a while yet but that is a choice that only Misbah can make. He needs time to assess for himself and I am sure when the time comes he will make the correct decision for himself,” he pointed out.
“His [Misbah’s] career is obviously a very good one and when he does decide to retire he will go down as one of Pakistan’s finest captains and batsmen.”
Arthur revealed that the time has perhaps come for Pakistan to make tough decisions to make the team across all three formats.
“I think we’ve got to be realistic in making the [tough] decisions. We will always access what are the right decisions for this team going forward and I certainly will not shy away from making tough calls if in my opinion they are in the best interest of Pakistan cricket,” he vowed.
“I am dedicated to making Pakistan the best team in all cricket and nothing will stand in my way. We have implemented very tough standards and challenging the players all the time to get the best out of them.”
On the upcoming ODI series, the coach acknowledges Pakistan must adopt an aggressive mindset to challenge the Australians. “Obviously the ODI series is going to be very tough for all concerned but we will play aggressive cricket and be trying our best to get some results. We are however under no illusions as to how tough this is going to be!”
Published in Dawn, January 11th, 2017