A crushing victory at the hands of India has given Pakistan a “reality check” according to their coach Mickey Arthur.
Saying that “the magnitude of the occasion” had got to his team, Arthur admitted they did the simple things wrong as they were thrashed by 124 runs in their 2017 Champions Trophy opener on Sunday. It leaves them requiring victories from their final two games against Sri Lanka and South Africa to have any chance of progressing to the semi-finals.
“We were below par,” Arthur said. “It’s as simple as that. And it’s a reality check of where we are in our one-day cricket at the moment.
“The worrying thing for me – and it has been for a period of time – is we just do the basics wrong. We do the simple things wrong. We drop simple catches. We don’t run well enough between wickets. We don’t hit the keeper with our throws and we don’t understand when to bowl our variations. We bowled a really good over and then we bowled a variation with our sixth ball and that’s the ball that ended up going for a boundary. So it’s the simplicity of those things that are worrying me at the moment.”
Pakistan’s fielding was particularly poor – they dropped several chances and their ground fielding was sloppy – with Arthur suggesting early errors set the tone for a bitterly disappointing performance.
“We talk about setting the tone up front,” he said. “But we didn’t set tone up front. We had a couple of guys that were in the clouds at the start and that sets tone. For us to have a performance as tentative as that right from the start is a worry and the only thing I can think of is the magnitude of the occasion got to them.
“My issue is fear. My issue is them getting out there and really looking to take the game on and just believing in themselves and believing that they can take the game on.”
There was also concern over the fitness of several Pakistan players. Mohammad Amir had to leave the field after one ball in what would have been his ninth over, the 44th, after an attack of cramp – something of a surprise on a rainy day in Birmingham. Wahab Riaz finished that over for Amir but his miserable game ended early when he twisted his ankle on the fifth ball of the 46th, an injury which not only left him unable to finish the over but prevented him from coming out to bat at the end of Pakistan’s innings. Hasan Ali also suffered an attack of cramp.
“I don’t know why they’re cramping,” Arthur said. “That’s something that I need to take up with the medical team.
“Wahab was fully fit. He went through a fitness test. He was declared fully fit. He performed poorly today. But he had a role to play. And I’ll take the blame, me, I’ll take it. I selected him. I selected him because I wanted him to perform a role. He didn’t execute that role, unfortunately.
“So sometimes it works out. Sometimes it doesn’t. We picked Shadab Khan ahead of Fahim Ashraf today. That worked really well. I thought Shadab was outstanding. So, sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn’t.”
Despite the poor outing, Arthur defended Pakistan’s record in recent times and insisted the team should not be judged on one bad day.
“It’s a total insult to say we’re playing even worse,” he said. “If you have a look at our records over the last year we’ve won two series. We’ve got ourselves from No. 9 to No. 8 in the rankings and our brand of cricket has changed.
“We had a poor game today. But we’re obviously trying our best and we’re trying to change it. It’s not going to happen overnight. We’re trying every day. Every time we go down to training, we try and get the basics right. We didn’t do it today. And that’s disappointing.
“We’ll have a good, hard chat tonight. And then when we leave the dressing room it will all be done and we’ll be thinking firmly of coming back and beating South Africa. Because that’s what I think our players can do. So, we’re going to be up for the fight. I’d be really disappointed if we walked away and for the rest of the tournament sort of hit our heads because we’re better than that.”