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Arthur blames Sarfaraz's ouster as one of the reasons for Pakistan's T20I slump
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Arthur blames Sarfaraz's ouster as one of the reasons for Pakistan's T20I slump

Mickey Arthur believes Sarfaraz Ahmed's removal as Pakistan captain was one of the principal factors contributing to the team's misfortunes in the shortest format last year.

Arthur, who coached Pakistan for more than three years, praised Sarfaraz's leadership and ranked him highly as a shrewd tactician in T20 cricket.

Despite Pakistan reigning at the top in T20Is, Sarfaraz was forced out of his captaincy post in the aftermath of the series whitewash at the hands of a depleted Sri Lankan side in October 2019.

His exit from the team was followed by another string of defeats under new skipper Babar Azam in Australia where the hosts cruised to commanding wins in two of the three encounters.

While Pakistan managed to salvage their pride with a home series win against Bangladesh earlier this year, Arthur felt the decision to sack Sarfaraz had created an unsettled unit.

"To be honest, in T20 cricket, Sarfaraz is an unbelievable captain. He reads the game in T20s so well and he was instrumental in gearing up their T20I team back to where it needed to be," Arthur told Cricingif in an exclusive chat.

"With Sarfaraz losing the captaincy, that created a little bit of doubt through the team and we saw the confidence levels dropping."

Also Read: ‘Babar’s hundred against New Zealand in World Cup one of the best I’ve ever seen’ – Mickey Arthur

Pakistan's series loss to Sri Lanka that preceded Sarfaraz's ouster, featured a host of changes made to the squad that had marched to 11 successive T20I series wins under the tutelage of Arthur.

Misbah-ul-Haq's appointment as the Pakistan head coach and chief selector saw him bring in the likes of Umar Akmal and Ahmed Shehzad back in the team while some senior players were omitted from the line-up.

Explaining Pakistan's T20I decline soon after his tenure, Arthur claimed the team management had rushed to a frequent chopping and changing routine disrupting the coherent structure of the side.

“I think they went off the formula. The formula was just there to be used, the player personnel was there to be used," he continued. "The players needed to be given confidence because whenever a coach departs, there’s always change. A new coach will always come in and will want to assert himself on the team, which is just natural."

"The slight change-ups would cause players to suddenly start worrying about their positions in the team. I think it’s important that the players who got us 11 straight [series] wins are sort of persisted with as those are the best T20 players Pakistan have got. And those are the players who will bring you success."

Arthur named Mohammad Amir and Wahab Riaz among some of the players Pakistan have missed in their recent campaigns.

Also Read: Amir and Wahab's absence in the Test side was a massive setback, says Waqar Younis

The case of the two pacers is rather intriguing in light of their aversion to red-ball cricket, which has caused a bit of friction with Misbah and company.

Amir and Wahab were dropped from Pakistan's squad in the Lahore T20Is against Bangladesh, posing questions over their availability for the T20 World Cup, but Arthur senses the two have a lot to offer in international cricket.

"You need Mohammad Amir without a doubt, he’s an incredible white-ball bowler that has to be playing. I think Wahab Riaz still has an opportunity to be part of that white-ball squad as well."

"Hasan Ali coming back will make a difference and I still back Faheem Ashraf. He offers so much with his all-round ability and is good in the field. I think the formula was there and it needs to be persisted with," Arthur added.

'Shaheen needed a short break during the World Cup'

Pakistan's run in the 2019 World Cup, which proved to be Arthur's last assignment with Sarfaraz's men, saw left-arm pacer Shaheen Afridi emerge as the country's second-leading wicket-taker in the tournament with an average of 14.62.

Although Shaheen's success overshadowed his veteran compatriots, he played only five out of Pakistan's eight completed games, attracting criticism towards Arthur.

Defending his decision to bench Shaheen for a few matches early on, Arthur stated that Shaheen needed a short break to recover his bowling rhythm.

“Shaheen Afridi, at the point in time, didn’t have a great series against England leading up to the World Cup. He played the first game and Gayle got hold of him and then I felt his confidence had just slipped away slightly. I felt he needed a break and warm the bench for a couple of games."

"The little break helped him freshen up and allowed Azhar Mahmood and the coaching staff to work a little bit on his skill. His wrist had dropped slightly so we needed to get his wrist upright again. We worked with him over that period of time," said Arthur.

"He seemed a different bowler in the match against Australia. His first spell in that game was average for a bowler [of his caliber], as he bowled too short to Warner and Finch. But he came back at the back end and bowled really well and then from there, his World Cup went from strength to strength. Shaheen thus needed a bit of a break from the constant scrutiny and pressure at that point."