If you saw Pakistan coach Mickey Arthur after the team’s 124-run loss (D/L method) to India, he didn’t look like a coach whose team had lost a match but rather like someone who’d lost everything in life. And as the post-match press conference waded on, he lost his composure and, towards the end, nearly his nerve.
Arthur started off in control, admitting that India did play like the No.3 side and even called the defeat a reality check. He then took umbrage to his team’s attitude being referred to as “lacklustre” on the field, but then went on to describe the fear and the resulting tentativeness in his camp.
“We had a couple of guys that were in the clouds at the start. And that sets tone,” he said and even pulled up his team for failing to do the simple things like taking catches or getting six good balls in an over. At that point he even assured that Pakistan would bounce back.
It was when he started getting hounded by more specific and direct questions that the emotions began to take over.
Why didn’t Mohammad Hafeez get a bowl if he was fit? “I don’t know.”
How could Mohammad Amir get cramps on a rainy day with so many breaks? “I don’t know. Ali got one too.”
When you hear a coach say he doesn’t know about matters that have had a dire effect on his team’s performance, is the time you realise the kind of complete disharmony that must exist within a dressing-room. Arthur, of course, is only the latest of foreign coaches — the late Bob Woolmer, Geoff Lawson and Dav Whatmore, to name a few — who took the job with great expectations and soon realised that it’s a bouquet of thorns.
Repeated questions about the injury status of Wahab Riaz and Junaid Khan set him off the most, and when asked whether he would take the blame for Riaz’s shocking performance, he said he would but not before giving the journalist a piece of his mind.
“Let’s get something straight first off. Wahab Riaz was fully fit. He went through a fitness test; he was declared fully fit. So it’s not that Wahab Riaz was not fit. Okay? He performed poorly today. And I’ll take the blame, me, I’ll take it. I selected him. I selected him because I wanted him to perform a role. Okay? He didn’t execute that role, unfortunately,” he said.
It didn’t take too long for their misadventure to evoke trolls of rather humiliating fashion. One that stood out involved Shoaib Malik’s run-out. It had the veteran singled out inside a box with the crease and the stumps a fair distance away with the caption, “Pakistan play out of the box”. It referred to Sarfraz’s claims that they would use “out of the box” ploys to surprise India. Arthur was expectedly asked about those apparent ploys to which he again had no answer. And he seemed to be lost for words quite often.
“But we thought, and you can still get out of the box, but there’s nothing out of the box here. We opened with a left-arm spinner. That might be out of the box. But in cricket it’s a matter of taking wickets and scoring runs,” he said. Eventually Arthur was asked once more about how long it would take for Pakistan to catch up with the rest in his opinion.
“How long is a piece of string? I don’t know,” he said. Perhaps it rings true even in terms of how long he’s got left to tackle world cricket’s ficklest job.