Sunday’s World Cup match against arch-rivals India is a gilt-edged opportunity for every Pakistani player to etch his name into cricketing folklore, coach Mickey Arthur said. The soldout clash will be Pakistan’s seventh attempt to beat India in a 50-over World Cup match and South African Arthur has reminded them the bigger rewards that await them if they can break the jinx. As bilateral cricket remains suspended because of political tensions, the neighbours meet each other only in ICC events with emotions running high in both countries. “It doesn’t get more exciting,” Arthur said of the hotly-anticipated contest at Old Trafford.
“I’m telling our players in the dressing room, ‘you could be a hero tomorrow. Your careers are going to be defined by a moment in the game. You do something incredible tomorrow, you’ll be remembered forever. Our mantra is ‘how do you want to be remembered?’ We’ve got 15 incredible cricketers in that dressing room, and we keep stressing to them ‘how do you want to be remembered? You’re the class of 2019. What are they going to say about you in history?’And tomorrow presents an unbelievable opportunity for these guys to really make a mark.”
Arthur’s approach was in contrast to that of India captain Kohli, who sought to play down the hype around the match. Inconsistency has again plagued Pakistan’s campaign with Sarfaraz Ahmed’s men shocking hosts England but going down to West Indies and Australia. The “perfect match” that Arthur demands from his team has not materialised but their victory over India in the final of the 2017 Champions Trophy at the Oval could be an inspiration for Pakistan.
“That’s a long time ago. We’re concentrating at the moment on our own games because we know, if we put three disciplines together, we can beat anybody in the world,” Arthur said. “We haven’t put the perfect game together yet. Our disciplines have been good with the bat, have been okay with the ball and okay in the field. If we put the perfect game together, we can beat everybody.” Arthur took charge of a mercurial Pakistan side in 2016 following his stints with South Africa
Since then, the 51-year-old said, he has tried to bring in more consistency but was not too unhappy with the side being branded “unpredictable”. “I like to think we’ve become a lot more structured as a team. I think there’s been a lot more role clarity given to players… I certainly think our gap between being very, very good and very bad is a lot closer, and I do think that we’re playing a game now that is a little bit more consistent. But that unpredictability tag always sort of hangs around the Pakistan team, and that makes us very exciting.”