NZ vs PAK, World Cup 2023: Mickey Arthur backs Rauf, hopes it’s not too late for a peaking Pakistan

The Pakistan team management has had to revisit its bowling efficacy as well, with Haris Rauf taking heat for his inconsistency. However, Arthur backed the pacer, stressing that there was no question of dropping the strike bowler.

Published : Nov 03, 2023 17:10 IST , BENGALURU - 5 MINS READ

| Video Credit: ICC

Pakistan finds itself in the middle of a tumultuous World Cup campaign. With its semifinal hopes hanging in the balance, the side has seen a spate of injury hiccups, the resignation of its chief selector and the call-back of team media personnel, all in the middle of a campaign where the hot seat has shown no signs of cooling down.

However, Mickey Arthur, Pakistan’s director of cricket, looked in good spirits ahead of a virtual quarterfinal against New Zealand.

“The one thing that amazes me so much with the Pakistan players is generally how calm they are,” Arthur told reporters here on Friday. “I’m a cat on a hot tin roof but the players are just really calm. They take it all in their stride. That’s the feeling I got before the Bangladesh game and it’s certainly the feeling I’m getting right now. So, yeah, we’re in a decent place,” he added.

It’s never comfortable when mathematics enters the picture during a tournament, but Arthur is happy to keep worries about permutations and combinations to the think tank, insulating the players in the process.

With intermittent showers in Bengaluru and one interrupting New Zealand’s practice session, the net run rate question might haunt Pakistan if rains persist in the South Indian city, given the Men in Green need a big win to push their NRR in a favourable direction. Arthur said these considerations were part of strategy meetings even against Bangladesh in Kolkata.

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“I had every scenario in my pocket as to if we won in 25 overs, if we won in 26 overs, 27 overs. So, we kind of knew as to how we were going to eat into the net run rate, particularly of New Zealand. What I didn’t factor into was South Africa doing us a favour the next night. I think the first thing for us, though, is we’ve got to respect our position. New Zealand is a very good team. I think they’re very well coached and well led with a lot of experience. We can start having these conversations once we get ourselves in a position (to be able to). Now, I’ll have all the information, but I won’t necessarily give it to the players until we feel the time is right to put the foot down and potentially try and close that net run rate because we’ve still got to win the game as well,” Arthur explained.

While the weather will be on Arthur’s mind, another concern is the fitness of vice captain Shadab Khan. The all-rounder was seen working with the medical team and physio as the think tank conducted a preliminary assessment of his fitness and ability to take to the field on Saturday. The 25-year-old was seen jogging around the periphery of the field before spending time with Karnataka State Cricket Association bowlers. Bowling coach Morne Morkel also oversaw drills with Shadab alongside pace duo Haris Rauf and Shaheen Afridi and the leg-spinner comfortably knocked off the stumps a couple of times.

“Shadab went through a preliminary test today, which you’ve got to do as per medical protocol. He came through that OK, but we’re in no position yet to make a decision on him. Concussion is a really important injury, and we’ve got to be 100 per cent sure before we make a decision. No decision has been made on him at the minute,” Arthur said.

The team management has had to revisit its bowling efficacy as well, with Rauf taking heat for his inconsistency. Arthur backed the pacer, stressing that there was no question of dropping the strike bowler.

“Haris Rauf does a real role for us. You know, he’s kind of our striker. So no, we wouldn’t look to change Haris Rauf because he’s got a specific role for us within the team. But there is a potential for a game plan change,” Arthur clarified.

One sign of that has been skipper Babar Azam giving Iftikhar Ahmed more overs.

“Iftikhar’s an underrated off spinner. At the start of the tournament, Babar was bowling Ifti (Iftikhar) a couple of overs. And Ifti always used to come off going, “Coach, coach, I’m a 10-over bowler.” And I love that. I love that kind of attitude from Ifti. And the longer the tournament’s gone on, the more he’s bowled and done a really good job for us,” he said.

A chunk of New Zealand’s squad plies its trade in the Indian Premier League and so the side is familiar with the batting haven that the Chinnaswamy Stadium can be. Arthur was asked if his side, who are not allowed to participate in the marquee tournament, are at a disadvantage when it comes to knowledge of surfaces and conditions.

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“I just see the headline now. No excuse, but it has been. Every ground we’ve been to has been a new venue for the players. It is exciting and the players have embraced it and enjoyed themselves because they’ve watched the IPL on TV and seen Test matches at iconic venues like Eden Gardens, Bengaluru, Hyderabad and Chennai. But of course, it’s their first time playing here so it’s taken a little bit of getting used to the conditions for them,” he explained.

Through the tournament and Pakistan’s performances or lack thereof, Arthur has been brutal with his assessment of his boys but was encouraged by what he saw against Bangladesh in Kolkata. He called it the “first complete game” his side has put together with all three departments going through the game without speed-bumps.

“I’d like to say we’re peaking, but the preparation of the guys and the attitude of the guys’ will to get better every day, that has been exceptional. So, I can’t fault anybody in terms of that. But we found our best game against Bangladesh and I just hope that’s not too late for us,” Arthur said.

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