No new contracts for Mickey Arthur & Co as PCB plans post-World Cup overhaul

Cricket

Mickey Arthur‘s time as Pakistan’s head coach will end next week with the PCB deciding against renewing his contract. The board’s decision means that nearly the entire coaching staff – batting coach Grant Flower, bowling coach Azhar Mahmood, and fitness trainer Grant Luden – will not have their contracts extended.

According to a statement released by the PCB on Wednesday, the board will be “immediately undertaking a robust recruitment process” to fill these roles ahead of Pakistan’s next international commitment, a Test series against Sri Lanka in October.

With the contracts of Arthur, Flower, Azhar and Luden all scheduled to end on August 15 anyway, none of the coaches has been sacked per se. But Arthur, certainly, had expressed an eagerness to continue: in an exhaustive review conducted by the PCB after the World Cup, Arthur asked for a chance to present his report, which was widely seen as a chance for him to defend his record and make a case for an extension.

“The unanimous recommendation of the Committee was that it was time for new leadership and a fresh approach. I am happy to accept their strong recommendations”

Ehsan Mani

The decisions were arrived at following a five-hour PCB cricket committee meeting on Monday, in which Arthur was grilled about his performance with the team over the last three years. He was keen to continue, and ESPNcricinfo understands that he asked for two more years at the job.

Ehsan Mani, the PCB chairman, said in a statement: “I am thankful to the PCB Cricket Committee for submitting their recommendations following an exhaustive and detailed review process. The committee comprised of individuals who possess tremendous acumen, experience and knowledge. The unanimous recommendation of the Committee was that it was time for new leadership and a fresh approach. I am happy to accept their strong recommendations.

“On behalf of the PCB, I want to sincerely thank Mickey Arthur, Grant Flower, Grant Luden and Azhar Mahmood for their hard work and unwavering commitment during their tenures with the national men’s team. We wish them every success in their future endeavors.”

This means five key people will be out of the set-up following Pakistan’s fifth-place finish at the World Cup, with chief selector Inzamam-ul-Haq having earlier decided against contract renewal once his stint ended in July. The only survivor from the coaching staff is fielding coach Grant Bradburn, whose contract runs until September 2021.

Bradburn’s continuation underscores the PCB’s stated position that no one has been removed, their contracts just haven’t been renewed. However, with the men leaving interested in staying on, it’s really a distinction without a difference.

Arthur was appointed as head coach in May 2016 after Pakistan’s disappointing performance at the World T20 in 2016 ended with Waqar Younis’ stint coming to a close. Arthur immediately adopted a tough stance on the fitness and fielding standards of the players and brought in Steve Rixon as fielding coach. Several players were cast aside – Umar Akmal, Mohammad Irfan, Wahab Riaz and Sohail Khan for example – for not being at the levels Arthur wanted, while Pakistan’s fielding numbers soared under Rixon’s watch; in the 12 months before he left in June 2018, Pakistan were a better fielding side than South Africa and Australia.

Under Arthur, Pakistan reached the top spot in the T20I rankings and, following a 2-2 series draw in England in 2016 – his first assignment as head coach – they rose to the top of the Test rankings. That didn’t last long, though, as Pakistan endured a disappointing run in the format after that, losing nine of the following 11 matches they played, including a 2-0 loss at home to Sri Lanka. It was Pakistan’s first Test series loss in the UAE since it became their home away from home. Overall, Pakistan won 10 and lost 17 of the Test matches played under Arthur, by far the most disappointing aspect of his coaching record with the side.

But there were also concerns that his robust, high-intensity methods, and no-nonsense headmasterly style of coaching was beginning to wear out his players. There was a high-profile falling out with Umar Akmal in 2017, following which the player was sidelined for over a year, only to play in a five-match ODI series where Pakistan rested half-a-dozen frontline players. Then, in South Africa last year, Arthur had a go at several players following a second-innings collapse in Centurion, and also had tough words for Babar Azam following a loss against England in a five-match ODI series in May this year. Babar had scored a hundred in the game, but Arthur felt his strike rate was a contributing factor to the defeat.

Flower’s departure, meanwhile, means Pakistan have let go of the longest-serving member of the coaching staff. Flower, who ESPNcricinfo understands was also willing to continue, was appointed in May 2014, and it was during this time that Sarfaraz Ahmed emerged as Pakistan’s No. 1 wicketkeeper-batsman in Test cricket, and players like Babar, Imam-ul-Haq and Fakhar Zaman all broke through.

The highest point for the team, of course, was winning the Champions Trophy in 2017, when everything came together brilliantly. Arthur was the motivator as Pakistan turned a thumping early loss to India around with four wins on the trot. The top-order batting clicked in semi-final and final thrashings of England and India, while the pace bowling in those two games was exquisite. The fielding still hadn’t touched the heights it would in the 12 months to follow, but there were signs that a corner was being turned.

Now, they have chosen to try and turn another corner and they will have to do it with a whole new group of people for company and guidance.

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