“Pakistan Way” is more than just an aggressive style of play ©Getty
In May 2023, the Pakistan men’s team revealed the new brand of cricket they will play – The Pakistan Way. It was widely considered to be an aggressive brand of cricket, which the team vouched for under the leadership of Mickey Arthur and Grant Bradburn.
However, in an interview with Cricbuzz, the Pakistan head coach explains that the Pakistan Way team has been in the making since 2018, how it has developed, how it is more than just an aggressive style of play and why it has failed to achieve it. successfully implemented it so far in limited-overs cricket.
Pakistan went back to announcing their starting eleven a day before the match. What is the logic behind this, especially since it gives the opposition an advantage in developing plans? Isn’t this machismo somewhat counterproductive?
During the matches at home, in Afghanistan and in the Asia Cup, we felt – and this is the most important reason – that it gave clarity to our players. And self-confidence. They can go to sleep knowing they are batting 1 or where they will be bowling. This is the most important goal – ensuring transparency and showing trust in our team. Each (opposition) team has its own analysts and intelligent coaches who know what the lineup will be anyway.
Can’t this transparency be internal communication?
Yes definitely. But revealing it strengthens the faith we have in them. It’s not something we’re totally committed to. We felt comfortable doing it in the Afghanistan series and the Asia Cup. We haven’t discussed yet whether we will do it here (at the World Cup). But one thing is certain, we will make everything clear to our own team.
We wanted honesty, but also trust and respect. We wanted our players to earn their place and our selectors to select on merit.
What does “Pakistan way” mean?
The Pakistan Way was something I was fortunate enough to be involved in developing and implementing in my previous high performance coaching role. Saqlain Mushtaq, who was the development director at the time, and I worked very closely to put together an assessment of Wasim Khan’s achievements at the time and find ourselves brave enough to engage with Pakistan. Everyone wants to be on top of the world. We all agree on one thing – we want to win an important event, we want to live in the top three rankings in the world. Test cricket is also very important to us. We set a priority that no one agreed with. But the big opportunity was: what skills do we need to achieve this, to achieve this? For individuals, what does the team need to demonstrate, what do our coaches need to do to help achieve that result, and what do our selectors need to do to make selections on merit?
We have combined a set of values. We wanted honesty, but also trust and respect. We wanted our players to earn their place and our selectors to select on merit. We wanted to give everyone in Pakistan the opportunity to contribute to the land. This was an important value for us. And the last one was courage. We wanted to bring out the strong character of the Pakistani people. These values underpinned a simple philosophy – the country. Team. I.
It was great to share with the nation, with the national coaches, from the first-team coaches, to the under-13 players’ coaches, to the national coaches, to give them guidance and say, ‘You are great coaches with different skill sets.’ You do it your way, but when you train, remember that we want to be number one in the world. Here’s the skill set and performance our team needs to make this happen. Otherwise it won’t happen. It’s a very simple philosophy – it’s a one pager.
Everyone thinks that Pakistan Way has suddenly become an aggressive new brand. This is something Mickey and I noticed in April when I arrived. This is something we really want to continue. There is a lot of shortsightedness in Pakistan cricket and there is a high turnover of staff and players. One of the things we were adamant about was that we wanted to continue some of the work that had been done before. Especially since I worked very closely with Saqlain Mushtaq, I was very keen on continuing the foundations of the Pakistan Way that we had worked so hard on under the previous regime as well. And there were clear signs it was working, as Saqlain took the team to two World Cup finals. It was great to see that something so simple had an immediate effect.
When Mickey and I joined the team in April, it was very important for us to take it in a different direction, to give it a turbo boost. The game is constantly changing, the game is becoming much more dynamic and aggressive in all three aspects. We wanted to continue the foundation of the Pakistan Way. Taking this as a guide is valuable not only for us as a team but also for everyone in Pakistan.
“We’re changing our language a little bit about our individual artists who are very proud of their records and are among the best in the world,” says Bradburn ©Getty
So it’s not just about aggressive play and scoring patterns as is commonly believed?
