The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) has extended the contract of head coach Mickey Arthur and his support staff until the end of the ICC World Cup 2019 to be held in England.
“Contracts of the head coach and other support staff have been extended till the World Cup. The only change that can be made in the management is that of the manager,” an official told PTI before leaving for Sri Lanka.
“The PCB will review whether to retain former Test batsman Talat Ali as manager or make a new appointment after the ongoing series against Sri Lanka,” the official added.
PCB has extended Mickey Arthur and the rest of the support staff’s contracts until the 2019 World Cup #Cricket
— Saj Sadiq (@Saj_PakPassion) October 6, 2017
The 49-year-old Arthur took over the reins of the Pakistan team on a two-year contract in May 2016 before the start of the side’s England tour.
The South African’s contract was meant to be reviewed on a two-year basis however Pakistan’s unexpected victory at the ICC Champions Trophy in England this summer has led the PCB to review the contract much earlier than anticipated.
“It makes no sense to make changes now as the next important assignment is the World Cup,” the PCB official said.
Meanwhile PCB has investigated Umar Akmal’s allegations of verbal abuse against the South African and concluded that the head coach was not guilty of the charges.
“Arthur told Umar that only contracted players were being trained at the NCA when Umar raised the issue of Salman Butt (having nets at the NCA). The head coach told him to focus on his own fitness and form. Arthur didn’t say anything out of ordinary,” the official said.
Former Zimbabwe stalwart Grant Flowers is employed as the batting coach with Australian Steve Rixon handling the fielding coach duties.
Former Pakistan all-rounder Azhar Mahmood is the bowling coach in Arthur’s set up while South African Grant Luden and Australian Shane Hayes are employed as the fitness coach and team physiotherapist respectively.
Pakistan needed to do all the running around in the second Test in Dubai having lost the first Test in Abu Dhabi in stunning circumstances. But it was Sri Lanka who played with authority to reach 254-3, thanks mainly to another splendid innings from left-handed opener Dimuth Karunaratne (133 not out).
While the first Test went off script towards the end as Pakistan failed to chase down 136 on a decent wicket, the opening day of the day-night match in Dubai went along expected lines on a flat pitch even though Sri Lanka tried their best on a couple of occasions to undo all of their hard work.
The tourists got off to a solid start as Kaushal Silva (27) added 63 for the first wicket with Karunaratne, before Silva went for an ugly cross-batted shot and perished.
Pakistan workhorse Yasir Shah (2-90) bowled a half-tracker and Silva tried to pull it on the on-side, only to nick the ball behind.
His dismissal brought debutant Sadeera Samarawickrama (38 off 35 balls) to the crease. And it was the debutant who put Sri Lanka firmly in control.
The right-handed Samarawickrama is already being talked about as the next Mahela Jayawardene and it wasn’t too difficult to see why. Two shots in particular against Shah stood out for their defiance. One a lofted drive over cover for a boundary in the 33rd over and then a hit over the long-off fence in the next over off the same bowler.
The 22-year-old looked set to take the match away from Pakistan on his own but his busy style brought about his downfall as an attempted push on the back foot off Mohammad Amir resulted in a leading edge that lobbed straight back to the bowler.
The second, post tea, session became even better for Pakistan when Kusal Mendis decided to whack Shah over the infield but only managed a sharp edge to first slip.
At 136-3, the match was in the balance but Sri Lanka captain Dinesh Chandimal (49 not out) dropped anchor and allowed Karunaratne to get on with the job without any more drama.
The left-handed Karunaratne has been splendid in the longest format of late, churning out scores of 97 and 141 against India a couple of months back and hitting 93 in the first Test in Abu Dhabi.
His control over his game was there for all to see when he pulled Amir in front of square and then late cut the left-arm quick for another boundary off the next ball in the 65th over to bring up his seventh Test century.
While the visitors deserve all of the credit for making the most of a flat wicket in Dubai, the lack of bite in Pakistan’s bowling couldn’t be ignored.
The hosts went in with just one main spinner in Shah and had to rely on the non-regular spin of Asad Shafiq and Haris Sohail in the final hour. Shah’s workload is now becoming a concern.
The leg-spinner bowled 29 overs on Thursday after hurling down 84 in the first Test and bowling 57 overs for Kent in the county championship in his previous first-class game. With Hasan Ali out and Amir walking off the field right before stumps, Pakistan have put all their eggs in one basket.
