Mickey Arthur talks to his players

"I would like my legacy to be structure, or high performance"

© Getty Images

Talking Cricket

'Winning the Champions Trophy was so much redemption'

Mickey Arthur looks back at his first year in charge of Pakistan, and the unarguable highlight of that period

Interview by Osman Samiuddin |

It's been over a year now that you've been in charge. You've been through the whole Pakistani experience: crazy defeats, amazing wins, comebacks from nowhere, players going off…
If I had to encapsulate it in one word, it's been fantastic. I have thoroughly enjoyed every moment of it. Yes, it has been challenging. But I've thoroughly, thoroughly enjoyed it. If I had finished my career without coaching a subcontinent side, it would've been a glaring miss in my CV. The passion, the intensity, the focus, the colour, the emotion - we've experienced that all this year, and what I'm trying to do is bring some stability, to bring standards, to bring high performance, to bring structure. And trying to just keep pushing our players to be the best they can possibly be. For me, that's the energy of the job.

You've worked with top international sides, have plenty of experience with T20 sides and in domestic cricket. How different a set-up is it to work with CA, CSA and now the PCB? How different in how you run a team?
I think I've evolved as a coach. I really think that. When I started with South Africa, we were very much a young team that all grew together. That was an exhilarating experience and I ended up doing it for five years. I kind of think it was one year too long. We had achieved everything we wanted by the end of 2008. We had become a great team but then we stagnated for the fifth year of my job. I felt the team needed a new voice there.

Cricket Australia was challenging for different reasons. They'd just had the Argus review, they wanted us to come in and make change. And change is always difficult if you don't understand the complexities that come with it. And there were a lot of complexities in that time in Australian cricket. That was a challenge.

The first year was great. The second year was tough. It was hard. I'd probably do things differently, and it taught me some very valuable lessons. And then to come into Pakistan, I feel I've come in a far more experienced coach. I feel like I've got so much to offer, to this structure, this country, this job. Because if I can bring the best of South Africa, the best of Australia and somehow fit it into this Pakistan side, the world's our oyster.

That's your basic challenge isn't it? To marry the process-driven, stability and structure of teams like Australia and South Africa to the more fluctuating nature of a team like Pakistan?
Exactly right. I would like my legacy to be structure, or high performance, or standards, because ultimately you get those results from there.

More than wins and losses, to me player development and this excellent structure are the most important things. And that's how I'd like to be remembered. Wins and losses come and go. But ultimately you'll be remembered for the structure you brought in and the players that grew under you. I'm enjoying the skill levels of the players.

"[South Africa] had achieved everything we wanted by the end of 2008. We had become a great team but then we stagnated for the fifth year of my job. I felt the team needed a new voice there"

Is that of a different nature to what you've seen before?
It is, yeah. And my mindset's changed as well. When I set our game plans with South Africa, it was generally all focused around pace. Getting enough runs to survive. The game was quick upfront and then slowed down towards the end as the wickets flattened out. Coaching Pakistan, your game plans, especially in Test cricket, are centred around spin. The game is slow to start off with and quickens up towards the back end. It's totally the opposite. It's been an eye opener but fascinating as well to see the differences, the nuance in these things.

Has it taken you time to adjust to that?
It has. Our first few series were all away from home. Watching that one [in England], it was almost like your spinner being a holding bowler and us attacking with the quicks. So that was very similar. But then we went to UAE against West Indies, where that all changed. The burden is on Yasir [Shah]. You play him, he bowls 30 overs for you and he gets a five-fer. That's the norm. He does a holding job, a striking job, and you've got to be so conscious of getting as many as you can in the first innings. However long that takes you, you always have the time.

Misbah was a good one for that. People would always think that he'd misjudged it, taken too much time. But he seemed to judge it perfectly. Was that also something different, in that previously you would have expected to have got to 400 quicker?
Yes, you would've. Because you knew you needed time at the back end to bowl a side out again, when the wickets were flatter. So you try to buy all the time at the start of the Test in order to give you a great opportunity at the back, whereas here you bide your time at the start and the game quickens up on day four and five. A totally different mindset.

I've been fascinated watching Yasir, Shadab [Khan], [Mohammad] Asghar, Imad [Wasim], [Mohammad] Nawaz, a little guy called Abrar [Ahmed, at Karachi Kings] who spins it out of his fingers. Watching all that unfold has been amazing.

