Babar is a wonderful talent: Mickey Arthur

Pakistan cricket team director says there is still room for skipper to “keep improving”

Sports Desk
Mickey Arthur (Left) and Najam Sethi at the press conference at the Pindi Stadium in Rawalpindi on April 20. 2023. — AFP
Mickey Arthur (Left) and Najam Sethi at the press conference at the Pindi Stadium in Rawalpindi on April 20. 2023. — AFP

Pakistan team Director Mickey Arthur has recently termed the national side skipper Babar Azam “a wonderful talent”, adding that there is still room for the skipper to “keep improving”.

Speaking at a press conference at the Pindi Stadium in Rawalpindi on Thursday, Arthur — who was accompanied by Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) defacto Chairman Najam Sethi and PCB Director Domestic Haroon Rasheed — said: “I firmly believe that Babar is a wonderful talent and I still think he’s got room to keep improving and I will keep challenging him to get better and better because he’s going to be a legend of the game.”

Terming his turn to the national side a “privilege”, Arthur said he was very attached to Pakistan and its cricket team.

“It’s a privilege for me to come back and work hard to improve the team. Hopefully, win the World Cup and be No 1 in all formats of the game,” he said.

In response to a question, Arthur said there is no such thing as online coaching.

He added that he had kept tabs on Pakistan over the years and knew “exactly what they are thinking and what they need to be successful”.

Mickey said he had an incredible support staff and he would work to ensure that the team got the best possible coaches available.

“I’m giving them a very clear path and direction, I looked at the team, the talent in that dressing room is second to none,” he said.

He further shared that there were some “seriously talented players” in the team.

“I don’t want to name them as the challenge is to keep them getting better, keep pushing them, to become better players and match winners for Pakistan.

“As a team evolves you need to have those young players pushing the senior players for places and that’s when you create a healthy environment and I think we have that at the moment,” the director said.

Talking about the Pakistan skipper, Arthur said: “What I saw with Babar Azam, the first thing that impressed me was his hands. When you look at a young batsman it’s the speed of his hands that gets you excited.”

He said that he was amazed as he hadn’t seen a similar talent before.

“The key to backing him was to give him opportunities to succeed. I knew that he was going to become a key part of a very successful Pakistan team. I always thought that he was going to become the number one batsman in the world,” the director shared.

During the meeting, Sethi also spoke about the Asia Cup controversy between India and Pakistan, saying that the Green Shirts would go to India to play the ICC Men’s One Day International World Cup only if the Men in Blue travelled to the country for the Asia Cup.

“We are told that India can consider playing in Pakistan when the Champions Trophy arrives here, so Asia Cup should be played at a neutral venue and Pakistan should go to India to play the World Cup,” Sethi shared.

Adding that there were no security issues in Pakistan, he added that since all other teams were coming, India too was welcome.

Then we will go there to play on a reciprocal basis, he said.

He reiterated the PCB’s stance on the matter and said: “We have adopted an opinion that Asia Cup matches will be held in Pakistan; whereas India’s matches can be played at a neutral venue as part of a hybrid system.

“If this experiment is successful, it can be carried out in the World Cup, until an agreement is reached between Pakistan and India for playing each other in both countries.”

Taking issue with the Board for Control of Cricket in India’s (BCCI’s) claims that its government had not allowed them to play in Pakistan, Sethi said: “Pakistan has always allowed its team to play in India. But I can’t say what will be the stance of the government when the World Cup arrives.

“But as of today, the stance is reciprocal. The people of Pakistan also want its team to play against India with honour, so these were the ongoing negotiations with ACC and we can also have a talk with the International Cricket Council (ICC) on this matter.”

The defacto PCB head also added that the national side’s coaching team was complete as Morne Morkel would join after the conclusion of the Indian Premier League (IPL).

When asked about the appointment of foreign coaches, Sethi praised the professionalism of foreign coaches.

“It is my general experience that there is no issue of reference or culture in appointing them and they are goal-oriented. As we are playing with the top teams and coaches in the world. Our coaches are also top professionals,” he said.

He further said he was a “bit partial” toward coaches.

“I have worked with Mickey and I trust him. I remember how we had won the 2017 Champions Trophy,” adding that most of the team's current players — including Pakistan’s skipper — playing today had been trained under Mickey.

Sethi also discussed department cricket during the presser and said the PCB had received 30 to 32 invitations from departments in Group B, while Group A has the top 8 teams out of which 6 to 7 teams are ready.

“The PCB wants the private sector to play in Group B first. Haroon Rasheed is making the model of domestic cricket which will be finalized in the coming days as we are making changes to it. I’m hopeful that the department cricket would be fully restored by September,” he said.

— With additional input from APP.