Mickey Arthur, the youngest national coach in contemporary cricket, seemed to have shown attributes of a good coach even during his playing days for Griqualand West and Orange Free State as a right-handed batsman.
Though the 38-year-old from Johannesburg did not play international cricket, his surprise choice as the successor to the rather exacting Ray Jennings in May last year has worked well for the South Africans, ranked number two in the world ODI rankings.
As South Africa prepare to take on Sri Lanka on Tuesday and Pakistan on October 27, Arthur shares his ideas on how he plans to wins those games and reach the semifinals.
On areas to improve on ahead of Sri Lanka game: We have to improve in all areas. It is a huge game for us, a mustwin situation. There is a lot of pressure, and that is the way we like to play We . were a bit disappointed with our performance against New Zealand. The wicket obviously did not help when we batted. But we did not play well enough to threaten New Zealand.
On possible changes in the playing XI: We have the option of playing an extra batsman or an extra bowler, depending on the conditions. Whether AB de Villiers will come in our starting line-up will be decided on Monday after having a closer look at the conditions. We opted to play an extra bowler against New Zealand but there may be a strategy change against Sri Lanka.
On how tough it was to regroup after the tri-series in Sri Lanka was rained out in August: That was really tough for us and hampered our preparations because we were looking at ODIs against Sri Lanka and India to try certain combinations, try youngsters. We were without Smith and Kallis, and our fringe players had an opportunity… Unfortunately that did not materialise. We did try , to improvise in the series against Zimbabwe and a couple of games at home and in three practice matches out here. But we wanted to see the guys take on stiff opposition, so it was disappointing to miss out on games in Lanka.
On the pressure on South Africa: International cricket is always a pressure situation — it is nothing new. Our destiny still lies in our hands… We win the two games and we will be in the semifinals. We hold our own destiny and do not have to rely on results. Whatever happens is up to us. If we perform well, we can still go all the way in this competition.
On his views on the use of ‘glue’ to bid the Brabourne pitch: Unfortunately it was the way the pitch behaved in the , second half of our game that probably prompted that decision. In ODIs, you can't have a game of two halves. You can't have the pitch behaving totally differently in the second innings. Yes, we had the advantage of winning the toss but we squandered that advantage.
On why his side is a strong contender: We have a lot of stars, a lot of guys who played for the World XI. One of our strengths is our togetherness. The guys tend to look after each other and that is important in cricket.
On the plans to tackle Muttiah Muralitharan: We discuss Murali a lot and we have got a lot of video footage of him. We have just come out of a Test series where Murali bowled a huge number of overs against us. He is a world-class performer and challenges any team that plays against him. Ours is no different.