I've learnt about spin, I've learnt about patience, about fields for spin. I've learnt a lot. That is why I say if I had finished my career without ever coaching a subcontinent team, it would've been a miss.

I'm in seventh heaven here. The PCB's been fantastic. They've allowed me to grow, to implement what I want, they haven't stood in my way in any shape or form. And that's given me the confidence to do what I wanted.

I found with Australia, my biggest regret was finishing up and not having done it your way. You have success, a big tick with South Africa. You have a big cross with Australia. So you lose confidence a little bit sometimes as a coach. Your confidence goes. I had to establish all that again. Pakistan's given me the opportunity.

© ESPNcricinfo Ltd

How much of a blow was that Australia sacking?
It was a blow. I was very down professionally. You lose confidence. Your ego takes a knock. Your confidence takes a knock. It's hard. You gotta be strong to come back from that.

I was very lucky that around all that, I did the T20 leagues. I was interacting again, it was a nice way back in. And it gave me insight into the subcontinent because I did Dhaka, I did Karachi and I did Jamaica. And it was a real melting pot of cultures there.

That reignited the hunger because you lose your confidence, and you also sometimes lose that extra motivation for the job. And going to those T20 leagues allowed me to find myself as a coach again.

Are you in touch with players from that Australia side still?
Oh yes, I come across them, it's all good. I speak to David Warner quite regularly. And that all seems to be water under the bridge. George Bailey just popped his head in to say hi, and he used to be our T20 captain. Great relationship with these guys.

Yes, I fell out with a couple. But by and large, I'm still on good terms.

You're very much into taking on players as personal projects and helping them develop. In Pakistan you've got a goldmine, haven't you?
What we've tried to do is put these player performance plans in place, so that there's structure and order, because what you find with Pakistan is that players started playing for themselves because they felt under pressure every time they went out, since they weren't sure whether they'd play the next Test as selections have been so inconsistent.

Especially just before you arrived, in the ODI side, a lot of guys coming and going.
So we've tried to bring that consistency into our selection and our messages. So players feel a little at ease but also know there's an expectation on them, that there's a role for them. But we've given them time to develop. The key is identifying them and allowing them to grow.

You are spoilt for choice in so many areas, and the inconsistency attached with that allows players to go into self-preservation mode earlier than in any other country because they're scared for their place.

"You googled Mickey Arthur and 'Homeworkgate' would be the first ten articles and then 'sacked' would be the next ten and then you get down to the good times. That hurts"

When you came, Mohammad Amir had just come back. That is a challenge unlike any most coaches would have faced - overseeing a very complicated integration. It's a crazy thing to go through.
Yeah, it is. Mohammad Amir has been outstanding about it. I must admit, seeing him in England and seeing him now, he's a totally different character. In England he was very reserved, whereas now he is very much part of the team. He was finding himself as well.

I'm incredibly fond of Mohammad Amir and I admire the way he's gone about it so much. He's just such an incredible talent with the ball.

The team over the year has responded to that, right? Over the year, gradually they've become better with him.
It has been. I've seen a significant amount of change to that over the year.

Did Misbah and Younis have roles in that?
Misbah's presence is immense. But I think Misbah almost allowed Amir the space to find himself again, which I thought was very good. He certainly allowed him that space.

What have you made of his bowling? Last year he was unlucky but this year, he had wickets in West Indies and the Champions Trophy final. Has he changed as a bowler?
His pace has started to get back to where it should be. And his swing is incredible. Those are two great attributes to have. What I do know about Mohammad Amir is that he is a big-match player. The bigger the occasion, the more he rises to it. That is not prevalent in every player. A lot of cricketers in those big, big moments, disappear. Mohammad Amir doesn't. He wants those big moments. He craves those big moments. And generally, he's pretty successful in them.

What makes a guy operate like that?
I think it's inbred almost. Confidence plays a huge role. Confidence of where they are at with their games at that point in time. It's almost inbred that desire, the hunger, when the chips are down, to really come through.

"Hasan Ali's almost become the example of our time as a coaching staff. When he started with us, he was wiry, lean, he didn't have much weight on him. But if you look at him now - stronger, fitter, more skill" © Getty Images

He's trusted the system too. When he gets information, he trusts that information. I haven't beaten around the bush at all in my assessment of every player. This is the hardest I've ever been in my professional career. For a number of reasons I felt it was definitely very needed because too many times - and the thing that has made Pakistan inconsistent over a period of time - is, when they play well and have success, their comfort zones kick in. That breeds inconsistency.

