ICC Cricket World Cup 2023 – Mickey Arthur – Pakistan were ‘a little timid’ with the bat against India

“I think they’ve [India] got all bases covered and I’m looking forward to meeting them in the final again.”

But he was frank in his assessment of where Pakistan fell short in Ahmedabad: timid with the bat, and possibly a little intimidated by the occasion that made them retreat “into their shells just a little bit”.

He didn’t want to lay the blame on Babar Azam and Mohammad Rizwan, who put on 82 for the third wicket in 17.2 overs. When Mohammed Siraj bowled Babar in the 30th over, Pakistan were 155 for 3, and then collapsed to 191 all out.

“Look, they’re classy performers and they’ve done it day in and day out for Pakistan over an extended period of time. So, I’m not going to sit here and castigate them for that,” Arthur said. “As I said, I thought we were a little bit timid.

“I did think we could probably have taken on the Indian spinners just a little bit more [Kuldeep Yadav and Ravindra Jadeja had combined figures of 19.5-0-83-4]. It was a wicket that didn’t turn massively, and I thought we needed to put some pressure back.

“But again, they were building and building nicely. I think we’ve got to realise that there are two ways to skin a cat. And we’ve had success by taking it deep and then cashing in at the back end. That’s been our style, that’s been our brand, but we didn’t play the Pakistan way tonight, and that was the disappointing aspect of it for me.”

Arthur said there would be no knee-jerk reactions after the defeat, given they had won their first two fixtures of the World Cup. However, he did feel they had deviated from their plans against India.

“There’s certainly no panic yet,” he said. “We’ll go back, and we’ll analyse this game to the n’th degree. We’ll talk to our players. We’ll have conversations about how we want to go forward. Australia’s our next game [in Bengaluru on October 20]. We’ll look at conditions, and then we’ll make a selection decision based on our strategy and conditions for the next game.

“We set ourselves up as a 330 team. We’ve got the personnel to build and build and build and make sure that we keep that momentum going through the innings so that we can cash in at the back end. But we’ve certainly tried to instill in our team that we’re a 330 team, because we think if we get that, we defend that more often than not with our bowling attack.”

Arthur was slightly concerned by Shadab Khan and Shaheen Afridi’s form. They have taken only six wickets between them in the first three games while conceding more than a run a ball.

Shadab hasn’t been able to exert control over the middle overs and spin is emerging as a weakness in Pakistan’s attack, and Shaheen hasn’t found the swing that makes him a potent threat with the new ball.

“Look, we’ve been doing a little bit of work behind the scenes,” Arthur said when asked about Shadab and Shaheen. “It’d be remiss of me to discuss it out here, but we’ve been doing some work with them.

“For me, it’s just about confidence. The key for us now is getting our players to remain calm. It’s getting our players to focus on the next game, and it’s to build them up and make sure that they go into that next game thinking they can run through a brick wall.”

Shashank Kishore is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

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