By Sajid Sadiq, Chief Editor, PakPassion.net
The atmosphere in the Pakistan dressing room on 4th of June at Edgbaston during the 2017 Champions Trophy would have been gloomy, to say the least. A loss to their arch rivals by 124 runs (DLS) would have been the cause for some extremely sad faces in the Pakistan squad but the manner of defeat would have hurt them deeply.
Whilst the Pakistan players would have been thinking with dread about the possibility of an early exit from the much-vaunted 50-over ICC competition, one can only imagine the thoughts going through the mind of their well-respected Head Coach, Mickey Arthur.
From being classed as underdogs to a competitive outfit to champions, the story of Pakistan’s 2017 Champions Trophy win could well fit into any modern-day coaching manual and for that Mickey Arthur’s contributions will never be forgotten by followers of Pakistan cricket.
The Australian cricket establishment did not approve of Mickey Arthur’s penchant for attention to detail and that lead to the now famous ‘homework gate’ episode, resulting in his leaving his job as Head Coach for Australia in 2013. If the perhaps restrictive style of coaching was a problem for Australia, the very same attitude was something that Pakistan cricket needed, and results have shown that to be a good decision so far.
In a cricket culture that was known for its almost lethargic approach to fielding or where issues related to fitness were brushed under the guise of low priority items, Mickey Arthur’s no-nonsense approach to such matters was an eye-opener and possibly a source of irritation for some.
Players such as Umar Akmal whose position in the side was considered safe before were now being asked to prove their fitness in line with the new ethos of Team Pakistan. The results of this exercise were not always pretty or to the liking of some as in the case of Umar Akmal who found himself out of the side after being unceremoniously dropped at the start of the Champions Trophy in 2017 and has had to wait until 2019 to be given another chance to represent his country again.
Many eyebrows were raised when Mickey Arthur was brought in as Head Coach, with many former players and members of the local media doubting the sincerity of his intentions. The Champions Trophy win put at least a temporary end to such allegations. What impressed all was the pride which he took in Pakistan’s successes and the agony he felt when they did not succeed, as has been shown on television footage on many occasions.
To Mickey Arthur, coaching Pakistan is not just a job, it’s a mission which he has taken-up with humility and dedication which many of his predecessors had frankly failed to show. In his own words, the position of Head Coach of Pakistan is “a job I am very passionate about and one that I absolutely love.” The numerous statements of appreciation by Pakistan players who have played under his guidance are also proof that he holds a special place in the hearts and minds of the Pakistan side he admires so much. It would, therefore, not be an exaggeration to state that the brand of cricket he espouses and the processes he is putting in place for Pakistan cricket will allow him to leave a legacy of excellence whenever he leaves his position in the future.
And so, now to the next target for his much-loved Pakistan side which is to become World Champions by winning the ICC World Cup later this summer. The pressure to follow-up with another victory in England to match the one in 2017 will be a tough one but Mickey Arthur knows that just like the great Imran Khan in 1992, he too has the resources at hand to make the dream of a second title a reality once again.
To many experts, the 2019 World Cup will be the most open one in the history of the competition with most teams having an equal chance to win the title. Regardless of that prediction, it is also true that Pakistan are known to have done their best when playing in England and spectators at the Pakistan versus Afghanistan encounter on 29th June at Emerald Headingley will have a perfect chance to witness Mickey Arthur’s Pakistan cricket revolution and what his side can do when they play to their potential.