Mickey Arthur has described coaching Pakistan to a shock triumph in last summer’s Champions Trophy as “personal redemption” after being sacked by Australia on the eve of the 2013 Ashes.
The South African was dismissed less than three weeks before the start of the series in England five years ago and replaced by Darren Lehmann after Cricket Australia felt his disciplinarian approach was proving counterproductive, with the infamous ‘homeworkgate’ upsetting several senior players.
“I took a hit, I absolutely did,” Arthur tells John Stern in the latest issue of Wisden Cricket Monthly. “It knocked my confidence. I’d had great success and that was my first real failure. It hit me hard. That was why I was so keen to get another international gig.”
Arthur’s appointment as Pakistan coach in May 2016 came as a surprise to some, but he proved his detractors wrong last summer as his side recovered from a humbling defeat to India in their opening match of the Champions Trophy to win four games on the bounce and lift the trophy, thrashing a much-fancied Indian side in the final.
“Those were the best three weeks of my coaching career,” he says. “To come back from the smashing we got against India at Edgbaston and not lose again. To keep building, to see guys start to believe in themselves and a team start to take shape, with young players developing their skills, was just so rewarding. Ultimately to win an ICC event with a very young Pakistan side was amazing. It was phenomenal.
“And for me there was so much personal redemption. It gave us [coaches] so much belief that we were doing the right thing and it gave the players so much belief that we were guiding them in the right direction. To see the country celebrate… 210 million people. I arrived back in Lahore the other day and people are still thanking us! But it was much more than winning a trophy – it gave belief and hope to the country.”
Arthur admits he has learnt lessons from his time as coach of Australia, not least that he underestimated the power of the team culture – something which has been a major talking point in recent weeks following the ball-tampering controversy.
“I thought I could run Australia like I did South Africa and that experience taught me I couldn’t,” he says. “People think South Africa and Australia are similar but culturally there are some massive differences.
“I often feel in Australia it is all about the players, whereas in South Africa there’s a level of respect, that players listen to the coach. South African players always wanted structure and direction but with Australia it was more, ‘What do you want, what do you need’.”
Arthur is now busy preparing his side for a historic Test match in Ireland, before a two-Test series in England, beginning at Lord’s on May 24. He believes Pakistan’s players have responded well to a change of approach under his stewardship.
“When I came to Pakistan I checked out what the system needed and how I could adapt culturally,” he says. “I didn’t come in firing from the start, I listened a lot more then changed what I thought needed changing. The players are unbelievably talented and skilful but we needed to push them through their comfort zones. We’ve brought a culture of real hard work and training which has shaken up the system a lot.
“It’s been a tough, hard approach and a lot of players are feeling challenged. But the guys are seeing the benefit of that and responding unbelievably well.”
To read the Mickey Arthur interview in full, and expert analysis of the ball-tampering saga from Kumar Sangakkara and Lawrence Booth, you can buy your copy of Wisden Cricket Monthly here