There are few people better positioned than Mickey Arthur to lead a Sri Lankan side in the first round of the ICC T20 Men’s World Cup.
Presented as a coach throughout his playing days, Arthur has always demonstrated the virtues of the profession. Affordable, clear in communication and meticulous in detail, Arthur’s emotions in the stands or in the dugout are there for everyone, as he lives the ups and downs of international cricket almost alongside his players.
Speaking to the ICC ahead of the Men’s T20 World Cup, a spirited Arthur showed no signs of change during Sri Lanka’s campaign.
“I love the passion. I like its intensity. I love to ride this emotional wave.
“Some people say coaches should be stone faced and just sit there. This is not my character. I can not do that. I like the trip. I love driving.
The Sri Lankan post is Arthur’s fourth international post in a 16-year international coaching career, a period now longer than his time as a professional player. Compiling over 10,000 races across South African national cricket and representing South Africa A, Arthur became a coach younger than most. The first national successes followed and an offer to coach South Africa was forthcoming.
He had a baptism of fire, facing an Australian team still at their peak, though his class shone, ending a 43-year drought with a Test Series victory over England, and ultimately beating Australia in a Far From Home Test Series. Arthur went on to become Australia’s first foreign head coach, before winning the 2017 ICC Champions Trophy with Pakistan. He was appointed head coach of Sri Lanka in February.
For Arthur, to meet the high expectations of work and win as a team, he knows it is imperative that plans are in place to allow players to find their own way to win individual battles on the pitch.
“I think first of all you have to understand that it’s about the players. The environment is about the players and you are there to create that environment for them. Also, every player is different, and you have to treat every player differently.
“There is no one size fits all here in this job and you have to come in and have that connection with each of your players in order to get the most out of it.”
While formulating game plans, acting on observations and using the analysis and data available to apply on game day are all essential, for Arthur an eye must also look to the future, to consider the overall growth of a cricketer.
“The most important thing for me is to see the development of the players. Watch young people come into your system, watch them develop and then watch them succeed internationally.
“There is no better feeling in the world for a coach than having had a small impact on the development of that player.”
For Arthur, it’s important not to let a game or a moment define a campaign. While experiencing the ups and downs in the throes of battle, Arthur emphasizes that an outcome doesn’t make or defeat a team, and defeat brings with it lessons and information, provided it is observed. through the prism of perspective.
“There is a lot of learning from defeat. There will always be a side that wins and there will always be a side that loses, you just have to make sure that you win a little more often than you lose.
“But all I want to know is that the boys are learning and going in the right direction and getting better and better.”
Although the wisdom found through experience extends beyond simple field plans. Recognizing mistakes and missed opportunities throughout his career, Arthur has learned to shape his own philosophy in a way that meets the needs of the team. Different trades forced Arthur to adapt. Quite simply, there is no one-size-fits-all formula for successful coaching.
“Going to (coach) Australia was a little different. I probably made the mistake of thinking it would be very similar to South Africa, and it certainly wasn’t.
“But I loved the passion of the subcontinent. My three years in Pakistan have been incredible and culturally there was a lot of adjustment to be made there.
“Religion is so important to their lives that you have tailored your training sessions around prayer times. I have to admit the Sri Lankan boys are almost exactly the same. It’s a great team to be part of.
Seven of the tournament’s 16 teams are led by South African coaches, and Arthur will face two of them in Group A of the first round: Namibian Pierre de Bruyn and Irishman Graham Ford.
Ford himself coached Sri Lanka in two stints, from 2012 to 2014 and from 2016 to 2017. At the 2017 ICC Champions Trophy, Arthur met Ford in the group stage during his time with Pakistan, winning in a three-wicket victory. Pakistan won the tournament, beating India by 180 points, the biggest victory (by points) in a final at an ICC event.
While he’s not sure what South Africa’s World Cup coaching monopoly amounts to, Arthur suggests that the country’s collective strength in leadership brings a level of success.
“I am actually blown away by this statistic.
“There have been some very successful coaches who have come from South Africa.
“I think it’s definitely a career that a lot of people want in South Africa.”
Two of these successful South African coaches will meet when Arthur’s Sri Lanka takes on Pierre de Bruyn’s Namibia at Sheikh Zayed Stadium on Tuesday in their first T20 World Cup assignment.