LAHORE: Pakistan cricket team head coach Mickey Arthur has said that the ultimate goal is to prepare the team for World Cup 2019 and making it number one by finding suitable replacements of iconic cricketers Misbah-ul-Haq and Younus Khan.
Talking to the reporters here at the National Cricket Academy on Thursday, Mickey said: “Certainly we have a successful year and we are going into the right direction. We are not just focusing on the next series, but our ultimate goal is to make players ready for the World Cup 2019, which is a quite a tough challenge.”
After enjoying great honour and respect after winning the Champions Trophy, the head coach wanted the players to return to training from August 22 to prepare well for Sri Lanka series commencing from October this year. “I have sent emails out to the players. They deserved everything they got after the Champions Trophy. It was a phenomenal achievement by all of them and I am so proud of the way they fought back, their commitment, their work – everything was outstanding, but it’s finished now, so we should come back here for the camp from August 22.”
He said: “To go from absolute darkness to winning it… is the best three weeks of my cricketing career. It was just the start of the journey and Pakistan need to keep pushing to keep getting better and better.” The head coach made it clear that the players will have to meet a ‘minimum standard’ of fitness to be considered for selection. “There’s no comfort zone for anybody. The celebrations are now over and it’s now time to get back to work, get back to the hard work.
“We have had eight guys here over the last couple of days working extremely hard. We are under no illusion that the Champions Trophy was just the start of the journey, we have got to keep pushing to keep getting better and better, and that we will only do with real hard work. There’s not going to be any hangover from the Champions Trophy, I can assure you that.”
Arthur believes competition for places should spur the contenders. “We can keep Azhar Ali opening the batting or we can move him to three. If we do that, we are looking for two opening batsmen. Shan Masood started the last Test, Ahmed Shehzad was in the West indies but didn’t play in the last Test. Sami Aslam is playing particularly well at the moment, so there’s good competition for the opening spots.
“If Azhar Ali bats at three, we’ve got Asad Shafiq and Babar Azam. We took Usman Salahuddin with us to the West Indies, he impressed with the way he worked, the way he trained and his technique was good. Haris Sohail has come back really well, he offers us left-arm spin, so we are looking for a fifth bowler and he becomes an option. So I think Usman Salahuddin and Haris Sohail could replace Misbah and Younus in the middle order,” he added.
The head coach was impressed with the progression of fast bowler Hasan Ali, who was named the player of the tournament in the Champions Trophy, and opening batsman Fakhar Zaman. That, in turn, sparked healthy internal competition for team places. “There’s no player in our system or in our structure that can just rest on their laurels,” Arthur said without naming any player. “What we always wanted to do is to achieve depth and to achieve depth in every department, and we are slowly but surely getting to that position now which is great.”
The PCB recently excluded Umar Akmal from the list of centrally-contracted players, as he failed a fitness test prior to the Champions Trophy and was flown back home. He didn’t attend a high-performance camp in Lahore and flew to England, saying he’s working on his rehabilitation. “Umar Akmal failed seven fitness test. What do you want us to do, guys?” Mickey said. “Normally, if you fail one or two fitness test 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, he bluntly declared: “We have got enough to move on without any player that doesn’t fit into our requirements and standards.” About opener Shahzad, the head coach said: “Ahmad Shahzad has no fitness problem, but he needs to improve his batting and has to show his performance to get back into the team.”
About future of Wahab Riaz, he said: “Competition in bowling department is pretty good and impressive. Young players are knocking at the door with their outstanding performances, so the seniors have to perform extraordinarily if they want to keep them in safe zone. Wahab is a good player and he really needs to work hard to get back his place in the team.”
“Right now, our Test team is pretty good while One-day team has improved a lot. Although we had lost in England yet now after the Champions Trophy victory, which was fantastic, we are getting better and better and I am really excited for future of Pakistan team,” he added.