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'I want to win every game we play' - Mickey Arthur keen to get started on Derbyshire project

England vacancy not on the radar as much-travelled coach prepares for first county stint

Matt Roller
Matt Roller
Mickey Arthur finished up as Sri Lanka coach in order to take the Derbyshire job  •  AFP via Getty Images

Mickey Arthur finished up as Sri Lanka coach in order to take the Derbyshire job  •  AFP via Getty Images

Mickey Arthur insisted that the thought of applying for the vacant role as England head coach had "not even crossed my mind" at his unveiling as Derbyshire's head of cricket, but conceded that he hopes to coach an international team again at some stage in the future.
Arthur left his role as Sri Lanka's head coach after their Test series against West Indies in December and is among the best-travelled international coaches in the world, having enjoyed previous stints with South Africa, Australia and Pakistan.
Arthur started his new role at Derbyshire last week after a delay due to visa issues and was introduced to the media on Tuesday. While he conceded that Derbyshire - who won only six games across formats last summer - are "an unfashionable county", he said that he wanted to buy into "a project" and that he had grown tired of the international treadmill.
"I'd been in the subcontinent for five years with Pakistan and Sri Lanka," Arthur said, "but I've been doing international cricket non-stop for 12 years. My Sri Lankan time coincided with the pandemic which meant we had 264 days in a bubble last year. My family are in Perth, my eldest daughter is in South Africa, and I haven't seen family for two-and-a-half years.
"I thought it was a good time to leave Sri Lanka. I'd achieved what I wanted to. We had a good young squad that was starting to develop and it was a toss-up whether or not to stay a little bit longer but the Derbyshire project came up. At that point in time I was probably on day 230 in a bubble and PCR test number 162, and I thought, 'jeez, do I want to do this anymore?'
"[The England job] has not even crossed my mind. I've just come out of 12 years of international cricket and I'm very comfortable with the project I've got at the moment. Are my international days behind me? In this world, you never say never because the cricket world changes weekly.
"What I do know is that I far prefer being involved in an environment for a long period of time… rather than being on the franchise circuit where I don't think you make enough impact as a coach. In terms of job satisfaction, working with players for 11 months of a year, that's where you get your satisfaction because you see the improvement - whether that's with an international team, or a county or state team."
Arthur also launched a staunch defence of county cricket, with the backdrop of England's 4-0 defeat in the recent Ashes series and the criticism that has followed. He suggested that England's problem has simply been top-order batting, and that it is too easy to scapegoat the domestic system.
"It's almost cyclic, isn't it?" he said. "Every couple of years you'll produce incredible players and you'll have a period where you go through [a lean run]. You look at [Alastair] Cook, [Andrew] Strauss and [Jonathan] Trott - they were instrumental in getting England enough runs and allowing the likes of Kevin Pietersen and Ian Bell to come and score those runs, because Test cricket is all about getting runs on the board.
"Yes, you've got to get 20 wickets, but 20 wickets becomes easier if you're getting big first-innings scores. England just haven't been able to do that because I don't think [their Nos.] 1, 2 and 3 have got enough runs - it's as simple as that. It's not county cricket, it's not anything else, it's batting - and batting in particular at Nos. 1, 2 and 3.
"County cricket has made a lot more players than it's broken. In 2019, England won the World Cup. Nobody was questioning county cricket. England won the Ashes in Australia [in 2010-11] and nobody was questioning county cricket - in fact, they said it was because of county cricket. I got the Australia job on the back of England going to Australia and whipping them - everyone was questioning domestic cricket in Australia and the Sheffield Shield."
Arthur got to work early at Derbyshire, using his extensive contact book to sign Shan Masood and Suranga Lakmal as all-format overseas players, and while the squad has been weakened over the winter by the losses of Fynn Hudson-Prentice and Matt Critchley to Sussex and Essex respectively, he set some lofty ambitions for the season ahead.
"I want to win every game we play," he said. "People talk about gradual improvement and gradual improvement is great - but I like to say I'm a winner. I hate losing. I hate losing with a passion. We'll hopefully improve and get better and better, but if we're in it, we want to win it.
"[Success is] being in the hunt for promotion, maybe a quarter-final or scraping through to Finals Day [in the Blast]. I'd be very disappointed if we didn't excel in the 50-over competition. A lot of teams are going to lose a lot of players to the Hundred; we'll probably lose three. We'll virtually have our full squad so I'd be very disappointed if we didn't come close in that competition.
"Looking at last season, I'll be brutally honest, it didn't make good reading. That heightens the challenge and when I looked at what the players' results were over the last couple of years and matched that up with what I've seen in terms of talent and ability, there's something missing. That makes it exciting."

Matt Roller is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @mroller98