It’s definitely part of the modern game. Mickey and I came out and revealed the fact that in April we were 3rd, 5th and 6th in the world rankings. We are pleased to say that we have made progress. We were very honest with the team about the style of cricket we played, but the style of cricket we played didn’t allow us to get the results we wanted. So we kept pushing, and it’s not always comfortable to challenge players. But Mickey and I were adamant that our philosophy is that we are not here to take this job for a while but to make a difference in Pakistan cricket and we want to continue to propagate this philosophy and the Pakistani style we look forward to on its result.
We knew we couldn’t achieve this without making significant changes to the way we played. Our brand of cricket was outdated. Especially in Test cricket, we survived rather than looking for ways to win. We changed significantly in April and wanted to take a new direction, really taking an offensive approach to Test cricket. We struggled with turnover and didn’t show the skills we have. We organized several camps, had many discussions and focused on specific areas where we wanted to make profits. It was really nice to see in Sri Lanka that on difficult pitches our boys played an aggressive brand of Test cricket that ultimately put pressure on the opposition.
Change is uncomfortable and we want players to feel uncomfortable. We are at the forefront.
Ironically, we haven’t been able to implement this philosophy so quickly in one-day cricket, which may sound strange. There are different personnel, different pressures and different comforts with how people have played in the past. However, we have raised the bar. We sat down in Islamabad and collectively decided that the batting targets that we generally accepted as a team were no longer relevant. We’ve put it in our bowling attack where they think their bowling targets should be or where they think they should limit the opposition on their best day. We have also lowered them. We have some lofty goals for this group to move in an aggressive new direction to put us on the sharp edge or at the forefront of where cricket wants to go. We are well aware that we have been number 1 recently, we have many players who are ranked very high in the world, but we are also not naive if we understand that the real number one will want to lift the cup in November, and we want it to be us . We work hard on all elements of our game to push ourselves beyond our comfort zone.
How easy is it to convince players to buy into this philosophy when it’s high risk – a bit like Bazball – and there are days when things don’t go the way you want? Criticism in Pakistan can be quite harsh and often even nasty – from fans, media and former cricketers.
Bright. Change is uncomfortable and we want players to feel uncomfortable. We are at the forefront. If this (World Cup) is a collection of the best players in the world, no game will be given to us. The best part is the support we provide to players and the challenge of new levels they can reach. Within skill sets, we have no trouble finding skills. The challenge for us is to use these skills in different phases of the game. This will have a greater impact on them personally and on us as a team.
We worked very hard to define our team’s game plan. We know exactly what we want to do. We know that throughout all six phases of the game – power play, mid-passes and close-outs – we know what needs to happen for us to play really well. Now that we have made this clear to players, we are also working to gain buy-in for their individual roles in this regard. It is exciting. It inspires players.
We are changing our approach a bit to our individual artists, who are very proud of their albums and are among the best in the world. However, what is more important for us is the impact on the game. Particularly with the white ball, we have brought to light an understanding of what the impact on performance looks like. This is not always easily visible on the scoreboard. Maybe it won’t be a big performance, but Shadab, for example [Khan] and Iftikhar [Ahmed] they were praised for the impact they made in a short period of time, which netted us a tidy sum.
Is there a need now to define and label team culture and style of cricket?
We are very meticulous, we define it in our own way. There is a particular branding that I won’t share, but it exists within the team and we know what we’re trying to do. We become more and more comfortable with carefully assessing our own performances. We know our position, we study our opposition, but we’re probably more diligent about criticizing our own performances and we feel more comfortable criticizing performances that don’t match where we want to be, that don’t match where our record is.
This doesn’t mean we aren’t very open about our culture, but the way we value a person is something different. We value people for who they are, what their background is, what their families are. We are a family-oriented team and we love it. The boys are very proud of where they come from and in our unit they can be themselves. We try to break down the hierarchy in the team and make sure that everyone is valued. But when it comes to cricket, we criticize the performance, not the person.
Read part 1 of the interview with Grant Bradburn here
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