Pakistan coach Mickey Arthur is confident his side’s group-stage “aberration” against title-holders India will have no bearing when they face their arch-rivals again in Sunday’s Champions Trophy final at the Oval.
When the Asian giants met in their tournament opener at Edgbaston on June 4, India thrashed Pakistan by 124 runs.
Arthur, a former coach of both his native South Africa and Australia, labeled Pakistan’s performance that day as “shambolic”.
But Pakistan, the lowest-ranked side in a tournament featuring the world’s leading eight one-day international nations, bounced back to beat top-seeded South Africa and then held their nerve in a tense virtual quarter-final with Sri Lanka in Cardiff on Monday.
Two days later, again in the Welsh capital, Pakistan produced a brilliant all-round display to hammer previously unbeaten tournament hosts England by eight wickets in a lopsided semi-final.
Now, with left-arm paceman Mohammad Amir returning to the side after a back spasm ruled him out of the England match, Arthur believes there will be no repeat of their woeful pool showing against India when the latest edition of world cricket’s most high-profile contest takes place in London.
“The India game was an aberration,” Arthur told reporters at the Oval on Saturday.
“What we’ve produced after that doesn’t come as any surprise, because that’s how we trained, and that’s what we worked at.
“It was very disappointing to see that go wrong in the Indian game, but… We’ve closed the chapter on that.
“That was an aberration. We’re now moving forward.”
Amir’s return bolsters an already impressive Pakistan pace attack featuring Hasan Ali, the tournament’s leading wicket-taker.
And Arthur believes that if Pakistan can strike with the new ball, they will have the chance to test an India middle order who have hardly been required to bat during this Champions Trophy, with the likes of openers Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan, as well as captain and star No 3 Virat Kohli piling on the runs.
“Our strength has been the fact that we’ve been able to take wickets, and we’ve been able to take wickets consistently through the middle periods,” explained Arthur.
“If we can get amongst them with the new ball, we can expose the middle order that hasn’t batted much in this competition — so that’s pretty much our aim and focus.”
– ‘Beat anybody’ –
Pakistan’s run to the final has once again led to many comments about their notorious “unpredictability”.
But Arthur, who took charge shortly before last year’s tour of England, always believed they could go all the way in this tournament.
“I don’t think we’ve exceeded expectations at all,” he said ahead of what will be Pakistan’s first match of the competition at the Oval, having played all their previous fixtures at either Birmingham’s Edgbaston or Cardiff.
“We had the mantra ‘we want to get to London’. Well, we got to London — we want to go one step further now,” Arthur added.
“The way the players dragged themselves off the canvas after the beating at Edgbaston was amazing… They’ve been really special.”
Sunday’s match could, according to some estimates, attract a global television audience of a billion and Arthur was in no doubt of the significance of a win over India.
“I just know it’ll mean a massive amount to them,” he said.
“There’s a hell of a good vibe in that dressing room.
“Let’s hope we can put our ‘A’ game again together tomorrow — because if we can, and I said it before the England game, we can beat anybody.” – AFP