For a team which was struggling badly in the limited-overs formats over the last few years, the discernible change in their body language could not have been predicted even by the most optimistic of their supporters.
According to senior member Wahab Riaz, the transformation was started from the moment Arthur took over the mantle of head coach. Although they veered from bad to worse during the ODI series in England which culminated in them conceding a world record 444 at Nottingham, the victory in the fifth match kick started their arduous rejuvenation.
Following a dominant performance in the solitary T20I at Manchester, Pakistan managed to etch together a couple of thumping wins in the T20I series against West Indies.
Mickey Arthur has brought confidence and fearlessness to the side, says Riaz
Speaking to Sport360, Wahab claimed, “We know the kind of cricket we are playing, we are still behind other teams but what he started to bring in is a kind of confidence and that kind of fearlessness that our batters take the bowlers on and our bowlers take the batters on. We feel that we shouldn’t be afraid of underperforming, we should go and give our best regardless of results and whether it is a positive or negative.”
He added, “What (Arthur) requires is the effort, which I would say is the main thing he has brought. He’s talking to the guys about what sort of roles they have to perform and they don’t have to worry about anything else. I think that’s the big difference.”
“It’s a fearlessness because we were always thinking in the back of our mind whether we would be playing the next game or not. Mickey has tried to communicate with his players and he’s taken the fear out of it.“
Emphasis on fitness
One of the major differences has been a renewed emphasis on improving the fitness levels of the players.
With the modern day white-ball formats demanding rapid running between the wickets in order to convert singles into twos and threes, Pakistani batsmen have shifted their mindset from targeting the boundaries to piercing the gaps. The fielding also seems to be gathering pace.
Highlighting the positive dressing room atmosphere, Riaz said, “There’s a different kind of belief. I think it’s a big thing and something really missing from the Pakistan team for a very long time. But now, we will see how this team is supporting each other and trying to perform for each and everyone.”
“Arthur knows what he wants of his team. I think that was a positive thing that he did because all of the players are focused on doing well and they know that if they give 100% then he will back you up.”
While Sarfraz Ahmed is the T20I team’s captain, Azhar Ali will return to lead Pakistan for the 3-match ODI series starting on Friday at Sharjah.