Complacency is something found in abundance in Pakistan’s cricket structure. After securing major wins the team has a history of putting up lacklustre performances.
During their tour of Sri Lanka after lifting the World T20 in 2009, Pakistan lost three-match Test series 2-0. They lost five-match ODI series 3-2 and won the only T20I. All this against the same opposition they had thrashed in the final of the T20 championship some weeks ago.
After being handed the prestigious ICC Test Championship Mace in September last year, Pakistan lost six Tests in a row that plummeted their Test rankings.
But the same wouldn’t be the case when they take on Sri Lanka later this year for a full-fledge series in the UAE as Pakistan head coach Mickey Arthur promised on Thursday.
“The celebrations are now over and it is time to get back to hard work,” Arthur said in a media talk at the National Cricket Academy in Lahore. “The players deserved everything they got after the Champions Trophy because it was a phenomenal achievement. I am proud of the way they fought back, their work-ethic, their commitment, everything was outstanding. But it is finished now. It is done. That was just the start of the journey. We have to keep working hard. There’s going to be no hangover from the Champions Trophy that I can assure you.”
Despite a heavy defeat in their campaign opener against India, Pakistan bounced back in the tournament to beat world number one South Africa which initiated a historic comeback that saw them bag their maiden Champions Trophy title. However, concerns loom regarding their batting. Before the final, Pakistan’s middle-order (from number three till number seven) had scored at an average of 30.
Accepting Pakistan’s batting to be a source of concern, Arthur said, “this is an area we need to keep on improving. Our batting has started to step up off-late. I am impressed by some of our younger players. We need to get younger guys through our system in terms of batting.”
Pakistan’s bowling keeps Arthur, who is expected to get his contract renewed in the upcoming days, optimistic. “The other thing is that our bowling department is really good now and we have got the depth,” he said. “So that’s a great legacy, I am happy to have so much depth in both seam and spin departments. The batters are getting runs. I am comfortable that they will get us enough runs so the bowlers get us victories.”
'The players deserved everything they got after the Champions Trophy because it was a phenomenal achievement. I am proud of the way they fought back, their work-ethic, their commitment, everything was outstanding' - AFP
With the youngsters coming through in the miniature world cup, Pakistan acquires the much-needed luxury of possessing a high-powered bench. Despite Wahab Riaz’s ouster from the tournament after the first match due to an injury, Pakistan’s pacers wreaked havoc throughout the tournament. Their pace battery removed Sri Lanka’s all ten wickets in the crucial contest that secured them a semi-final berth against England at Cardiff. Pakistan's pick of the bowlers Hasan Ali shaped himself into a lethal middle-overs bowler and the young pacer went onto bag Player-of-the-Tournament title for picking up the most wickets.
“The competition in our bowling department is massive,” Arthur told reporters when asked about Riaz’s future in the side. “Wahab is a very good bowler and he has definitely got a future. He knows what are the requirements in order to get his position … There is no player in our system now who can get into his comfort zone and think he is going to play every game.
“There are a lot of young players who are knocking the door. There are a lot of senior players as well who are knocking the door. This competition is good. What we have always wanted to do is to achieve depth in every department and now we are slowly but surely getting there. This allow us good standards all the time.”
Arthur was quick to break his silence on Umar Akmal’s poor fitness that resulted in his ouster from the Champions Trophy squad. Though the middle-order batsman expressed remorse on missing out on being a part of the squad that made history in an interview recently, his below-par fitness off-late may keep him out of the team for a while.
“Umar Akmal failed seven fitness tests,” the head coach revealed. “What do you want us to do, guys? Normally if you fail one or two fitness tests you would make sure to not to put yourself into that situation again. But he has had seven opportunities and hasn’t passed one.” When asked whether Pakistan had enough to move without him, Arthur bluntly declared, “We have got enough to move on without any player that doesn’t fit into our requirements and standards.”