Whereas for us right now, we're driving those standards and pushing them higher and higher so there is no room for complacency. And the players are responding really well.

In Australia and South Africa, that would've been bred into a player early on.
Yeah, and the systems, the pipelines are so good. Players from under-13 level, it is inculcated in them that this is the standard required to play at the highest level.

How much have you relied on data with Pakistan?
Yeah, data can be used in two ways. Too much is not great. But we need to provide them with game plans against everybody so that our preparation is as good as it can be. Talha [Ejaz], our analyst, gives me all that information and to our coaches as well and it is up to the line coaches, the batting and bowling coaches, to take out what they want and feed it to the players.

So we do use it, yes, I think it's vital. How much we use it is dependent on the group and the familiarity of those players at that time.

Are players generally responsive?
Yes, they are. Players sit with all the video stuff not only in a meeting but on their Whatsapp. Everything will be downloaded, and then it allows them to analyse and look at it in their ways too. That has become very much part of our preparation in every game. But that is personal preparation. How much or how little they want to use it is up to them. But all the info is readily available with a couple of pointers.

Hasan Ali came in during the time you've been around. He's really stood up as one of your leading players.
He's been great, fantastic, and how he's bought into this culture. He's a new-age cricketer. He's new-age. He trains the house down, he's in the gym all the time. He's almost become the example of our time as a coaching staff. Because when he started with us in that ODI series in England, he was wiry, he was lean, he didn't have much weight on him. But if you look at him now - stronger, fitter, more skill. Use him almost as a beacon for all… he's the one guy that has been pretty consistent through the year with us.

"The new Pakistan, because we're more structured, the good and the bad are getting closer together because of the structures we are putting in place"

Have you watched much domestic cricket?
I see a lot of video footage of players. I haven't been able - primarily because there hasn't been a massive amount of domestic cricket while I have been here. And that is why I feel it is so important that I coach in the PSL, because it allows me to see the next best talents. I saw Shadab, I saw Fakhar Zaman, and those were players that really excited us. I could watch, analyse all of them but also watch their performance and know that they might have a role to play in the Pakistan team. So that's familiarised me with a lot of the Pakistan players.

Has the question ever been raised with you that that might constitute a conflict, to be coaching a franchise and the national team?
I think it was, right at the start. I think the sensible answer was that it allows me to see all of the domestic talent and work with some domestic talent. I'm thinking of the likes of Usama Mir, Kashif Bhatti, Abrar Ahmed, [Usman] Shinwari we've picked up from Karachi Kings. It's been totally beneficial and it was part of my deal. It actually made the contract very nice and worthwhile.

How have you found T20 leagues, as a coach?
Coaching in T20 leagues is so different to running an international programme for ten months a year. You get the players for a month, you create an environment, chip away a little bit, create a game plan and a brand you want to play with based on the players you have, and you move on from there.

Whereas running an international programme requires driving standards. I get so upset when players come back from these leagues and go, "Wow, it's so nice being in that environment, he's such a relaxed coach, and he allowed us days off and optional days and we didn't have to train that much and it was just great fun." Well, for the international coach that is poison because players don't realise they have them for a month and we have got them for ten months and are trying to make them better as players. Plus, developing the culture going forward. It's totally different.

There's an argument that T20 is a completely different sport, not only that it has changed cricket. Do you think there has been a filtering through of skills from T20 coming through to longer formats, or do you see it as a different sport?
I sort of liken it to Rugby sevens compared to rugby. But it's become very much ingrained now. We've started to develop players from T20 to Test cricket, the likes of David Warner. Sharjeel Khan. Fakhar Zaman could be like that. Shadab.

What is the challenge in that? Identifying that he can be a player?
Well, you do, because he's got the qualities that you want. You don't want to restrict him in any way in terms of the way he plays. For me it was just creating a defensive game, and I think David Warner is the best example of that.

David Warner came in and he played and played and played, but ultimately he became very successful because he's developed a defence. It is difficult to do but now that he has done it, we've seen his ODI numbers go up, and he's still got the flair in T20 cricket. He's the all-round package now.

The kind of innings he played in Bangladesh recently…
It is [a phenomenal transformation for a player to undergo]. And hats off to Davey. He's an incredible player and one of the best in the world. One of the players I'd pay to watch.

