Pakistan Head Coach Mickey Arthur is hopeful that the culture of high quality fielding standards will be sustained within the country’s cricket circles even when he leaves for his next assignment.
During the past couple of years, there has been a marked improvement in Pakistan fielding which is partly due to the great emphasis laid on this important aspect of the game by the current Pakistan coaching and support staff headed by Arthur.
“I hope that’s a legacy of ours — mine, Steve [Rixon], Grant’s [Flower], Azhar Mahmood’s — as a coaching staff and a support staff,” said Arthur while talking to ESPNcricinfo. “If we can sustain this for another couple of years, it means then that it’s inculcated in the players. And these young players will keep driving it for the next generation, and they’ll drive it for the next generation. So I hope when this coaching group is not here, people will look back and see us field and say, ‘During these guys’ time, we revolutionised our fielding culture, and this is what we still have to show for it.”
Arthur was delighted to see the overall direction in which Pakistan cricket was headed and hailed the efforts of the team management in bringing about this massive improvement.
“We’ve got everything going in the right direction,” he said. “I want Pakistan cricket to be the best it can be in all aspects. From where we were when me and my support staff started to where we are now is a massive, massive improvement. Our T20 side is brilliant. We’re No. 1 in the world.”
Arthur also spoke about the appalling standard of Pakistan fielding when he first took charge of the side. He also cited Pakistan tour of Australia in 2016-17 as his first experience of team’s embarrassing fielding and fitness levels.
“The Test series had finished, and we’d been flogged. We wanted our one-day players with us at the Sydney Test match [third Test]. But when we looked at them, they were incredibly unfit. It was embarrassing,” he said.
He further stated that it was the need of an hour to deploy a strict policy — for the betterment of Pakistan cricket — which focused on evaluating players based on how they fared in the field.
“It was there and then that myself and our support staff took the decision that we were going to have a non-negotiable policy to fitness and fielding,” he said. “We put certain standards in place, and if you don’t meet those standards, you don’t play, regardless of who you are. You can’t field, you don’t play.”
The South African also indicated how these high fielding standards impacted the overall performance of the side.
“Then we had to implement it. Guys not making fitness tests were left out,” said Arthur. “The guys who couldn’t field were quickly marginalised and pushed out of the side because we realised we weren’t going to make any headway in white-ball cricket if we didn’t have the fitness and fielding standards to go with it.”
Arthur also appreciated the efforts put in by Australia’s Steve Rixon during his time as the team’s fielding coach.
“I got Steve Rixon in, and Steve is a tough taskmaster, and he has worked the boys incredibly hard in that discipline,” he added. “What Steve did incredibly well was, he didn’t miss anything. He watched the game closely, and if something happened in the game he didn’t like, that player would be out the next day at the next training session, working on that, whether it be a throwing technique, diving technique or catching technique, and doing some individual work with him.”