The World Cup may have come around four years too soon for this Pakistan side – but coach Mickey Arthur believes that by 2023, the country will have a side that’s more than ready to challenge for global supremacy.
Pakistan came within an ace of making it through to the semi-final stage this summer, and probably would have done so were it not for a calamitous defeat to the West Indies in their opening match and a rained off fixture against Sri Lanka.
They eventually finished level on points with finalists New Zealand but with a far inferior ran-rate.
Speaking to The Cricket Paper, appropriately enough, from the departure lounge of Heathrow Airport, a couple of days after their exit, Arthur says that the country’s run of results towards the end of the tournament has given them fresh hope for the future.
Even though he might not be around in four years to preside over a team that was the youngest in this World Cup.
Arthur’s contract with Pakistan is up at the end of July and he is yet to enter talks with the Pakistan Cricket Board to extend his stay. Those discussions are likely to take place later this month in Lahore but with a number of jobs likely to become available in the near future, not least the England post being vacated by Trevor Bayliss, Arthur looks set to keep his options open.
“It was disappointing not to great through right at the end there but I was just happy that we played some really good cricket in that final part of the tournament,” he said.
“We froze in that West Indies game, which was hugely disappointing. Then we had that rained off game against Sri Lanka so we were always playing catch-up.
“After beating England we were really ready for Sri Lanka, that was probably the big loss for us. Then we went five days without cricket before hitting Australia and India, so it was pretty tough, pretty unforgiving.
“To win four in a row and play some really good entertaining cricket was excellent. That gave everyone a massive boost. You could see the confidence come back but by the end they were really down because we came here to win it and we really thought we could.
“A lot of people start talking about 1992 because it was remarkably similar for a time but there you go.”
Had Pakistan made it through then they would certainly have had momentum in their favour after wins over South Africa, New Zealand, Afghanistan and Bangladesh. It was, though, too little too late, leaving the huge crowds that followed them throughout the tournament wanting more.
“This is a very young team and I don’t think a lot of people realised that,” he says.
“By three years, we were the youngest (squad) in the competition and that was carrying a 38-year-old (in Mohammad Hafeez).
“Our best chance is definitely coming in four years. There’s a definite amount of up-side in that.
“Time will tell (whether Arthur will still be there in four years) but I’ve definitely had a fantastic time with Pakistan. I’ve loved everything about it.”
There will be plenty of speculation surrounding Arthur’s next destination, should he decide to call time on his career with the 1992 World Cup winners, with his sensational record against England potentially counting in his favour as the ECB look for a replacement for Trevor Bayliss.
It’s a thought that has definitely crossed Arthur’s mind.
“Of course the England job would interest me,” the 51-year-old Arthur says. “But as I say I’ll sit down and talk to Pakistan when I get back to Lahore in the next couple of weeks.
“I’ll see what direction they want to go, I’ve loved my time with Pakistan.”
If he does leave then he has certainly left a positive legacy for whoever succeeds him. The emergence of the likes of Babar Azam and Shaheen Afridi ensuring that Pakistan have a side packed full of youthful promise.
Indeed, in the case of the former, Arthur believes he could be viewed as the finest batsman in world cricket by the time the next tournament rolls around.
“He’s an incredible player, he’s a match-winner,” comments the Johannesburg-born Arthur.
“You’ve seen that at the World Cup. My foremost memory in this tournament was the win over New Zealand and the partnership of Babar Azam and Haris Sohail. I thought it was incredible.
“He’s an unbelievable player. Potentially, he’s the best player in the world – he has everything. I’ve been saying that for quite some time.”
We’ll just have to wait and see whether Arthur continues to watch his progress from close quarters or further afield.
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