During happier times with Australia

During happier times with Australia © Getty Images

Is it similar, or is the challenge more difficult - let's take Shadab as an example, if he is to become a Test bowler or allrounder eventually, how difficult is it for him to turn from the kind of bowler that he is now into a Test bowler?
Well, he's just got to develop and get a lot more patience. He's got to know that you don't bowl five different deliveries in an over.

Can you learn patience?
Yeah, you can. But you've got to play it to learn it. I kind of think - and this might be quite revolutionary - but I think it is easier because you're working on defence and patience issues, whereas I look at the likes of Jacques Kallis, Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar to a point, VVS Laxman, for them it was so unnatural to be able to go from that watertight, rock-solid defence, rock-solid techniques, to suddenly opening your front hips and lobbing it over midwicket. And it took those guys a season or two to develop that.

Whereas the guy from T20, he's got everything. You've just got to work with him to make sure he knows when to use it, and again, develop that patience and defence.

Is that because the Test game is also becoming quicker, so if you're coming in from T20 to a game that is getting faster - is it easier to go from attack to building up a defence than the other way?
Yeah, I think the game is getting quicker because of T20 cricket. Players aren't scared to take fielders on, or whack it over the top. Test cricket ten years ago, that was almost a no-no, because you couldn't give your wicket away. Now the fear of failure is almost non-existent among younger players.

I think Test cricket has become a better product for it. Bowlers now strive to take wickets. Fielding standards are better. It's amazing what T20 does. Last night [the second T20 between Pakistan and a World XI] we were sitting in the sheds and the required rate topped 14. I remember sitting and saying to Grant Flower, in our day, we're opening the beers and champagne corks in the dressing room.

And you have a guy like Hashim Amla pulling off that chase. You've worked with Amla and he's gone that way, hasn't he? From being a solid Test batsman to this amazing batsman who hit two hundreds in the IPL this season.
Yeah, he was one of our young guys coming through at the time. I've followed his progress. Just such a phenomenal player. I watched him hit a six over extra cover the other night and I'm going, "Is this the same Hash?" To me, that's just testament to hard work, to being dedicated to what you're doing, to push yourself to be the best you can. He's transformed his game totally.

"This is the hardest I've ever been in my professional career. For a number of reasons I felt it was needed, because too many times - and the thing that has made Pakistan inconsistent over a period of time - is, when they play well and have success, their comfort zones kick in"

Have you ever been through the range of emotions you went through in the fortnight from losing to India in the Champions Trophy and then to the final, at The Oval? Anything like that in your entire time with Australia, South Africa?
No, no. No, I've been fortunate enough to have great highlights. I was coach of South Africa in the 438 game. We won in England - the first South Africa side since unity. The series win in Australia. Those were such incredible memories. But nothing compares to the three weeks in England.

Like a true "Welcome to Pakistan."
That was something… it was unbelievable. The three weeks there, the range of emotions. The support. The colour, the passion, that rollercoaster, it was just phenomenal.

Can you remember how down you were after the first loss?
Oh jeez, yeah, that's the worst I've ever been because I didn't realise the magnitude of that result. I'll never forget walking into that press conference at the end and it was hostile.

You looked like death.
I was ready to kill someone. The media was so hostile. It was the only time I can think that I fired back at them. And then I did a lot of soul-searching after it. I was thinking, "Where do we go from here?" I thought we bottled under pressure there. It wasn't our junior players, it was our seniors. We came out of that thinking, right, let's go balls to the wall. Fakhar Zaman, you come in, you take the game on. Let's look to strike, let's look to take wickets, let's look to get reverse.

We were almost forced into that corner. Three guys made their debut in that one tournament. It was crazy. That certainly wasn't a safety-first policy. And things went our way. But I still believe you make your own luck. The run chase against Sri Lanka - Thisara [Perera] dropping Saifi [Sarfraz Ahmed], the missed run-outs, so many things could've happened. I'm not sure I'd be sitting here right now if Sri Lanka had hit the wickets at least once!

You must have learnt a lot about the players in that period?
I learnt a massive amount about them. But also, we were properly prepared. We had come out of the West Indies, but we spent time in England, we spent ten days in Edgbaston preparing. We were ready. I think I used the word "aberration" because it was so inconsistent with how we had prepared. I was confident we had the work done. What we needed to do was change mindsets. And we had a particularly hard chat in the dressing room in Edgbaston.

