Mickey Arthur’s grasp of Afrikaans was given a rare test on Friday as he explained how he believed the Pakistan team he coaches can win a Test series in the land of his birth.
Arthur’s brief Afrikaans replies at a press engagement, brought a laugh out Pakistan’s captain Sarfraz Ahmed, but Arthur was deadly serious about his belief that the tourists could beat South Africa.
“We have a very exciting young team that’s starting to gel well together,’ said Arthur. “We’ve played unbelievable white ball cricket, our 50-over team is on the up, our T20 has been exceptional, but we are trying to build up a Test team at the moment, it’s young but very exciting. We really think we have a good chance out here.”
Pakistan’s recent record suggests Arthur’s optimism may be misplaced. In the last two years, they’ve won six out of 16 Tests and lost nine times. As has become the norm for teams from the sub-continent that tour this country, it’s the batting that will be under heavy scrutiny on pitches the South African team hopes will hard and quick.
However Arthur, who coached the Proteas between 2005 and 2010, feels his team – particularly the batsmen – will enjoy themselves here. “I’ve told our batting group, that they bat better outside the United Arab Emirates (where Pakistan plays its home matches) than they do in the UAE. They batted exceptionally well in England. There are some very talented young batters there, who bat on off stump not on leg stump any more, cover the bounce, the pace and swing, they play very, very well in these conditions.”
Pakistan drew that series in England 1-1 earlier this year, with their batting failing badly in the second Test. That highlighted an area Arthur has been working hard on to rectify. “I hate the word inconsistency because everything we are trying to do with Pakistan is to make us more consistent and with that comes our training, our structures, our roles and role clarity.”
The same questions that there are about the batting there won’t be about the bowling with the tourists boasting an impressive array of talent that their coach feels can put South Africa under pressure. “Our attack is exceptionally skillful in all conditions. We know we have an attack that can comfortably take 20 wickets, our challenge is to score 350, 400...if we can get runs on the board we know we can take 20 wickets in all conditions.”
Mohammad Amir, Hasan Ali and the young left-armer Shaheen Shah Afridi provide pace and Mohammad Abbas – who is still rehabbing after a shoulder injury – is an exceptionally skillful bowler capable of extracting any assistance there is in a surface much like Vernon Philander.
The first Test will be played at SuperSport Park in Centurion starting on Boxing Day.@shockerhess