This Series Isnt About Me Against Australia Mickey Arthur
Mickey Arthur, Pakistan's head coach, expects a frosty reception as he coaches against his former side during the first Test at the Gabba in Brisbane starting on Thursday (December 15).
A sub-plot of the three-Test series between Australia and Pakistan centres on Arthur coaching against his old team for the first time since his controversial dumping as Australian coach in mid-2013. Arthur was installed as Pakistan's coach earlier this year and took the team to the world No.1 Test ranking albeit fleetingly.
Arthur's 18-month stint as Australia's coach was soured by fracturing within the team, which hit a nadir with the embarrassing "homework-gate" scandal during the tour of India in early 2013. Previously, Arthur was coach of Western Australia for 18 months.
During this series, Arthur will be strategising against many of his former pupils, including Usman Khawaja, who was one of four players suspended in the controversial episode, which triggered Arthur's sacking.
A war of words have already ensued as Mitchell Starc, Australia's spearhead, publicly stated that the side was a "lot closer" under current coach Darren Lehmann than when Arthur was in charge.
Unperturbed, Arthur said he expected a cold reception. "I don't think there's going to be too many invitations out there [to catch up], judging by the media," Arthur said on Monday (December 12). "I have kept in contact with a couple of guys, yeah."
The South African admitted his dumping as Australia's coach would fuel the fire within. "I wouldn't be honest if I said otherwise," he said. "That's what happens. It's a ruthless world out there. I always maintain that I loved the first year and a bit of it, it was outstanding and I felt we made some significant progress.
"This series isn't about me against Australia, it's about two very good cricket teams going head to head. I hope that can be the focus," he added.
Responding to Starc's stinging critique, Arthur refused to get drawn into a verbal slanging match with Australia's strike bowler. "The team wasn't very close in those times but that's because of different characters," he said. "Since then the guys have matured and gone on... Mitchell Starc is a world-class cricketer."
As Pakistan seeks their first victory in Test cricket in Australia since 1996, Arthur believed he was armed with revealing insights into the Australian make-up due to his past experiences. "The intelligence is good ... we'll be providing a whole lot of information," he said. "Assistant coach Steve Rixon (former Australian assistant coach) knows the guys pretty well as well. The information is useless if you don't put it into practice."