Right after the game?
No. We let emotions fizzle away a little immediately after that game. It was our next training session leading into the South Africa game. And the thing that I was always… not disappointed, because that's too strong a word, but the thing that always amazed me was that the Pakistan boys were so nice.

"We've started to develop players from T20 to Test cricket. David Warner is the best example of that" © Getty Images

They were just so nice. They wouldn't say boo to a goose. And they certainly wouldn't sit down and say to one of their fellow players, "What were you doing out there? Why did you do that?" They wouldn't challenge each other. Whereas the dressing rooms I'd come out of were very open that way.

If AB de Villiers had been run out by Jacques Kallis, they would have a serious discussion about it. And AB was a young boy coming into the game, but he wasn't intimidated to go there and say, "Listen, Jacques, we got to get this right." Whereas our guys were always, "That's okay, it's fine, don't worry about it, we'll be good inshallah next time." And that is all words that I looked at, going, "Come on, somebody stand up and say, 'No, I'm not accepting that.' Some good, honest discussion and thinking.

I think culturally that here is seen as a sign of disrespect and rudeness. But in a high-pressure environment, you need to be like that. You need to be holding everybody to account. So I'd been holding everyone to account. But in that Edgbaston dressing room there was a change. And Shoaib Malik got up and spoke. And started saying, "Guys, what are we doing? You need to stand up. You need to stand up, because if you don't, this tournament is going nowhere for us. It's about time we stood up as a team, that we started challenging each other. It's about time we spoke and had honest conversations. And if I say something to you, I'm not being rude, I'm not being disrespectful. I'm doing it so it doesn't happen."

Were you surprised it came from Shoaib Malik?
Yes, I was. I was blown away, going, "Hallelujah! At least it doesn't fall on me anymore. Somebody else can be the whipping boy." And with Shoaib talking, others started talking. And it wasn't only the senior players. It was the juniors. Shadab Khan, 18 years of age, had an opinion. And that is so good, that is so healthy for your dressing room.

It's the experiences they've had, or heard about these fractious dressing rooms in the past. A culture thing as well as about hierarchy, where you must show respect to the older or more senior player. One of the things Bob Woolmer did with Inzamam was to get players physically comfortable with Inzi by playing football and tackling him.
I can see exactly what he was trying to do. That was an absolute revelation. Saifi spoke passionately, Shoaib did, [Mohammad] Hafeez spoke passionately. And when we walked out of that dressing room to go and train, the team was together. It was different because people had looked each other in the eye and been honest with them, whereas before they hadn't been honest. We walked out and trained the house down.

Is it difficult to sustain that, though? Do you have to keep pushing for guys to be open with each other in the dressing room?
I think it can't become massively the norm. Like me standing and bollocking the team and holding them to account can't become the norm, because it loses its effect. The more you do it, the more players switch off. It's like Bart Simpson with that monkey with cymbals. They're listening but they're not hearing. So when you do it, you've got to pick your times, your moments, and it carries massive impact.

Were you confident afterwards that the team had got this?
No, no I wasn't. I'd be lying if I said I was. I was thinking about the next game first. How we rebounded against South Africa, I was reading all sorts of things in the media, inquiries, inquiries into the cricket, into coaching. I remember being summoned by Shaharyar Khan [then PCB chairman] to go over to the hotel, and I had a great chat with him, and he's a lovely, lovely man, but he was coming under pressure and he transferred the pressure, which is understandable.

"Me standing and bollocking the team and holding them to account can't become the norm, because it loses its effect. The more you do it, the more players switch off. It's like Bart Simpson with that monkey with cymbals"

It wouldn't have worked like that where you've worked in the past?
No, not at all. So that was an eye-opener. I think that's the best thing that has happened to us. It allowed me to understand the magnitude of what was happening. And then we went and turned it on against South Africa. Thought, "Oh, this is okay." Results went our way, the Sri Lanka game became a quarter-final, we won very ugly there. But we found a way to get over the line, and we did it by finding that hardness, the transparency, the things I felt we had been lacking, we found that way to get over the line. And then we played our best game of the competition by a long way against England.

We were clinical. And the thing that was so good to me was that we lost our main strike bowler on the morning of the game and Rumman [Raees] stepped up and had an incredible game. And that for me was the best thing out of it, because it showed that our system was right, we had prepared our fringe players to just step in. We could rotate Shadab and Faheem [Ashraf] depending on conditions, because we trusted their abilities to do the job.

