Asia Cup 2018

Mickey Arthur reveals the reason behind Pakistan’s poor performance in Asia Cup

DUBAI: Pakistan lost by nine wickets to India in their Super Four match on Sunday with Coach Mickey Arthur stating that the team is suffering from a confidence crisis.

“They are suffering a bit of a confidence crisis at the moment. There is a little bit of a fear of failure in the dressing room. There is a bit of a reality check of where we are as a cricket team,” Arthur told reporters.

Arthur said it was disappointing that the team could not capitalize on chances presented during the match against India. “When you let these guys get in on a wicket like this, they dominate you.

We need to get into their middle order as quickly as we can because that is when we can inflict the most damage and assert pressure like they did to us.”

The coach said Pakistan had to be realistic and realize that they were beaten by a really good Indian team.

“In terms of worst performance, I guess nine wickets it has got to be up there. But we are on a journey and we will just get better and stronger from this.”

Arthur stressed that India had some good players and if they were given an inch they would make the Pakistani team pay.

Arthur cited the example of Fakhar Zaman to underline the confidence crisis theory.

Fakhar has looked far from settled when India have tried to attack him by bowling at the stumps, and has failed to provide his usual freewheeling starts. At the end of the first Powerplay on Sunday, he had limped to 12 off 31 balls.

Fakhar Zaman punches through the off side © AFP

“We know cricket is a confidence game,” Arthur said. “Look at Fakhar Zaman, he’s an incredible player, he’s an X-factor player and we expect him to take the game on at the top of the order, but he’s doubting his game a little at the moment. We’ve got to just ride the wave with him. If we do that, when he comes out, he’ll be a better player for this. We’ve banked the work, the work is all done.”

Arthur’s second concern was Pakistan’s bowlers and their deviation from set plans. Mohammad Amir has been wicket-less for five straight ODIs now, stretching back to the tour of Zimbabwe in July. He’s now bowled 35.4 overs since taking his last ODI wicket, and this barren spell even led to his being left out of the game against Afghanistan on Friday.

Mohammad Amir has averaged more than 40 with the ball since the Champions Trophy 2017 final © ESPNcricinfo Ltd

He was specifically brought back because Pakistan were playing India on a fresh surface with slightly more pace and carry compared to the other surfaces in this tournament, but his returns weren’t any better: 5-0-41-0.

Shadab Khan too was rendered ineffective on the same surface where India’s wristspinners, Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav, bottled up Pakistan’s middle order and finished with combined figures of 4 for 87.

Pakistan’s Shadab Khan, left, celebrates with teammates the dismissal of India’s captain Rohit Sharma during the one day international cricket match of Asia Cup between India and Pakistan in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Wednesday, Sept. 19, 2018. (AP Photo/Aijaz Rahi)

“There was inconsistency in lines and lengths, and it’s disappointing,” Arthur said. “We went into panic mode. Once they got in, we started searching for wickets. The way you get wickets is, you’ve got to build pressure. We didn’t stay with our plans long enough. Our plans was to hit the hard lengths, hit top of off with our seamers, and then have the ability to put them under pressure in the middle. We’ve got to attack to take wickets, it didn’t happen and we weren’t patient enough. There were plans but they weren’t executed for long enough.”

The Pakistan coach also disagreed that Sarfraz Ahmed’s captaincy was a reason for India walking home unchallenged. He explained that the decision to bat first, on what is increasingly looking like a chasing ground, was a collective one, taken only because the confidence crisis he referred to earlier could have hurt the batsmen while chasing, particularly against India’s spinners.

Pakistan cricket captain Sarfraz Ahmed leaves the field after being dismissed during the one day international (ODI) Asia Cup cricket match between Pakistan and India at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium in Dubai on September 19, 2018. (Photo by Ishara S. KODIKARA / AFP) (Photo credit should read ISHARA S. KODIKARA/AFP/Getty Images)

“I have heard from the outside how we should’ve bowled first here, bat first there, but honestly, we look at how best we can win,” Arthur said. “We believe if we can get runs on the board and strike with the new ball, we can put India under pressure. We don’t want to expose our middle order against their spinners in a run chase, it’s going to just get bigger and bigger and bigger and our batsmen are going to get under pressure even more.”

One of the solutions to the confidence crisis, he insisted, was to repose faith in the captain and allow him time and space to develop as a leader. “He’s great, his captaincy is growing,” he said, when asked if pressure was weighing Sarfraz down.

Pakistan Cricket Team Coach Mickey Arthur and Captain Sarfraz Ahmed in a lighter mood. Photo: ICC

“I’ve had the privilege to work with two outstanding captains (Graeme Smith and Michael Clarke), he’s the third. He’s a learning captain, the only one I’ve seen having a balance between on the field and off the field. Yes, we sit and debrief after every game in terms of tactics, he’s developing into a very, very good captain for Pakistan without a doubt.”

There’s a silver lining for Pakistan yet. They still have a chance to make the final against India by beating Bangladesh on Wednesday. Arthur prescribed some fine-tuning of skills and mental make-up to help them bounce back.

“It’s a confidence thing. Certainly in terms of the amount of work these guys have put in, it’s second to none,” he said. “These guys work every day on their catching, but the minute one goes down, it’s kind of like a disease. It catches off and catches on.

It takes one good catch, one good innings or a five-for to turn it around and we will get the confidence back then. We’ve got to trust the skills to come out in the end. We’ve banked the work. It’s time for that to pay off.”



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