KARACHI: Mickey Arthur and the PCB are close to agreeing a deal that will result in Arthur’s return to the Pakistan men’s side – but as team director and not, as previously, head coach. Talks between the two had ended three weeks ago when the PCB announced it was moving on in its search for a replacement for Saqlain Mushtaq, the outgoing Pakistan coach.
The two sides had failed to reach an agreement on how such a role could work, given Arthur has a long-term deal with Derbyshire, which he does not want to end. But last week, Najam Sethi, the interim head of the PCB, revealed that he was continuing the pursuit of Arthur. ESPNcricinfo understands that an arrangement is close to being finalised now, with Arthur potentially starting from April 1 as team director.
That designation will make for an unusual management structure – at international level at least – in which Arthur will not be with the Pakistan team on every tour but will have a handpicked group of support staff running operations. Lead among the support staff is expected to be former Pakistan fielding coach – and one-time head of their High Performance Centre – Grant Bradburn, in the role of a high-powered assistant coach. There will also be three coaches for batting, bowling and fielding, but no traditional head coach.
During the English county season, Arthur will not be hands on with the team; Pakistan tour Sri Lanka this July for instance and are scheduled to host the Asia Cup in September. But once the county season is over, Arthur is expected to be with the side at high-profile commitments such as the ODI World Cup in India in October-November this year and the Test tour of Australia later in the winter. The duration of such a contract is one of the points still being worked out but both sides believe Pakistan’s schedule is such that it allows for such an arrangement to work.
One of the more interesting appointments under Arthur is likely to be that of Rehan-ul-Haq, the general manager at the PSL franchise Islamabad United and a prominent broadcast analyst. He is expected to be, on paper, the team manager but with a brief much broader than the more traditional administrative role of managers. The role might be more akin to a chief of staff for Arthur, driving the team environment – Rehan is also one of the men credited with creating the data-driven approach at Islamabad United, two-time winners of the PSL.
Arthur was head coach of the Pakistan side between 2016 and 2019, a generally successful white-ball period that included a Champions Trophy triumph in 2017 and the transformation of their limited-overs sides. Having languished behind other Full Members after a poor showing at the 2016 T20 World Cup, Arthur helped transform a T20 side under the leadership of Sarfaraz Ahmed and took them to the number one spot in the ICC rankings. There were notable Test results as well, though the red-ball side proved harder to transform. One big, early defeat at the 2019 World Cup meant Pakistan failed narrowly to reach the last four of the event, and Arthur was replaced by Misbah-ul-Haq soon after.
More significantly, Arthur’s return will reunite him with a number of players in whose development he played a key early role in that first stint, not least the captain Babar Azam. Arthur persisted with Babar during a tough initiation into Test cricket and oversaw his white-ball rise. Others such as Sarfaraz, Hasan Ali, Shaheen Shah Afridi, Fakhar Zaman and Shadab Khan have also spoken in the past of the impact Arthur has had on their careers. Arthur had a stint with Sri Lanka after the Pakistan job and has since been with Derbyshire.