BIRMINGHAM: Pakistan coach Mickey Arthur insisted his side were “completely calm” ahead of their Champions Trophy opener against arch-rivals India — the latest edition of world cricket’s highest profile fixture.
A sell-out crowd is expected at the Edgbaston ground in Birmingham — a city with one of the largest Asian populations in Britain — while the worldwide television audience for Sunday’s match could run into the billions.
But Arthur, after seeing Pakistan train Saturday, told reporters at Edgbaston: “They have topped their skills up, and they’re ready for a big game.
“Our changing room was completely calm. It’s amazing.
“It’s the outside noise that there is.
“Within the dressing room, it is unbelievably calm, unbelievably focused and very, very excited for the challenge that presents itself tomorrow (Sunday).”
Arthur, appointed Pakistan coach in May last year added: “When we started this, the players would go and hit balls and hit balls and wouldn’t really know when to stop.
“Today, we were short, we were sharp. People got exactly what they wanted out of the training nets.
“They’re ready for a big game. Our changing room was completely calm. It’s amazing.”
This will be the first time Arthur, a former coach of both his native South Africa and Australia, has been involved directly in a match between cricket’s fiercest rivals.
Asked how it compared to the Ashes, Arthur who was dismissed by Australia shortly before the 2013 Test series against England, said, with a smile: “To be honest, I got sacked just before the Ashes. So I never ever experienced that.
“But I think this rivalry is certainly bigger than most and I’m just so excited to be part of it.”
Arthur, however, insisted Pakistan would ignore the “little bit of hype” surrounding their latest fixture against India, the Champions Trophy title-holders.
‘Every game massive’
In a tournament featuring the world’s top eight one-day international teams, and with just three group games a side, Arthur emphasised how every match counted.
“We know for us to progress in this tournament, we’ve got to hit the ground running,” he said.
“Every game for us in this competition is massive.
“We can’t take our foot off the pedal in any game, and we can’t think, ‘ah, it’s India, we have to just lift ourselves’, because that would be very unprofessional.”
Pakistan, captained by Sarfraz Ahmed, one of the world’s leading wicket-keeper/batsmen, have plenty of variety in their attack.
Arthur was convinced that would be key to their chances against a powerful India top order.
“I think the team that’s going to win this competition is the team that can strike,” he said. “Gone are the days of just containing through the middle, gone are the days of just soaking up pressure.
“You’ve got to be able to take wickets.
“We always say you pick an attack to take wickets, and that’s what we’re trying to do tomorrow (Sunday).
“If you look, we’ve got a left-arm swinger (Mohammad Amir), could have left-arm pace (Wahab Riaz).
“We’ve got the swing and hustle and end swing of Hasan (Ali)
“We’ve got a left-arm spinner (Imad Wasim). We could have a leg-spinner (Azhar Ali). We’ve got an off-spinner (Shoaib Malik).”
He added: “We’ve got everything at our disposal tomorrow to allow Saf (Sarfraz) to pull the strings to make sure we can try to bowl India out, because that’s got to be priority number one.”
“We can’t just sit back and let them score. We’ve got to attack them and we’ve got to look to bowl them out.”