Understanding different cultures most important in international coaching: Arthur

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08 Jan 2020 | 08:08 AM
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Understanding different cultures most important in international coaching: Arthur

The Sri Lankan head coach also indicated that left-arm pacer Isuru Udana is unlikely to feature in the third and final T20I

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Veteran coach Mickey Arthur has stressed on the importance of understanding "team culture" as a foreigner and building the side around it, something he could not understand with Australia but is in the process of doing so with Sri Lanka, his fourth international coaching assignment.

The 51-year-old started his journey as an international coach with native South Africa, taking the Proteas to the number one spot in Tests during his tenure from 2005 to 2010. It was under him that South Africa won their maiden Test series in Australia.

His next assignment with Australia from 2010 to 2013 did not end on a pleasant note as he was sacked in the wake of "homework gate" scandal during the 2013 tour of India. Arthur then guided Pakistan to the 2017 Champions Trophy title and it was under him they flourished as a T20 unit.

"I love experiencing different cultures. South Africa was different to Australia and Australia was totally different to Pakistan. And Pakistan is different to Sri Lanka in so many ways. That is one of the challenges of coaching, that's what makes it so special," said Arthur following Sri Lanka's seven-wicket loss to India.

However, PCB did not renew his contract following the 2019 World Cup, where Pakistan narrowly missed out on a semi-final berth.

Arthur was appointed Sri Lanka coach last month on a two-year contract. Having gained rich experience in international coaching, Arthur says he has learnt his lessons.

"Getting in and building a team that is representative of that culture, and that is the most important thing, that the culture comes first. That is probably something I got wrong with Australia.

"As long as you've got good players, selfless players, players that play and are committed to a cause. As long as you've got those guys, you can achieve great things. And I think in the Sri Lankan dressing room, we have got those players."

Arthur has taken over a team that has been struggling ever since the likes of Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara retired. He acknowledged it being a massive challenge.

"I told the boys in the dressing room that we have got to go to the 2020 World Cup (T20), qualify We first have to qualify to get into the main draw and that is the reality of where we are at," he said, referring to Sri Lanka's seventh rank.

"The exciting thing for me though is that there is a very young core group of players and they are very skilled. But we need to coach game plans, match awareness, Pakistan was a team that was ranked No.9 in T20 cricket and we got Pakistan to win 11 series in a row -- we did not play India -- and got ourselves to No 1 in the world. There were good values because we used the sum of our parts. And that is kind of what I see with Sri Lanka."

"It is going to be a challenge, we've got eight months to that 2020 World Cup, I am thinking even one World Cup further than that -- I am thinking (about) coming back here in 2021 when the guys would be a real finished article, but it is going to take a lot of work."

Another side which has been struggling since the retirement of senior players is South Africa. However, Arthur sees them bouncing back under the new management comprising the likes of Graeme Smith and Mark Boucher.

"...those with whom I was intricately involved with during my time in coaching -- Jacques Kallis Charl Langaveldt, Paul Harris -- it is good to see them back and I certainly think they are going to make a massive difference to South African cricket," he said.

Asked whether the quotas for coloured players is affecting South Africa cricket, Arthur said it can't be used as an excuse anymore.

"It was something that had to happen. We can't keep using that as an excuse because players that are playing now, are playing on merit. You can look at the Rugby World Cup winning team, every player starts playing.

"(Kagiso) Rabada and those guys are playing because they are the best players. I think South African cricket is past that now."

Commenting on Sri Lanka's batting performance against India in the second T20, the South African said the visiting team has a long way to go.

"...we have got some serious work to do in terms of game-plan, match awareness and playing the big moments. I think we had 49 dot balls tonight, which is too many, as the best teams in the world (would) have 25 dot balls.

"There is too many big shots without the ability to keep rotating the strike. If you cut those 49 (dot balls) by 24 then you have got another 24 to score off, and with strike rotation you put the bowlers off a little bit.

"You (may) get a bad ball, an extra boundary, and suddenly we are up to 170. And with that you can challenge the likes of a very good Indian team," he explained.

Amazing to see how India nurtures its young players: Arthur 

Arthur feels that international cricket teams can learn from India on how to nurture young players and empower them with responsibilities at critical junctures.

Be it in the bowling or batting department, cricketing powerhouse India has built a solid bench strength for all formats under Virat Kohli's leadership. And that has left Arthur impressed.

"It has been interesting watching them introduce young players and giving them responsibility at critical times, that has been so good. And seeing those young players respond has been amazing. I think India in cricket is in really, really good shape at the moment," said the 51-year-old Arthur responded to a query.

"You look at someone like KL Rahul he hit some shots that were absolutely amazing. India along with probably Australia now I think Australia have found their mojo again are certainly the flagbearers in world cricket," said Arthur.

Before Sri Lanka, Arthur coached South Africa (2005-10), Australia (2010-13) and Pakistan (2016-19).

India are not as strong in the T20 format as they in the other two formats but Arthur can barely find any chink in their armoury.

"They are a great cricket team and there are no apparent weaknesses."

Arthur has taken over a Sri Lankan team in transition and know that it is very much a work in progress. Most of the Sri Lankan batsmen threw it away after getting starts and that did not go down well the head coach. India chased down the 143-run target in 17.3 overs.

"We did not get enough runs. We lost one of our bowlers (Isuru Udana) unfortunately in the warm-up, but I think we were about 20-25 runs short of putting India under some pressure. We had a couple of our batsmen getting starts, but starts are not good enough. Somebody needs to get a 60-70 or 80 for us, and that is going to be the journey for us."

Arthur admitted that it would take some time for the young batting unit to gain some confidence.

"It is quite a young batting unit. For us as coaching staff and players, we have got some serious work to do in terms of gameplan, match awareness and playing the big moments. I think we had 49 dot balls tonight, which is too many, as the best teams in the world (would) have 25 dot balls."

The coach wants his players to rotate the strike more often than trying to hit every ball out of the park.

"That is something we need to keep working on. There are too many big shots without the ability to keep rotating the strike. If you cut those 49 (dot balls) by 24 then you have got another 24 to score off, and with strike rotation you put the bowlers off a little bit, you (may) get a bad ball, an extra boundary, and suddenly we are up to 170. And with that you can challenge the likes of a very good Indian team, added Arthur. 

Injured Udana virtually ruled out of third T20

Arthur also indicated that left-arm pacer Isuru Udana is unlikely to feature in the third and final T20 International against India in Pune on Friday after sustaining a back injury during a warm-up session.

Sri Lanka missed Udana's services while defending a meagre 143 against India after the bowler injured his back just before Sri Lanka went out to bowl.

"Look, I'm no doctor. He was in a hell of a lot of pain in the dressing room. What the diagnosis is I honestly don't know. I just hope we can get him back for the West Indies series," Sri Lanka coach Mickey Arthur said.

With Sri Lanka having a packed calendar, Arthur doesn't want to risk Udana, who has been one of Sri Lanka's best T20 bowlers in recent times.

"We've got so much cricket the middle of February. I even think that could be a push. So, yeah, I just hope the best for him. It's something in the back," added the South Africa, who was appointed Sri Lanka's head coach last month.

Sri Lanka did not pick the experienced Angelo Mathews for the second game in a row. Mathews has made a T20 comeback after 16 months. Asked if he could play the final game in Pune, Arthur said: "After the batting performance, everybody has a chance of playing."

The series opener was washed out in Guwahati. Sri Lanka, who has not won a series against India across formats in more than 10 years, will aim to make it 1-1 in Pune.

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