Mickey Arthur
Pakistan head coach Mickey Arthur with players and support staff during a practice session at ICC Academy. Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News

Abu Dhabi: Coaching subcontinental teams such as India and Pakistan is akin to ‘playing with fire’. You are in the hot seat from day one — under constant scrutiny and grilled for the slightest of slip-ups.

Fans can be unforgiving and very few coaches survive the heat and test of time.

You can certainly draw similarities between the two coaches currently leading the show and staying afloat on their own terms — Ravi Shastri for India and Mickey Arthur for Pakistan.

Both believe in not bothering about what’s happening around and the focus is only on going about their business for the betterment of the team.

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Shastri, speaking to Gulf News immediately after India’s Asia Cup win, said “ignorance is bliss”, and now Arthur has reiterated the same after his side’s 11th successive T20Is series record winning streak and ahead of the ODI series against New Zealand.

“I just don’t read or listen to it [critics],” Arthur said, speaking exclusively to Gulf News.

Arthur, who is midway through his third year and may yet end up being Pakistan’s longest serving coach after the late Bob Woolmer who coached Pakistan from 2004 until his tragic demise during the 2007 World Cup, added: “I have always said we are going to play well and we going to play badly. And I have not got issues when people criticise as long as we don’t play well. That’s part and parcel of the game. I love it and that’s how it should be.”

Arthur is still enjoying his time with the Pakistan team and the coaching stint so far has been a challenge he has relished.

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“The journey has been fantastic and great, I have loved every moment of it,” he said. “It is so good to see us get better and better. We are playing the brand of cricket we want to, so it’s been great with all the support staff and players.

“I was not sceptical coming to Pakistan. I took the job because I was really excited about it. As I have always said, I don’t think you have coached if you have not coached in the subcontinent. Coming to Pakistan has been unbelievable. It is the best thing of my career.”

Arthur revealed that Pakistan are pretty much sorted on what they want to do ahead of the World Cup in England next summer.

“There will be one or two positions we want to tweak with, but we are very clear in the mind the brand of cricket we want to play,” he said. “The brand of cricket that can win us games consistently and the players that can play that brand of cricket.

“We know who they are, so we are pretty much settled in our minds as to where we want to go. It starts with the New Zealand ODI series and we certainly owe them, having lost 11 matches to them.”

Arthur acknowledges that one of his biggest challenges was to bring transparency in the Pakistan team dressing room that is constantly marred with controversies.

“To make sure we have a healthy atmosphere in the team has been one of our goals,” he said. “We wanted to be a team, exactly that. It’s a cliché they say, as there is no ironed team, but it is not. We play our best cricket when we play as a team,” said Arthur asserting that his side was now made up of some of the best players and individuals as human beings who want to support each other and want to see each other do well.

“It is a great team environment and that is something they have worked hard at. It is tough, it is hard and it is competitive, but people enjoy each other’s success as well.”

Arthur also added that it is not always calm in the dressing room and there are moments when it gets hard.

“It’s like a family in the dressing room, but there is going to be times when you have to keep managing that dressing room and make sure it is going in the right direction and I’m happy where it is at the moment,” he said.

Arthur added that one thing that players want is transparency and his management has made a conscious effort in doing so. “Not only Pakistan players, but players around the world want that,” he said. “They all want a consistent message, clear communication and they want honesty and that’s what the environment is giving them at the moment.

“They know exactly where they fit in and obviously there is some good message and there is some hard messages. There are some tough decisions that is got to be made.

Arthur said he and Pakistan chief selector Inzaman-ul-Haq had made sure to give every player as much information as possible to know exactly how he fits in and where he fits in and who is in the queue.

“Asking a player to sit out following his poor form is not a good message to give, but you have to give them,” said Arthur. “Those are honest messages and total clear messages that have to be there. They may not be happy with it, but they respect it.”

Arthur also said working closely with captain Sarfraz Ahmad has also been a huge plus for him to look towards the future.

“One of the things you get caught up as a coach is thinking short-term,” he said. “For me I got to be always thinking long term, because the planning for now is already been done if that make sense. My mind is already thinking for South Africa and for the World Cup. If I’m thinking long term, then Safi is thinking for the now. With him and I sharing ideas all the time, it makes things easy.”