Mickey Arthur hopes that Australia’s recent ball-tampering scandal will be “a reality check for world cricket” that makes everybody “sit back and take stock”.
Arthur, who was the head coach of Australia between 2011 and 2013 and is now in charge of Pakistan, spoke on Wednesday about his disappointment with the team but also said he felt “really sorry” for the three banned players – Steve Smith, David Warner, and Cameron Bancroft. He feels they should be allowed to play county cricket this summer because “they were really stupid but have paid a big price already”. Surrey have said they would be open to signing Smith and Warner, pending approval from the England and Wales Cricket Board.
“Australia always play their cricket really hard,” Arthur said. “They’ve pushed ‘the line’. I just want to know where the line is because I’m not sure many people do know where that line is and what it is. They’ve always played that way but I think it got to a point where perhaps, hopefully, this is a reality check for world cricket and just makes everybody sit back and take stock. Hopefully something good comes out if it.”
Actions speak louder than words, of course, and Arthur will have a chance to be as good on his in the next few weeks, during which his Pakistan team play a Test against Ireland and then two against England.
Arthur was full of praise for England on Wednesday, saying: “It’s a little bit early to get too controversial.” There have been plenty of bad-tempered series between Pakistan and England although though the last one in Britain, in 2016, was a lot less fractious than the two before it, which were marred by ball-tampering and spot-fixing scandals.
Arthur is certainly pushing through major changes in the way Pakistan go about the rest of their cricket as part of an attempt to “resurrect” their Test team after two years of bad results.
In that time they have beaten West Indies four times but lost all the other nine Tests they have played. Which is one reason why their squad for this tour is so fresh. It includes seven men who are 24 or under, and five who have never played Test cricket before. Altogether the squad have only 242 Test caps, while Jimmy Anderson and Stuart Broad have more than that between the two of them. “They are a young group,” Arthur adds. “There is a lot of vibrancy in this team. They are fit and raring to go. This bunch have a first crack at rebuilding the side.”
There are some conspicuous omissions, such as Wahab Riaz. Arthur has been blunt about his reasons for dropping him. “He has not won us a game in two years,” he said this year. He was just as tough on Kamran Akmal, who has not played a Test in seven years but was in the limited-overs side last year and has been in superb form in the Pakistan Super League. “If you can’t field you can’t play for Pakistan,” Arthur said. “It’s as simple as that.”
Fawad Alam, who has scored more than 10,000 runs at 55 in first-class cricket, also missed out on selection. He has signed to play with Clitheroe in the Lancashire League instead.
The chair of selectors, Inzamam-ul-Haq, explained that last decision by saying that he had seen “better players in the last three years”. One of them is his own nephew, Imam-ul-Haq, who is one of the five new boys in the Test squad. Inzamam explained that he left the room when Arthur and his assistant Grant Flower were deciding whether or not to pick Imam for the tour. It all means Arthur has come in for some fierce criticism back in Pakistan, where Abdul Qadir described him as an “incompetent white man who has never played Test cricket” and “someone who was kicked out by South Africa and Australia”.
Arthur has been too busy working to worry. He ran a four-week camp in Lahore before this tour and the team also have two first-class games organised, against Kent and Northamptonshire. But still, Yasir Shah is recovering from a stress fracture, which means the spin bowling will be done by the 19‑year‑old Shadab Khan. And Mohammad Amir, who is by far the most experienced of thefast bowlers quicks in the squad, arrived late because he had problems getting a visa.