A respected member of our forums reviews Mickey Arthur's tenure with the Pakistan team and the highs and lows over the three-year period.
By Markhor (12th August, 2019)
When Mickey Arthur was appointed coach in 2016, Pakistan were tottering in 9th and 7th position in the ODI and T20 rankings. His mandate was clear. Qualify for the 2019 World Cup, and drag Pakistan’s white ball teams into the modern era. The South African not only needed to deliver results but deliver cultural change. Upon his arrival, Pakistan had come off a dismal 2016 World T20 campaign where they were derided for being one of the most unfit and lethargic fielding teams in the world.
With Arthur’s arrival came the yoyo tests and an equally tough taskmaster in Steve Rixon. An injection of youth shaped by the Pakistan Super League added to a sense of renewal in Pakistan cricket even if results weren’t instant.
A year into his tenure however and for all of Arthur’s tough talk of uncompromising standards and a new brand of cricket, patience was running out. Pakistan limped into the 2017 Champions Trophy with an unfancied squad and expectations of a group stage exit. Mauled by India in the opener and an utter shambles in every department – Arthur was on the brink of another unceremonious sacking from an international coaching job.
What transpired in the next fortnight would define Mickey Arthur’s Pakistan legacy and remains imprinted in all our minds. Arthur rang the changes, benching two high profile seniors Ahmed Shehzad and Wahab Riaz, and brought in Fakhar Zaman who along with Hasan Ali were Pakistan’s heroes of the tournament. Pakistan won their next four matches and their first ICC 50 over competition since 1992. The best virtues of Mickey Arthur’s philosophy were displayed in that win – an aggressive style of play, commitment in the field, attacking with pace bowlers and a collective effort than reliance on individuals.
Since that Champions Trophy win, we’ve also seen the limitations of Mickey Arthur’s virtues, most apparent in the Test arena. Fortress UAE had been unbreached since 2010. Since 2017, both Sri Lanka and New Zealand ambushed Pakistan in two series it should not have lost. Tactically, Arthur seemed uneasy attacking with spin and the attritional nature of cricket in Asia, and made a shocking error in choosing just one spinner for the Sri Lanka series. Winning just 10 out of 28 Tests will have been a factor behind PCB Cricket Committee’s decision to not renew Arthur’s contract.
However one can fairly argue losing two stalwarts in Younis Khan and Misbah-ul-Haq would’ve meant a difficult transition for ANY coach in his position, and a weak First Class system has failed to produce enough Test quality cricketers. Not to mention unlike Mickey Arthur’s predecessors in Dav Whatmore and Waqar Younis – the Test schedule has been far more uncompromising with away trips to Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and two to England in a three year cycle!
Finishing 5th in the 2019 World Cup, recovering well after a poor start by winning the last four games and only missing out on a semi-final place on Net Run Rate, along with the continual blossoming of youngsters like Babar Azam, Shaheen Afridi and Imam-ul-Haq under his watch led to speculation Mickey Arthur would be given another year. However a disappointing set of ODI results leading into the World Cup, losing 16 out 23 ODIs since the 2018 Asia Cup, and the launch of a new ICC Test Championship, meant PCB sought a fresh start with a new coach at the beginning of another 4-year World Cup cycle.
Nevertheless, Mickey Arthur leaves stronger white ball teams than the one he inherited. Against the countries that competed in the World Cup, Arthur’s ODI W/L ratio of 0.735 is significantly better than his predecessor Waqar Younis (0.347). Only twice under Waqar did Pakistan amass 300+ totals against the other nine top ODI sides, whereas Arthur’s team did so on 14 occasions. Pakistan’s Runs Per Over and bowling average also improved. In T20s, Pakistan won 30 out of 37 and appear one of the contenders for next year’s T20 World Cup. Here, evolution and not revolution is necessary from the new coach.
The former South Africa and Australia coach had a point to prove after “Homework Gate” and later sacking from the Australia job in 2013. He emerges from his Pakistan tenure with his reputation largely enhanced and with a plentiful supply of T20 leagues and other international vacancies to explore including his native South Africa. He spoke of it “being a miss” had he finished his career having never coached in the subcontinent – well Mickey will not forget his experience of coaching this particular subcontinental team any time soon!