Arthur meets Pakistan's best domestic players in Lahore
For the first time since he was appointed Pakistan coach 10 months ago, Mickey Arthur met the best domestic players in the country and, after running them through a three-day camp in Lahore, he was even able to find new talents who could be fast-tracked into the national side.
"It was really good to see the full of reserve strength," Arthur told reporters at Gaddafi Stadium. "These are the guys who have performed in domestic competitions and now we can put a name and we know exactly how they've performed we've taken a lot of notes on them, so it was great, it was really nice to see it, there was some nice talent which was pleasing to see.
"Ideally, we're going to be building on this now and going forward, keep inviting these guys [for more work]. We took a couple of them out of the training camp that we saw here and we've put them onto our main group now. I think there's five guys that have come up, which is great, the guys that we think could make a significant difference to our team at the moment. This is the incentive to those young guys to keep performing all the time."
The PCB chairman Shaharyar Khan wanted Arthur to become familiar with the bench strength in Pakistan. So, the selection committee headed by former Test captain Inzamam-ul-Haq handpicked 41 cricketers to attend the training camp with Arthur. Out of this camp, fast bowlers Mohammad Abbas, Usman Khan and Amad Butt, allrounders Shadab Khan, Hussain Talat and Fahim Ashraf and batsmen Fakhar Zaman and Asif Zakir were added to a 31-member preliminary squad for the West Indies tour in March-April.
Following strength and conditioning sessions at the National Cricket Academy, the selectors will trim the roster to 16 men when they meet next Saturday.
The PSL had also been a useful indicator of fringe talent. Shadab, for example, consistently beat batsmen with his googlies and Zaman's performance suggested he could be useful in the middle order in limited-overs cricket.
"There are lot of young players involved in the camp," Arthur said. "We certainly took cognizance how they train and how they played in the PSL. That was a real opportunity for us to see them play under pressure and a lot of guys impressed and all those guys who impressed are in the camp at the moment."
Pakistan have lost six Tests on the trot - a worrying fall considering they were No. 1 in August last year - and their one-day cricket required improvement as well, especially with regards to their ICC ranking. Currently at No. 8, they have to hold the position until September 30 to gain automatic qualification for the 2019 World Cup. Arthur felt the best way to do that was by recognising their best cricketers and giving them all the backing they would need to play freely.
"For us at the moment, and certainly for Inzamam and myself, it's really key that we clock the way forward to the 2019 World Cup without chopping and changing too much and that's why you can see 31 players are going through fitness testing now.
"It's important for us that we don't chop and change because then we start giving clarity and we'll know who is available and how we can use those players. For us, it's how those players fit into the brand as well. That's really important because we need to change our brand we need to be taking on the game a bit more and those are the things which we are going to work hard more before the West Indies tour."
Arthur has been vocal about revamping the way Pakistan play limited-overs cricket. He believed they were falling behind the times, and more importantly their competition, and wanted to change that as quickly as possible.
"We need to a) identify the players; b) re-identify the brand; c) put a role for those players within that brand and hopefully they get confident and we see better results. What we do know, though, is that we need to change the way we play one-day cricket because we are playing a very conservative style of one-day cricket. This style doesn't cut in when other teams are scoring 320-340 so we need to able to match it."
There has already been a change with respect to Pakistan in ODIs. Azhar Ali, after leading the team to five series losses out of ten played, resigned in February and Sarfraz Ahmed has taken over the reins.
"I think Safi [Sarfraz] is going to come in and offer so much, but that's not to say Azhar didn't offer anything," Arthur said. "He was a very good captain, tactically and I thought he really did a good job. The selection panel and the PCB just thought that they need to go in another direction and it is closer to the way that Safi enjoys playing. He and I now have to keep driving that without a doubt."
Responding to a question about how Pakistan could improve on their consistency, Arthur said only when an athlete is in peak physical condition can he perform day in and day out. "This is what we are striving for. It actually starts at the training ground, starts around the attitude toward fitness. To be honest, we've got some work to do there as well. We went through all their fitness tests and we are a little bit off the pace. For us now it's about changing the fitness culture.
"For us now, it's going to become criteria in terms of selection going forward. The players are busy in doing fitness testing at the moment and by and large they've been fairly good which is good to see. I think in the eight months that we've been here they have sort of made significant progress, but we're still not where rest of the world is and that's something that we need to continue work all the time."
"But once we get there, it becomes easier. We are trying to drive the players to those standards. We are aiming for consistency all the time and those boys [who are not consistent] will get more and more consistent. A lot of players are challenging for places in the side. There are 31 guys in the camp and no one at the moment is certain about his position. We are going to have a 50-over game on 15 March and we are going to select two teams and after that we are going to announce a squad that is going West Indies."
Umar Farooq is ESPNcricinfo's Pakistan correspondent