That England game, we were incredible. [Ben] Stokes had come off a quicker than a run-a-ball hundred against Australia. I don't think he hit a boundary in his 34 off 64 balls. The way we bowled, the accuracy, the fielding, Fakhar Zaman's catch out on the boundary, Ahmed Shahzad's run out - what's going on? Everything falling into place.

Was that probably the performance, more than the final, that showed you how good that side could be?
I was so incredibly excited by that semi-final, and not only because of the quality of cricket we played but because of the resilience we showed coming back from India, and bang, we were in the final.

And the build-up to that game was intense but relaxed. I thought we were overawed against India [in the opener]. I mean, guys were going into the dressing room and asking Virat Kohli for bats. Well, hang on boys, this is our foe. We're here to hit them on the head and be friends after.

But leading into that final, there was a difference, there was a cutting edge. There was a confidence. There was a belief that if things went our way, we're in. Best thing we did was lose the toss. Because we would've chased. Saifi and I discussed batting first and then went, "Okay, let's bowl because it's worked for us."

And we lost the toss. Fakhar Zaman gets caught off a no-ball. You look at that and you go, "Hang on, it's the aligning of the stars." I believe things don't happen, though, to teams that haven't worked and prepared. I believe in Mother Cricket. There is a Mother Cricket that looks down at you and says, "You guys have been outstanding and we'll reward you." You've worked extremely hard and so those little breaks go your way.

"Four years to the day, I've got the Champions Trophy, walking down The Oval. If you had said to me four years before that this would happen, I'd have said, 'What are you smoking? That's never going to happen'" © Getty Images

But has that belief become stronger after coaching a team like Pakistan? With Australia and South Africa, things are so much more stable. You work hard, do things right and everything builds into the performance on the field. With Pakistan, there's so many moving parts. We need to be brave and take the game on. So much as a coach, every time I sit in a press conference and everybody says, "Well, this is Pakistan, great one day, poor the next." And I'm going, "No, no, no, that's the old Pakistan. That's the thing I'm trying to fight." The new Pakistan, because we're more structured, the good and the bad are getting closer together because of the structures we are putting in place.

I don't want to get too structured because we take away something, that flair. I sometimes look at our preparation - I had four semi-finals with South Africa and never got through, never won. And I sometimes look at it now and think, "We were too structured, too organised." We put everything in place, and we didn't allow players to go out and express themselves because everything is so rigid. That's South Africa.

Can you cite some examples?
The thing I think of most is the 2007 World Cup semi-final against Australia. We had absolutely annihilated England, we had peaked. We were the No. 1 team in cricket. And the team meeting the night before, I remember being a little bit uncomfortable.

Because I thought, it was the only time - and I love these South Africa boys, I love them - but I felt that it was the only time we bullshitted ourselves. Because we had won in 30 overs against England and taken the game on, I remember going around the room saying, "Are you ready, are you ready?" "Yeah coach, we're ready, we're ready." But I think that was all bravado that we needed to "untap". I didn't want them to see that fear of failure was seen as a sign of weakness. It's not. It's seen as a sign of strength.

How did that shape you with Pakistan then, in the Champions Trophy?
We just kept backing the players. All our messages were just positive. "Flip, you're good players." "How good are your skill levels?" "Sheez, our fielding has improved." "Sheez we're the only team getting the ball to reverse." "We're the only team looking to strike." I'd get the stats out - from overs 10-40 we were knocking people over for fun. Just the positive affirmation.

That would have happened with South Africa as well, though?
Yeah, it did, but I honestly saw belief in the Pakistan boys' eyes. They started walking around on water. "Hey, this is great." Well, Fakhar Zaman is taking the game on, he's top-edging and going for six, and hitting a cracking shot, and inside-edging and then a booming cover drive.

This is a kind of personal thing, but was it a monkey off your back?
It meant the world to me. It meant the world to me because four years to the day, I was sacked at The Oval. After the Champions Trophy. The loss to Sri Lanka. I was sacked two days later. And that hurts you. It hurts your reputation. I prided myself on my reputation. My reputation as a coach is everything.

"Pakistani players wouldn't say boo to a goose. And they certainly wouldn't sit down and say to one of their fellow players, 'What were you doing out there? Why did you do that?' They wouldn't challenge each other"

You went on Google and googled Mickey Arthur and "Homeworkgate" would be the first ten articles and then "sacked" would be the next ten and then you get down to the good times. That hurts because of your reputation.