Life in Test cricket after the retirements of Misbah ul Haq and Younis Khan has not been too kind on Pakistan. In the first match since the two icons of Pakistan batting called time on their illustrious careers, Sarfraz Ahmed’s young side capitulated in the Abu Dhabi Test. It was the left-arm spin of Rangana Herath that proved their undoing as the hosts fell short of the 136-run target by 21 runs.
Replacing two players who accounted for more than 15,000 runs and 15 century stands was never going to be easy, maybe even impossible. Pakistan were always going to face some batting troubles somewhere down the road as batsmen take years to develop their game to the level of Misbah and Younis. But hardly anyone expected their batting to fail so miserably in its first challenge itself, and that too on ‘home’ turf against a Sri Lankan side that had been blanked 9-0 across formats by India a month back.
But Test cricket has its own rules. And against the gules of a 39-year-old assassin, Pakistan’s batting line-up were given an almighty reality check.
Misbah can only watch as the team he nurtured tries to walk on its own. And despite the stunning reversal against Sri Lanka, the 43-year-old said there is no need to lose hope as he expected Pakistan to have a tough time against Herath.
“Even before the series started, we knew Rangana Herath was going to be a major factor for our inexperienced batting line-up. He is one of the biggest threats in the world. Even for experienced batsmen, he poses a lot of problems. So this was more or less on the cards,” Misbah said in Dubai during the launch of the T10 Cricket League tournament.
“The good thing is the openers did well and I was especially pleased with the way Haris Sohail played in both innings. He played a mature innings in both outings. Yasir Shah’s bowling was excellent. Pakistan will need to change their strategy against Rangana Herath in the second innings. If you think he is going to bowl a bad ball, that’s not going to happen. You will have to take a chance.”
Misbah said losing two experienced batsmen at the same time was always going to problematic as batsmen need to more time to get prepared for what Test cricket has in store. But the former captain is confident if the team makes a few tweaks in the batting line-up, they should get back on track soon.
“We saw what happened to Sri Lanka when Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene retired… especially, in the batting department. Such results happen in this format at the beginning until such time the batsmen get the experience of various situations.
“Yes it (result) is a concern, still there is potential in the team. They need to improve their performance 10 to 15 percent.
“Asad Shafiq had to come up the batting order as he has been playing for a long time. Sarfraz batting at number seven…he is one of our most experienced batsman and I think he is a number five batsman. When players retire, you need to make a few changes. Your combinations won’t work from the first match itself. We need to give the team some cushion.”
While the Pakistan team is adjusting to life without Misbah, the batsman himself is still very much a part of the game. Misbah was unveiled as Team Icon of Punjabi Legends team in the latest venture in the fast-changing world of cricket – 90-minute long 10-overs a side games that will be played by some of the biggest names in Sharjah from December 21-24.
While T20 cricket has revolutionised the way Tests and ODIs are being played, and it is thought the T10 format will bring more – hopefully positive – changes to the game.
“Now maybe even three hours is too much. It’s always important to keep moving forward. To expand the game, you need to think new ideas. Hopefully it (T10) will attract new audiences and fans, especially those who are more keen on football. It’s a 90-minute game and they should have more interest in that,” Misbah added.
Be it a five-day contest or 10-overs-a-side cricket, Misbah believes there is scope for quality in all versions and cricketers can gain from the new format, the same way they did when T20 made its debut in the early 2000s.
“T10 has scope for proper cricket skills. Even in six overs cricket. It’s difficult to survive without basic skills in any format at the top level. When T20 was introduced, everybody thought there was no place for proper batsmen. But guys like Hashim Amla, AB de Villiers, Virat Kohli… the guys who are good in Test cricket are also the top batsmen in T20 cricket. You need some method to dominate in T10 cricket,” he added.
“That was some concern overall that Test and one-day cricket is fading a bit. But the kind of cricket we saw during the Champions Trophy… that set one-day cricket alive again. Whatever the format, we just need to go for quality cricket.”
If there is one area where the shortest formats have made the biggest impact is fitness, with even teams like Pakistan and India setting up measurable fitness standards and ensuring players, howsoever ‘big’, pass them before being considered for selection.
Some say fitness is more important that pure skill in slam bang cricket. Misbah agreed: “Fitness is very important given the amount of cricket we are playing. It is not just about being physically fit. When you train hard, it helps your mental game as well. When you are mentally switched on, you can perform in pressure situations. The guys who are fitter and do more training, they are generally mentally stronger. They perform in pressure situations.”