NELSON: Pakistan head coach Mickey Arthur predicted on Sunday the two-match series in New Zealand will keenly contested.
Arthur knows as well as anyone that New Zealand’s seam-friendly pitches are a million miles removed from India’s spin havens.
So despite the fact that New Zealand are coming off a comprehensive three-Test series defeat to India, the affable South African is reading nothing into recent results.
Pakistan have some momentum behind them, arriving in New Zealand on Saturday with a 2-1 Test series win over the West Indies in the UAE. However, they lost the last Test by five wickets — a result Arthur blamed on complacency and tiredness.
Pakistan are in Nelson preparing for their three-day warm-up match against New Zealand ‘A’ starting at Saxton Oval on Friday and Arthur, who was appointed Pakistan’s head coach in May this year, was expecting a tight and competitive two-Test series.
“First of all, I think the New Zealand cricket team’s very well coached,” Arthur said. “I think they’re a very good side at the moment, particularly in their own conditions. But our training and preparation and focus is pretty much on how we trained and prepared to play in England.”
Pakistan and England shared their recent Test series 2-2.
“I think in England I think we got it right and [New Zealand] conditions are going to be similar to England. They’re totally different to what we’ve just come out of in Dubai, but we were in England only three months ago and we played really well there.
“So I don’t expect anything too different from the conditions in England and the players are used to them.”
Arthur said that he regarded the Black Caps with the utmost respect. “I think it’s going to be a hell of a series…and for the New Zealand public, I think it’s going to be outstanding.”
Despite genuine disappointment at New Zealand left-arm spinner Mitchell Santner’s withdrawal through injury, Arthur was obviously wary of New Zealand’s experienced attack.
“The seam attack’s very good. We’re expecting a sort of trial-by-seam I guess. [But] we’ve got a very good seam attack as well.”
He said the difference could lie “in which of the top six batsmen batting units are going to perform better, because I think both teams’ strength lies in the fact that we’ve got quality seam and swing bowlers”.
Arthur said he wasn’t surprised by New Zealand’s heavy defeat at the hands of India.
“I coached Australia in India and we lost 4-0…those conditions are so tough for a team that comes from outside of the sub-continent.
“All it does is fire up New Zealand to come back and be better in their own conditions, which they certainly will be.”
He didn’t see much merit in Australian coach Darren Lehman’s suggestion about doing away with the toss at Test level and allowing the visiting team first choice of the conditions. However, he said there was room for match referees to write ‘strongish’ reports around pitches.
“But I don’t think you can take the toss away simply because home ground advantage is massive and if teams want to be number one in the world…they need to be winning overseas.”
Arthur said he was ‘fairly settled’ on his first Test line-up ahead of this weekend’s warm-up fixture and was likely to give his top six batsmen a run against New Zealand ‘A’ “to give them a hit out in these conditions”.
“The bowling we’ll probably juggle around. I think we know who’s going to start that first test and for us it’ll just be making sure we get enough into their legs before the [first Test] start [in Christchurch].”
Still, Arthur is confident that Pakistan will be carrying real momentum into the series. “We’re a very good cricket team. We’ve got to play well and all our players need to be performing at their best…not a lot of standout individuals, but a team that works very well together.”