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'Amazing to see how India nurtures its young players'

January 08, 2020 16:59 IST

'I think India in cricket is in really, really good shape at the moment.'

Navdeep Saini

IMAGE: Fast bowler Navdeep Saini, playing in only his 7th T20 International, impressed with the ball as he took 2/18 during the second T20 International against Sri Lanka in Indore on Tuesday. Photograph: BCCI

Sri Lanka coach Mickey Arthur believes that international cricket teams can learn from India on how to nurture young players and empower them with responsibilities at critical junctures.


Be it in the bowling or batting department, cricketing powerhouse India has built a solid bench strength for all formats under Virat Kohli's leadership, which has left Arthur impressed.

"It has been interesting watching them introduce young players and giving them responsibility at critical times, that has been so good. And seeing those young players respond has been amazing. I think India in cricket is in really, really good shape at the moment," said the 51-year-old Arthur after India beat Sri Lanka by seven wickets in the second T20 International in Indore on Tuesday.

"You look at someone like KL Rahul -- he hit some shots that were absolutely amazing. India along with probably Australia now -- I think Australia have found their mojo again -- are certainly the flagbearers in world cricket," said Arthur.

Before Sri Lanka, Arthur coached South Africa (2005-10), Australia (2010-13) and Pakistan (2016-19).  

India are not as strong in the T20 format as they in the other two formats but Arthur can barely find any chink in their armoury.

"They are a great cricket team and there are no apparent weaknesses."

Arthur has taken over a Sri Lankan team in transition and knows that it is very much a work in progress. On Tuesday, most of the Sri Lankan batsmen threw it away after getting starts and that did not go down well the head coach as India chased down the 143-run target in 17.3 overs.

"We did not get enough runs. We lost one of our bowlers unfortunately in the warm-up, but I think we were about 20-25 runs short of putting India under some pressure. We had a couple of our batsmen getting starts, but starts are not good enough. Somebody needs to get a 60-70 or 80 for us, and that is going to be the journey for us."

Sri Lanka has struggled ever since the likes of Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara retired and Arthur acknowledged it as a massive challenge to get the team back to the top.

"I told the boys in the dressing room that we have got to go to the 2020 World Cup (T20), qualify… We first have to qualify to get into the main draw and that is the reality of where we are at," he said, referring to Sri Lanka's seventh rank.

"The exciting thing for me though is that there is a very young core group of players and they are very skilled. But we need to coach game plans, match awareness,

"Pakistan was a team that was ranked No. 9 in T20 cricket and we got Pakistan to win 11 series in a row -- we did not play India -- and got ourselves to No 1 in the world. There were good values because we used the sum of our parts. And that is kind of what I see with Sri Lanka.

"It is going to be a challenge, we've got eight months to that 2020 World Cup, I am thinking even one World Cup further than that -- I am thinking (about) coming back here in 2021 when the guys would be a real finished article, but it is going to take a lot of work."

Arthur admitted that it would take some time for the young batting unit to gain some confidence.

"It is quite a young batting unit. For us as coaching staff and players, we have got some serious work to do in terms of gameplan, match awareness and playing the big moments. I think we had 49 dot balls tonight, which is too many, as the best teams in the world (would) have 25 dot balls."

The coach wants his players to rotate the strike more often than trying to hit every ball out of the park.

"That is something we need to keep working on. There are too many big shots without the ability to keep rotating the strike. If you cut those 49 (dot balls) by 24 then you have got another 24 to score off, and with strike rotation you put the bowlers off a little bit, you (may) get a bad ball, an extra boundary, and suddenly we are up to 170. And with that you can challenge the likes of a very good Indian team,” added Arthur.

'Understanding different cultures most important in international coaching'

Veteran coach Mickey Arthur has stressed on the importance of understanding "team culture" as a foreigner and building the side around it, something he could not understand with Australia but is in the process of doing so with Sri Lanka, his fourth international coaching assignment.

The 51-year-old started his journey as an international coach with native South Africa, taking the Proteas to the number one spot in Tests during his tenure from 2005 to 2010. It was under him that South Africa won their maiden Test series in Australia.

His next assignment with Australia from 2010 to 2013 did not end on a pleasant note as he was sacked in the wake of "homework gate" scandal during the 2013 tour of India. Arthur then guided Pakistan to the 2017 Champions Trophy title and it was under him they flourished as a T20 unit.

"I love experiencing different cultures. South Africa was different to Australia and Australia was totally different to Pakistan. And Pakistan is different to Sri lanka in so many ways. That is one of the challenges of coaching, that's what makes it so special," said Arthur.

However, PCB did not renew his contract following the 2019 World Cup, where Pakistan narrowly missed out on a semi-final berth.

Arthur was appointed Sri Lanka coach last month on a two-year contract. Having gained rich experience in international coaching, Arthur says he has learnt his lessons.

"Getting in and building a team that is representative of that culture, and that is the most important thing, that the culture comes first. That is probably something I got wrong with Australia.

"As long as you've got good players, selfless players, players that play and are committed to a cause. As long as you've got those guys, you can achieve great things. And I think in the Sri Lankan dressing room, we have got those players."

Another side which has been struggling since the retirement of senior players is South Africa. However, Arthur sees them bouncing back under the new management comprising the likes of Graeme Smith and Mark Boucher.

"...those with whom I was intricately involved with during my time in coaching -- Jacques Kallis, Charl Langeveldt, Paul Harris -- it is good to see them back and I certainly think they are going to make a massive difference to South African cricket," he said.

Asked whether the quotas for coloured players is affecting South Africa cricket, Arthur said it can't be used as an excuse anymore.

"It was something that had to happen. We can't keep using that as an excuse because players that are playing now, are playing on merit. You can look at the Rugby World Cup winning team, every player starts playing.

"(Kagiso) Rabada and those guys are playing because they are the best players. I think South African cricket is past that now."

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