Pakistan coach Mickey Arthur has said the team playing an outdated style of ODI cricket has endangered their chances of direct qualification to the 2019 World Cup. The top seven countries and the host are automatically chosen to feature in the showpiece event every four years, but Pakistan are ranked No. 9 and the cut-off date is a year away. Arthur has advised the players and the PCB that to move up the ladder they need to play "high risk, high octane" cricket and added he won't shy away from dropping big names who do not deliver.
"With the brand of cricket they are playing, definitely," Arthur said when asked if Pakistan were lagging behind in 50-over cricket. "We can't play that brand of cricket anymore. We have got to be brave. You have got to take the game on."
There are only 14 ODIs scheduled before the September 30, 2017 deadline. If Pakistan do not improve their ranking, they would have to compete in a qualifying tournament in April 2018. Ten teams would go in. Only two teams would go through.
"I have to be realistic," Arthur told ESPNcricinfo in a wide-ranging interview in Manchester. "We haven't got the time, but we have started the journey now. We will have to start again. I have got a really good feel for personnel and the areas we need to improve on. I have looked at people we can work with, people we can bring in and I am comfortable we will be okay. We have got the way to go and it is a journey.
"If we keep picking the same [players] we are going to get the same [results]. And we will be sitting at No. 9 in the world. We have nothing to lose. We just have to invest in some players. I know for a fact that from the first ODI to the fifth [in England] we changed the whole brand and style of cricket." Although Pakistan lost that series 1-4, they rounded off the tour with a couple of morale-boosting wins, including a nine-wicket rout in the only T20 in Manchester.
Arthur admitted his players have a history of being insecure about their places, which in turn impacted their performance on the field. He wanted that to change immediately and drastically. "I want us to play an attacking brand of cricket, a brand that is good to watch, a brand that inspires the players to play and gives you so much more gratification from your supporters. It must be a brand that challenges, it must be a brand that stimulates, but it must be a brand that is encapsulated by fun."
Arthur was introduced to the cricket culture in the country during his stint as coach of the Karachi Kings at the Pakistan Super League in 2015. Three months after the season ended, he was named head coach of the national side. Among the first things he did in that capacity was to tell the players he would not tolerate any reluctance in meeting the proper fitness standards.
"We have got a responsibility to the people of Pakistan and I have got the massive responsibility to the PCB to get it right," Arthur said. "And I certainly won't be compromising on any of that. And the players know that: I have spoken to them directly. You arrive like that again [unfit], you won't play."
He pointed to the examples set by Misbah-ul-Haq, 42, and Younis Khan, 38, the oldest members of the Test squad and the "fittest players in Pakistan cricket," to make the squad understand what it took to excel in the international arena.
"There is no coincidence that that's why they are the best performers over the last year," Arthur said. "They drive themselves. They take responsibility for their fitness. Shoaib Malik, in the one-day squad, in his mid-30s, fantastic, fitness-wise. He is lean, he is mean. I want the young guys to do that. That is true professionalism. I don't think that has been driven in the youngsters properly."
In England, Arthur cut a particularly frustrated figure at the press conference while answering a question about Mohammad Irfan, who was flown in as a replacement player and injured himself after bowling only five overs in the Headingley ODI.
"Mohammad Irfan comes out here and he is clearly not fit enough to play one-day cricket. If there were individual-player plans and definite markers on where he should have been, we would have known. We didn't know."
Arthur also made sure to have a one-on-one chat with the 34-year-old fast bowler to make sure there were no misunderstandings. "I had him in my room after the Cardiff ODI. I told him, 'I can't select you for the next game [because] I am not sure you can get through ten overs. I can't select you for the T20 because I am not sure you can get through even four overs. You started cramping in your fourth over the other night, so how can we take the risk and play you?' But now Mohammad Irfan has gone back to Pakistan with a training programme that is custom-made for him, which gives him the best possible opportunity to come back and play for Pakistan.
"There is nothing personal, but enough is enough. We have to set some real standards to make people understand that we are pretty serious about players arriving unfit. Every player who arrived on this ODI and T20 tour has been below standard, which is not a good place to be."
Read part 1 of Mickey Arthur's interview here