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Coach Arthur looks to emerging talent for SL series

Coach Arthur looks to emerging talent for SL series

LAHORE: While anticipating good competition even from a struggling Sri Lankan team in the UAE playing conditions during the forthcoming series, Pakistan head coach Mickey Arthur believes there are players in national ranks who can replace stalwarts Misbah-ul-Haq and Younis Khan who quit the game early this year.

“In these [UAE] conditions Sri Lanka are a good team; they are in rebuilding process so they will have nothing to lose while competing with us. And remember Pakistan is also in rebuilding process, as we have lost Younis Khan and Misbah-ul-Haq [due to their retirement],” Arthur said in an exclusive interview to Dawn.

When pointed out that the struggling Sri Lankans even lost a home Test to Bangladesh in March this year, Arthur reckoned still Sri Lanka were capable of playing tough cricket in the UAE conditions. “I would not take them easy.”

After the departure of Younis and Misbah, Arthur underlined, Azhar Ali, Asad Shafiq and Babar Azam were the guys who could keep the batting department strong for the next four, five years.

“We also have good emerging talent in Haris Sohail, Sami Aslam and Usman Salahuddin to keep the batting department strong,” the 49-year-old coach said.

About 28-year-old left-hander Haris, who has faced fitness problems during the last couple of years, Arthur said, “He is quite fit now and I hope he will perform well in future.”

Pakistan face Sri Lanka at the neutral venues of the UAE in a two-Test series starting on Sept 28, followed by five ODIs and three T20 Internationals.

When asked to comment on Pakistan’s seam bowling attack for the said series, Arthur hinted left-arm pacer Mir Hamza may be part of the team for the Test series against Sri Lanka.

“Currently, we have a very good seam bowling attack in Wahab Riaz, Mohammad Abbas, Hasan Ali, Hamza and Mohammad Amir,” the coach said, who held a meeting with chief selector Inzamam-ul-Haq on Friday to discuss team selection for the upcoming Test series against Sri Lanka.

The squad for the said series is likely to be announced on Saturday.

The coach also hinted that 31-year-old off-spinner Bilal Asif — who made his ODI debut against Zimbabwe in 2015 — may also be part of the Test team. “Bilal’s selection [in the 18 probables’ list] is interesting because Sri Lanka have a good number of left-handers in the middle, so we would keep this off-spin option.”

To a query regarding Asif’s recall after a two-year gap, Arthur was absolutely categorical that players should receive proper chances.

“I hate chopping and changing all the time; Inzamam-ul-Haq [chief selector] and I hold the same philosophy that no player would feel confidence if he does not get proper chances.”

Speaking about the playing future of paceman Wahab Riaz and seasoned all-rounder Shoaib Malik in the lead-up to the 2019 World Cup, Arthur while lauding the experienced duo for their services emphasised that performance would be the decisive factor.

“Wahab is a very skilled bowler who has got pace as well as reverse swing and has a long career ahead of him. Like all other cricketers his performance too is being monitored, which is vital to keep one’s place in the team,” he said.

“Shoaib is a senior and professional cricketer who has been outstanding in the last one year or so. We build the team around abilities and he is one of the pillars, an asset and example for all youngsters.

“But again to play till 2019, his performance will be the main factor.”

On planning for the 2019 World Cup, Arthur feels promising youngsters must first undergo T20 test before being considered for tougher ODI duty.

“We have a good number of rising youngsters like Usman Shinwari, Mohammad Nawaz, Faheem Ashraf and Aamer Yamin, who I think should be given proper chances in T20 format. There they can be tested as to how they perform under pressure before they are exposed to ODI contests,” he said.

“It is great to have a lot of experienced players but it is also great to have skilful, fit, very strong youngsters who are good in terms of performance.”

When asked to comment on losing opener Sharjeel Khan (recently banned by the PCB for spot-fixing) and whether Fakhar Zaman could plug the gap, the coach said the latter had shown promising signs but was yet to fully mature for cut-throat international clashes.

“I am disappointed at not having Sharjeel and Fakhar batting together. However, I am excited about Fakhar who — possessing a very aggressive batting technique in ODIs — is the right replacement of Sharjeel in ODIs.

“Fakhar however is still in learning stage and we have to continue to work on him in order to develop his defence so that he may also do well in Test cricket, as Australia’s David Warner has done after acquiring a strong defence technique,” he said.

Answering a question, the head coach flatly denied there was any acrimony between him and Inzamam over the issue of Umar Akmal’s physical fitness for the ICC Champions Trophy held in June this year.

“Not at all, we work together and I am really enjoying working with him [Inzamam]. We have been conducting the players’ fitness tests after every month. And there was a significant gap of one month between Umar’s fitness tests which were conducted first in Lahore and then in England,” he said.

Asked if he would forgive Umar if he sought the same for levelling allegations against him (Arthur) of improper use of language against the batsman, the head coach said, “I was very disappointed at his approach of reaching out to the media [on the issue] because I gave him a lot of respect, and fought to get him back in the team because he has great talent.

“Yes, I would listen to him if he comes to me and have a conversation,” he added.

Arthur, who earlier worked as coach of South African and Australian teams, said he was enjoying working with Pakistan, his first assignment with an Asian outfit.

“It is really a fantastic job which I am really enjoying. I think we are making a start with this [Pakistan] team and I feel quite satisfied and comfortable that I am moving on the right track. As regards my experience of the culture in Pakistan, I would say I am enjoying it a lot,” Arthur concluded.

Published in Dawn, September 23rd, 2017

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