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December 17, 2019

Sri Lankan head coach Arthur claims he cannot stop caring for Pakistan team

Arthur's comments made it clear that he still has a soft spot for the Pakistan team. Photo: Reporter  

KARACHI: Former head coach Mickey Arthur expressed that his love for Pakistan, as well as his former charges, remained unchanged even after he was removed from the designation.

Arthur arrived at a press conference at Karachi's National Stadium on Tuesday as the newly-appointed head coach for the Sri Lankan team. As expected, he was asked more questions about his former team than the current and his comments made it clear that the 51-year-old South African still loved Pakistan.

The Sri Lanka coach, however, made it clear that during the series, he will be referring to Pakistan as “they”, instead of “we”.

“It was great. I was so happy to be back to witness Pakistan’s first Test at home in ten years. That was very, very special to me," Arthur said about last week's drought-breaking drawn Test in Lahore.

"Pakistan holds a very special place in my heart. The boys have been outstanding and I am in contact with a lot of them. We always talk and always have some banter. I am happy to be back in Pakistan."

Arthur, who famously coached Pakistan to the International Cricket Council (ICC) Champions Trophy winning title in 2017, said he could understand "what a Pakistani player is thinking", adding that he kept referring to Pakistan management as “we” while commentating during the recent series against Australia.

Former Pakistan team captain Sarfraz Ahmed chats with Mickey Arthur. Photo: AFP

The former national coach, nonetheless, insisted that things would be different this time. “I have reiterated this some million times. The three years I had with Pakistan were incredible years. Pakistan is very very dear to my heart, it really is. I loved every minute of my three years here.

"I did call them 'we', but now I am in the opposition [team's] dressing room, so Pakistan is 'they' for me. We have come here for the Test series and we are here to win,” he said.

Arthur also brushed aside talks of any differences with Pakistan's current head coach, Misbah-ul-Haq, saying everything was well between them and they both had respect for each other.

It is noteworthy that Misbah was part of the cricket committee that advised the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) to renew Arthur's contract following the World Cup last summer. After Arthur's removal, Misbah was consequently named the new head coach, which prompted some critical remarks from Arthur.

“All is good with Misbah, no problem,” Arthur said. “It is about Sri Lanka and Pakistan, it is not about Misbah and myself. I respect Misbah a lot and he respects me.

"There’s a bigger agenda here and a Test match between proud cricketing teams. It is not about the coaches, it is not about the support staff, it is about the players on the ground,” he said.

The former Pakistan coach was also asked why he did not pick Umar Akmal and Kamran Akmal during his time in charge, to which he said he did not believe the Akmal brothers could win matches for Pakistan and that he only preferred those who could win for the country.

Arthur also rejected the allegation that he chose teams based on personal likes and dislikes during his tenure.

“There is no disliking or liking in any cricket team. You pick guys who can win for you. I didn’t not think Umar Akmal or Kamran Akmal could win games for Pakistan, I thought they had their time,” he said.

“I think Pakistan needs to invest in these young players. You’ve got some very very fine young players so as coach you select who you think are the best players and are best for you.

"The other people outside the squad are never happy but as a coach you can’t be worried about those people. You worry about developing the players and you worry about winning games for the team that you work for and that was always my intention.

"I pick the players who I think could win the game,” Arthur added.

The head coach of the Sri Lankan team also explained that he was closely following the results and scores of Pakistan’s premier domestic tournament, Quaid-e-Azam Trophy, and added that he was happy to see Fawad Alam being recalled to the Pakistan team.

“It is great for Fawad. I follow every round of the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy. I watch every score to see who’s playing well and who’s not because I was generally interested. And to see Fawad Alam score runs, that’s a credit to him, credit to his mental capacity. It would have been good for him to make a comeback in Karachi,” he said.

Meanwhile, Arthur confirmed that Kasun Rajitha from his current team would not be playing the Karachi Test, which starts this Thursday.

“Kasun won’t play here as he needs some rehabilitation. Asitha Fernando has joined the squad. He is a good young bowler and he gives us a back-up option. Conditions here will be different from what it was in Rawalpindi.

"We will take our time in making sure we select a team that can take early wickets here,” said the Sri Lankan head coach. “I think both sides will [be] pretty happy with where they are, there is no psychological edge to anyone."