After the Pakistan management held a review of the team’s performance at the 2019 World Cup and looked to chart a new path, it emerged that coach Mickey Arthur had asked for an extension in his contract.
The first thing that the Pakistan Cricket Board did was show Arthur the door, along with the almost the entire support staff. While some members of the team, and captain Sarfraz Ahmed, will deservedly face the music following disappointing performances across formats, Arthur would have been lucky to escape penalty.
While the triumph at the 2017 Champions Trophy deserves every bit of applause, it is balanced out by shock ‘home’ Test series defeats to Sri Lanka and New Zealand and the abject performance at the Asia Cup in 2018. The absence of a second spinner on UAE pitches during the 2017 Test series defeat to Sri Lanka and abundance of fast bowlers during the Asia Cup defied logic. Arthur had as much say in the composition of the team as Sarfraz.
But we are not here to play the blame game. The results are there for all to see – Pakistan slipped to seventh in Tests and sixth in ODIs, with top rank in T20s the one big plus. It’s the way forward that needs focus.
Whether the wicketkeeper batsman remains skipper across formats remains to be seen. Even if Sarfraz doesn’t and a new skipper(s) takes charge, the person replacing Arthur will have a critical role to play.
What Pakistan need right now is a John Wright type of coach who does not waver on fitness or technical standards, but knows how to work in the background. Whether the next coach comes from outside Pakistan or within, easing the players into their roles and letting the captain take charge of the team should be the priority and diktat; there were regular demands from Pakistan for Sarfraz to ‘own’ the team more.
Some blunders were committed during the past few seasons – pacer Wahab Riaz being sidelined for an extended period only to be brought in right before the World Cup or the extraordinarily long rope given to a faltering Mohammad Amir just two prominent ones. Also, largely the same bunch of players went around the merry-go-round of selection.
Whoever takes over as head coach needs to actually look at the entire top talent pool playing in Pakistan – that might include watching first-class and List A games – and then help the captain build the Test and ODI team. And the captain has to make the final call, be it right or wrong.
Arthur oversaw a major improvement in the fitness standards of the team, along with the rise to the top of T20 rankings and the Champions Trophy triumph. But performances in Test cricket and in their UAE home have dipped alarmingly. Maybe a bit more luck with the net run rate at the World Cup would have ensured Pakistan’s qualification to the semi-finals and papered over previous heartaches. But Pakistan have decided to take a new leadership approach and this time, they should let the captain run the show.
Know more about Sport360 Application
Mickey Arthur has backed Babar Azam for the Test captaincy after making his case to the Pakistan board for two more years at the helm, according to reports.
The PCB committee have been busy reviewing Arthur’s performance over the past three years as they decide on whether to extend the South African’s contract.
Arthur has certainly produced a mixed bag of results – from the high of the 2017 Champions Trophy final win over India and becoming the top-ranked team in T20s, to poor performances in Tests and most recently failing to reach the World Cup semi-finals in England.
According to the Indian Express, Arthur said he could deliver ‘remarkable years’ if given another two years, with his current contract set to expire on August 15.
Arthur also offered his own recommendations during a presentation to the committee – namely sacking Sarfraz as captain of all three teams, having said some ‘negative things’ about the wicket-keeper’s leadership skills.
The report went on to say that the 51-year-old put forward star batsman Azam for the Test captaincy and 20-year-old all-rounder Shadab Khan for the limited-overs formats.
Pakistan do not play again until their tour of Australia, which starts with the first of three T20s on November 3.
The report stated that England director of cricket Ashley Giles “had informally sounded out candidates” including South African Arthur, who also coached his nation and Australia.
According to BBC, Arthur confirmed his interest last month. Other candidates for the job are South Africa coach Ottis Gibson and former India boss Gary Kirsten.
However, some top names are not in the fray due to the lure of franchise cricket which offers more money for shorter assignments.
Australian coach Andrew McDonald told Test Match Special: “With the franchise game, you get the opportunity to work with the best players in the world and spend less time away from home.
“The excitement of the franchise space outweighs the grind, taxation and time away from the family.”