‘I was disappointed, really disappointed’
CANTERBURY: Pakistan coach Mickey Arthur hopes the Australia ball-tampering scandal will prove a “reality check for world cricket” and that the banned trio of Steven Smith, David Warner and Cameron Bancroft get a chance to play county cricket in England.
Smith and Warner, the deposed captain and vice-captain, have been given one-year bans by Cricket Australia, while Bancroft has been hit with a nine-month suspension for his part in the ball-tampering scandal that marred the team’s recent tour of South Africa.
Top-order batsman Bancroft was all set to be Somerset’s overseas player this season but the county backed out of that deal after it emerged he had used sandpaper to alter the condition of the ball in Cape Town.
The CA ban applies only to Australia international matches and domestic fixtures, leaving open the possibility that the shamed trio could resume their careers elsewhere before their respective suspensions expires.
Now the coach of Pakistan, who begin their tour of England against Kent later this week, Arthur told reporters at the south-east county’s Canterbury headquarters on Wednesday that he had been stunned by the extraordinary scandal.
“It was a shock to me. I was disappointed, really disappointed, when I saw it go down,” he said.
Arthur, who coached Australia from 2011-2013, added: “Australia always play their cricket really hard, they play it tough. They’ve pushed ‘the line’ — I just want to know where ‘the line’ is because I’m not sure many people do know where that line is and what it is.
“But I think it got to a point where perhaps, hopefully this is a reality check for world cricket and just makes everybody sit back and take stock.
“Hopefully, something good comes out if it.”
Arthur was sympathetic to the idea of the banned trio playing county cricket.
“In a way, I feel really sorry for them. I can understand they were really stupid, they’ve paid a massive price for it and I know Steve Smith, he would be absolutely gutted.
“Cameron Bancroft is a new guy on the block so for him it would be really hard to swallow and Davey (Warner).
“For them to be missing the amount of cricket they are missing is tough on them so if the ECB (England and Wales Cricket Board) allowed it, it would be good for them to keep playing because I think they have paid a big price already.”
Arthur’s focus, however, is firmly fixed on Pakistan.
They face Kent in a four-day warm-up match starting Saturday ahead of an inaugural Test in Ireland and a two-Test series in England.
Pakistan impressed during a 2-2 drawn series in England two years ago and last year Arthur’s men won the Champions Trophy one-day tournament in Britain.
But since that 2016 series, Pakistan have seen the likes of veteran batsmen Misbah-ul-Haq and Younis Khan retire.
England may have suffered a 4-0 Ashes reverse in Australia and a subsequent Test series loss in New Zealand, but Arthur was in no doubt about how tough it would be to face Joe Root’s men in early-season English conditions.
“England are a really good side and in these conditions they are outstanding,” he said.
“There are not that many sides that win away from home these days, so that’s how we are challenging ourselves.
“England in the Ashes, I watched a lot of that, weren’t too bad.
“They had opportunities in a lot of the Test matches which they just didn’t close off.”
Arthur, who made his name coaching his native South Africa, added: “We are under no illusions. It will be a very tough series.
“But we’ve got a dressing room full of young cricketers who are extremely talented.”
Pakistan are set to be bolstered by the late arrival of Mohammad Amir after visa problems delayed the star paceman’s entry into Britain until Wednesday.