HBL PSL has returned with even more zeal this year, being played completely in the stadiums of Pakistan. Nonetheless, there is one face that is missing this time – Mickey Arthur, who is now the Head Coach of Sri Lanka men’s cricket team. The former South African cricket player, John Michael (Mickey) Arthur has had a vital role in upgrading the standards of Pakistan cricket, including the fitness of cricketers.
Initially, he got associated with Pakistan through our biggest milestone in cricket, the Pakistan Super League, in 2016, being appointed as the head coach of Karachi Kings. No one would have anticipated that the Karachi Kings coach would become the National Head Coach during the same year. He described his love-affair with Pakistan in following words:
“This tournament (PSL) is fantastic; I said that in year one and this is where I started my love affair with Pakistan cricket. The tournament is outstanding, the talent is outstanding, it allows the players to perform under pressure on a big stage.”
The doors opened for Mickey when Waqar Younis, the then head coach, resigned following Pakistan’s second-rate performance in the World T20 2016, in India. Pakistan had won just one game out of four and were completely thrashed by other sides.
The vacant post left by Waqar Younis was filled by Mickey as he was transparently selected by the PCB Board of Governors. It was necessary to fill the post before Pakistan’s all-important England tour in July 2016, comprising four Tests, five ODIs and one-off T20I. From that point, Mickey’s journey with Pakistan took off and from then on, he was closely linked to every aspect of Pakistan Men’s team, as well as PSL’s Karachi Kings. Pakistan became the World’s Number One Test nation under Misbah ul Haq’s successful captaincy and Mickey’s coaching. That was followed by series triumphs against West Indies. However numerous highs and lows came as obstacles in his way, but Mickey was determined to make Pakistan be in the top cricket teams of the world.
Pakistan’s tour to Australia proved a nightmare for them as they could only win one out of five One-Day Internationals against Aussies. Following that, Mickey was critically bashed by the Pakistani sports analysts, including some former players; he had a love-hate relationship with them throughout his stint. As a consequence of a humiliating defeat by the Kangaroos, Azhar Ali was removed as the Pakistan ODI captain and Sarfaraz was handed over the charge. Pakistan were then going to face Windies in March/April for T20I and ODIs series, with Tests in May 2017. The ODI series was an opportunity for the 8th ranked Pakistan and 9th ranked Windies to make a spot in the World Cup 2019. It was still a little difficult for Pakistan to make it into the mega-event as they won the ODI series 2-1 against West Indies, instead of clean sweeping them.
Then came the tournament known to be the “Mini World Cup”, the ICC Champions Trophy 2017. Pakistan began their Champions Trophy campaign as the 8th ranked ODI side, but ended up jumping up to the 6th spot, as they historically won the tournament for the first time ever. Pakistan had defeated arch-rivals by a huge margin of 180 runs in the final, which further added to the amusement. They were named as the “most unpredictable” team in the world and Danny Morrison would call them “The Predictably Unpredictable Green Machine”. The same year, i.e. 2017, Pakistan jumped to the first spot in the ICC T20 rankings, and claimed that spot till date.
Due to that Champions Trophy victory, Pakistan easily made into the World Cup 2019. Mickey was confident that they have adequate time to experiment with various players and form a suitable and balanced squad for their World Cup 2019 campaign. Mickey’s 3-year tenure had to end in 2019, prior to the World Cup, but it was extended due to his own resolute vision for leading Pakistan in the mega-event. Hence, his fate was to be decided in accordance with Pakistan’s performance in the World Cup.
The most-waited time in world cricket had finally arrived and Pakistan was considered among the favourites to lift the World Cup 2019 trophy. The campaign began with an unfortunate humiliating defeat against West Indies in their opening World Cup game, but came back into the tournament by winning 5 out of their 9 games, with one match being washed out. Nonetheless, it was a bit too late for Pakistan to qualify into the semi-finals due to the very low net run-rate. They won their last game against Bangladesh and stepped out of the tournament, with a heavy heart.
That was the turning point for Mickey Arthur and Pakistan’s coaching staff, as PCB decided not to renew their contracts. It was announced that Mickey would be replaced, considering Pakistan’s below par performance in World Cup 2019. Misbah ul Haq took over the dual role as Pakistan’s Chief Selector as well as Head Coach. Mickey’s removal from the authority was a shock to him as he had the intention to work further with Pakistan cricket.
Mickey Arthur reportedly said, “The team for which my personal life got affected and I got separated from my wife, removed me like this.”
In another interview with a Pakistani newspaper, Mickey said, “There is unfinished business in Pakistan. I would hate to see these young players go back to the old system. We have spent three years trying to instill a new structure and it would be like time wasted. I have my options but I have loved every moment I’ve spent coaching Pakistan,” he said.
Mickey has many credits to his name; some of which are already presented above, but the acknowledgement of introducing new faces into Pakistan cricket is also into his account. Fakhar Zaman, Hassan Ali and Shadab Khan are some of those names, all being Mickey’s finds from Pakistan Super League. Fakhar however could not prove his potential upto the expectations, despite being given numerous chances. Babar Azam, who is now included among the world class batsmen, was also groomed under the head coaching of Mickey Arthur, who had identified the depth of potential in Babar and always backed him no matter what.
Sarfaraz Ahmed usually gets the praise for gelling the team together, but Mickey’s vital role can never be denied in this regard. Pakistan began to emerge as a strong unit, playing with accord and harmony, having the capacity to destroy any strong side, provided they play with all their determination and necessary strategic plan.
Mickey’s stint as Pakistan’s head coach comprised of numerous crazy defeats accompanied by unpredictable achievements. Therefore, this year’s HBL PSL actually makes us miss Chachu Mickey even more!
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