Mickey Arthur – How ‘homework-gate’ made me a better coach

Tristan Lavalette talks to Mickey Arthur, who will coach his new charges Pakistan on their England tour his summer

It isn’t a stretch of hyperbole to proclaim Mickey Arthur as one of cricket’s nice guys. He is always gracious with his time, humble and diplomatic. There is no pretence or swelling ego.

However, behind Arthur’s composed demeanour, bitterness and disappointment has festered and gnawed for the past three years.

But becoming Pakistan’s new senior coach provides an opportunity for Arthur to re-write his coaching legacy and, ultimately, exorcise the demons from 2013.

The 47-year-old was recently inserted into the hot seat after Waqar Younis relinquished his position following Pakistan’s disappointing World T20 campaign. It is Arthur’s third national gig after successfully coaching his compatriots South Africa from 2005-10 followed by becoming Australia’s first foreign senior coach during an 18-month reign that ended tumultuously in mid-2013.

Despite a long and productive resume, which also includes moonlighting on the T20 merry-go-round, Arthur is best remembered for his inglorious demise with Australia. Every utterance of his name evokes the word ‘Homework-Gate’, the moniker for the scandal that engulfed Australia’s disastrous tour of India in early 2013 and started Arthur’s swift demise.

The highly publicised scandal involved Mitchell Johnson, Shane Watson, James Pattinson and Usman Khawaja being disciplined for failing to adhere to a team task outlined by Arthur.

Australia, who were whitewashed during that series, were humbly reduced to an international punch-line. The team was a squabbling mess with Arthur seemingly unable to quell the disharmony. An embarrassing David Warner scandal a few months later on Ashes eve in England essentially ended Arthur’s tenure with nearly two years still left on his contract.

Nearly three years since his dismissal as Australia coach, Arthur is back in the international ranks and has a chance at redemption that he has long craved. “I resent that I am known for ‘Homework-gate’, most definitely,” Arthur told The Cricket Paper. “I had a really good record with South Africa, where we became No.1 in Test cricket and built a dynasty. My record with Australia was very good until the series in India. But now everyone remembers me for that one incident.”

Despite his reputation being muddied, Arthur has still been highly coveted and was approached two years ago to coach Sri Lanka but had misgivings about moving his family away from Perth, Western Australia, where he has lived since leaving South Africa in 2010.

After Peter Moores was dumped as England coach in early 2015, rumours persisted that Arthur would put his hand up for the position but again family priorities intervened.

But now the timing is right to get back into the vortex of international coaching, a frenetic role that Arthur relishes. “Pakistan is the right role and now is the right time,” he said. “I enjoy what I’m doing in Perth with my cricket academy but I am only 47 and I don’t think I’m old. I don’t feel like it is time to settle down just yet.”

For many, the Pakistan gig is viewed as a poisoned chalice due to continual upheaval and an unfortunate history with player indiscipline, which reared recently when Umar Akmal and Ahmed Shehzad were left out of the team’s pre-England tour training camp on disciplinary grounds.

Coaches, particularly foreigners, are delicately positioned between management squabbles and player turmoil, indicative of why the role has continually been akin to a revolving door. Arthur is wary of Pakistan’s infamous reputation for toxicity but believes he can be a reassuring presence.

“It is going to be daunting and a real challenge that will take me out of my comfort zone,” he said. “You hear a lot about Pakistani cricket being in chaos but it will be good to experience it firsthand. Hopefully I can provide some stability.”

Typical of Pakistan’s seemingly innate volatility, the team is ranked a highly credible third in Test cricket but a disappointing seventh in T20s and ninth in ODIs. Arthur says he hopes to rectify Pakistan’s white ball woes. “Pakistan’s rankings in ODI and T20 cricket are way too low and changing that will be a major focus for me,” he said.

“Pakistan’s bowling depth is outstanding, both pace and spin, but the batting is a worry outside the UAE. We’ve big upcoming series in England, New Zealand and Australia and that will provide major challenges for their technique and aptitude.”

Whatever unfolds in Pakistan, you feel the apparitions of ‘Homework-gate’ will never totally disappear but Arthur strongly believes that embarrassing period of his life could, ironically, shape his next chapter. “I think I am better for ‘Homework-gate’ and I learn from all the experiences in my coaching career whether they were good or bad,” he said. “I have learned how to handle certain situations differently and that provides a wealth of knowledge.

“I think I will be a better coach the third time around.”

This piece originally featured in The Cricket Paper, Friday May 13 2016

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