Mickey Arthur’s split from Australian cricket in mid-2013 was not the prettiest © AFP
At the Gabba five years ago, Mitchell Starc and Mickey Arthur made their Australia Test debuts together: Starc as a player, Arthur as coach. A new era was beginning. The Argus review was complete, the fiasco of the 2010-11 Ashes was in the past. That year’s Gabba Test also marked David Warner’s debut, Nathan Lyon’s first home Test, and Michael Clarke’s first home Test as full-time captain.
Now, Arthur is back at the Gabba as coach – but not of Australia; his tenure famously ended on the eve of the 2013 Ashes in England with a surprise sacking and the installation of Darren Lehmann as his replacement. And so, just as Starc, Warner, Lyon and Usman Khawaja entered the Brisbane Test of 2011 with Arthur their mentor, now they approach the Gabba with Arthur in charge of their opposition: Pakistan.
It is not a unique situation in international cricket and not even for Arthur, who had coached South Africa and then in 2012-13 coached Australia against them. Starc remembered Arthur as “a nice guy”, but said the Australians had moved on from his tenure, and described the group as “a lot closer” under Lehmann.
“He has been a coach of an Australian cricket team, he spent some time in domestic cricket in Australia, he’ll have a bit of knowledge around the Gabba and some of our players,” Starc said of Arthur. “But our team has changed immensely since he has been put out of the job… we’re a lot closer.
“Boof’s [Lehmann] obviously brought his own coaching theories and concepts into the group, so the group has obviously changed personnel-wise as well. We’ve developed massively as a squad since the time of Mickey Arthur, and I think all for the better.”
Starc’s own Test career has taken off since Lehmann joined the squad. Under Arthur, Starc was in and out of the side and collected 30 wickets at 34.03. Under Lehmann, he has picked up 99 wickets at 25.73 and become one of the most effective bowlers in world cricket. This is not to suggest a correlation, for Starc was young and still developing his game during Arthur’s reign, but Starc said there were clear differences between the two coaches.
“One probably rode the game a little bit more and I think at times found it hard to watch,” Starc said. “Whereas Boof instils a lot of confidence in you, he has got that laid back old-school attitude but doesn’t sugar coat anything. I think that’s what this young group needs as well, with some hard truths sometimes.
“Obviously over the last couple of months we haven’t played our best cricket but having a nice win in Adelaide and a good amount of cricket in the last 10 days to win that series against New Zealand pretty solidly. So I think we’ve got a bit of momentum behind us and Boof has been great to contribute to that.”
Pakistan enter this series ranked fourth in Test cricket while Australia are third, but notably both sides have spent time at No. 1 this year. Australia are searching for their first series win since the tour of New Zealand in February, having lost away to Sri Lanka and at home to South Africa, while Pakistan are coming off a series defeat in New Zealand.
“They’ve played some really good cricket over the last year-and-a-half to fight to the top of the world rankings in the last couple of months,” Starc said of Pakistan. “They’ve struggled in New Zealand and probably struggle a little more away from home – they’re really comfortable in the UAE.
“So it’s a good opportunity for us in this Test match in Brisbane to assert our dominance first up, make an impression in the first Test of the series, which we all know goes a long way to working out the final result.”
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Source: ESPN Crickinfo