And people forget everything good you did - they don't forget, but they overlook it.
Yeah, they overlook it, or say the players were good. It had such significance… I never, ever thought that four years to the day, at the same venue, I would be standing with the Champions Trophy. It was… and it certainly wasn't about me. It was about a phenomenal squad of players in that dressing room. But personally, I was bursting because of what had transpired previously.

Outside of the team, who did you speak to first after winning it?
I didn't speak to my family because they were sleeping in Perth. They had watched the game and gone to sleep. My dad, all my mates, there were messages on my phone from my family before they went to sleep, knowing we had won. They had clicked over when they were seven down, gone to bed.

Personally, the moment I had was just getting back to my hotel room. Just walking in and just being alone and just going, "Wow, first articles on Google now are going to be 'Champions Trophy win'." I didn't take that medal off my neck for a good three hours.

I remember having a quiet time. I remember pouring a glass of wine out, sitting in the chair, looking out over London Bridge, going, "Shit, how good is this?"

For me, it not only solidified what it was doing with the job, solidifying the path we were on, I kind of felt it was redemption, you know? The last time I walked down those steps, [it was] into a dressing room that was totally shot. I was talking to George Bailey about it two days ago and saying, "Shit, how bad was that dressing room?" And the dressing room was bad because there were so many different factions at play. There were the young boys, the senior boys, Michael Clarke's back had gone, he was lying down in London. I had made George the interim captain and George and I were trying to pull this whole thing together. Sheez, it was tough.

I remember feeling as low as I had ever been until then. But I knew something was going to happen. I went to watch the "A" game in Bristol because our A team was there and we had three days before we convened to start the Ashes tour in Somerset.

I got a feel. I watched Pat Howard. I could see from where I was sitting, I could see the discussions. I could see him pull [Darren] Lehmann out of the changing room. I watched it, and I saw him on the phone for about four hours, obviously on a conference call. I looked for him because I wanted to discuss something important with him. Couldn't find him.

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And you're sort of feeling, hang on, hang on, something's up here. I knew. I remember sitting in the hotel in Bristol. Sitting, talking to John Inverarity and Rod Marsh. We had a selection meeting, we wanted Steven Smith and Ashton Agar in the squad. I remember finishing that selection meeting, my last job as it was with Australia. I remember Pat Howard walking in, tapping me on the shoulder, and he said, "I need to see you." And you almost wanted to say, "Don't bother, don't bother, just give me my air ticket."

The conversation lasted all but three minutes. And you go back to your room, you phone your family, who were fast asleep in Perth, [telling them] this has just happened. I remember the first thing my family said was, "Well, we're not leaving Perth. We love Australia." And you're sitting there thinking, "Sheez, well, what do I do, what's going to happen?" It's not just a professional thing, now it's a personal thing. I remember not sleeping, I remember speaking to my Dad.

I got on a plane. My middle daughter was in London. Cricket Australia did the right things. Except, they said they wanted to give me three months' salary, which I thought was a bit harsh when I had 14 months left. But then I remember arriving in Dubai to the news that my mom had just died. My mom was very ill with cancer. The day I was sacked, she passed away that night.

Suddenly the importance of losing your job just dissipated. I remember arriving home to Perth, at three in the morning on the Dubai flight, taxi home, getting into bed, waking up, and my wife had booked everything for our trip back to South Africa. So we left that night for South Africa. It put everything into…

You weren't a resident then in Australia?
I was a resident, but we weren't citizens. And luckily I had just become a resident three months before. Because if I was on the 457 visa, you have 30 days to leave the country, unless you get another sponsor.

But I didn't think about that, because for the next ten days, it was family. Funerals. It was a tough time, and then going away, I spent some time in South Africa and thought, 'Well, what happens now?' And then going back to Australia, where we had just launched the legal fight. And having to fly to Sydney three times to get that sorted out. It was just such a strain.

And then four years to the day, I've got the Champions Trophy, walking down The Oval. If you had said to me four years before that this would happen, I'd have said, "What are you smoking? That's never going to happen."

I got some incredible messages from Australians, some from players. Pat Howard, James Sutherland, all sent me really, really powerful messages. And a lot of Australian players said, "When we weren't in it, we wanted you to win it." That was so much redemption. I remember AB de Villiers sending me messages. That was just crazy.

Osman Samiuddin is a senior editor at ESPNcricinfo

 

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