'It was a poor cricket wicket, though I can understand the reason behind it'
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Mickey Arthur, the South African coach, has slammed the facilities provided to his team in Kanpur for the third Test against India that ended on Sunday, calling them "below par in everything" for an international game. Arthur, however, said that his team has not lodged any official complaint on the issue.
"We are a major cricketing power, so we should get good venues and facilities," Arthur told Cricinfo. "But Kanpur, to our disappointment, was way below par in everything. It was a poor cricket wicket, though I can understand the reason behind it. But the practice facilities and the accommodation left a lot to be desired for an international venue."
South Africa beat India by an innings and 90 runs in Ahmedabad
on a bouncy track but lost the Kanpur Test by eight wickets after their batting line-up crumbled on an under-prepared surface. "Having said that, I must say that the facilities were excellent in Chennai and also in Ahmedabad," Arthur said.
Looking back on the team's three weeks in India, Arthur said the South Africans were taken aback by the debate in India over whether their senior players need to make way for youngsters.
"To be honest, I was a little bit surprised by all that talk," he said. "Ideally, any Test team wants a blend of experience and youth. And at this moment, India are the most experienced side in world cricket. They are building youngsters. I don't think it is time for their seniors to go, in Test cricket at least. As Sourav Ganguly and VVS Laxman have shown, they are still producing valuable contributions and as long as they do that, you can't ask them to go."
The gains for South Africa from the series that was tied 1-1 after the draw in Chennai, Arthur said, was that his young players "put up their hands" when it mattered. "I would consider the development of our younger batsmen Neil McKenzie, Hashim Amla and AB de Villiers as the biggest gain from the Test series.
"There were good scores from the top order, led by the captain Graeme Smith. The senior players were excellent but the younger players put their hands up when it mattered. The other positive for me was the overall ability of our bowling attack to take 20 wickets in a game. Our bowlers attacked through the series and remained aggressive."
McKenzie logged over 341 runs in the series with a century and Amla stood firm in Chennai with a gritty 159 followed by de Villiers in Ahmedabad with an unbeaten, match-winning 217.
Looking ahead, Arthur said he was looking forward to coaching an Indian Premier League team after his national contract expires next April. "I would be seriously looking at the IPL next year if an offer comes my way.
"My coaching contract with Cricket South Africa (CSA) is up for renewal next April. So I plan to sit with the CSA and chart the way ahead after that. Of course, I would love to be part of the IPL because it's new, it's fresh and it's an exciting phase of the game. Yes, it's a major drawcard for the future. But my heart is with South Africa at the moment."
Arthur's success formula for Twenty20 cricket? "Be fearless, express yourself fully and play to your strengths. That's the essence."
Ajay Shankar is deputy editor of Cricinfo in Bangalore