Colombo - Nobody, least of all Australians, could doubt the commitment of former Proteas coach Mickey Arthur to his new team - Australia. But nothing has changed the fundamental quality of the man which earned him the nickname: ‘Honest Mickey.’
The supersport.com website reports that, if possible, Arthur has made an even greater impression on the Australian team and administration than he did on South Africa’s. His work ethic, respect, organisation and tactical skill were, at times, almost reluctantly appreciated for much of his five years in charge of the Proteas. In Australia, however, there is no reservation for the respect he commands.
Speaking to Journalists in Colombo this week, Arthur looked forward to next week’s ICC T20 encounter against his former colleagues.
“It was interesting seeing the guys in the hotel. I haven't seen them for two and a half years since I left South Africa so I wasn't 100 per cent sure how I'd react. It was great, all the friendships are still there but there's a steely determination to knock them over and I think there is going to be that edge building up in the week, between them and me,” Arthur said.
“You always like to beat a team you've been with for so long and I do feel that extra edge.”
Despite the risk of fanning the flames of a ‘divided loyalties’ debate, Arthur Spoke with typical honesty about the Proteas squad: “I think they're the best all round team in this tournament. They've got everything now. In Robin Peterson and Johan Botha they've got the ability to take pace off and turn it, they've got pace, I was so impressed with the way they bowled against Sri Lanka, albeit only seven overs. Their batting depth is phenomenal so I think they are the best all-round side,” Arthur said.
Whereas most rival coaches might have taken the opportunity (yet again) to question South Africa’s fortitude under pressure and their ‘choker’ tag, Arthur rose far above any cheap shots:
“To be honest, I think they've gone beyond that. It was always a mystery to me that we couldn't progress. When I think back to all the other World Cups, Twenty20s and Champions Trophies, we'd go unbeaten until the latter stages. Something I could never do with the team was progress them from there, but I think they're a different bunch of characters now, I really do.
"There's no doubt they have been hardened up but also a lot of those players who were in those situations are not there now, and if you look at the Twenty20 side you're talking about Jacques (Kallis), AB and Dale (Steyn). The other young boys it's not a factor, but they'll always have that tag over them until they can win an ICC event,” Arthur said.
He wouldn’t, obviously, enjoy a South African win. Right. Would he?
“I feel very proud (of the SA team’s success), I really do. They were a very good team who worked incredibly hard and I take an immense amount of pride watching them develop. So if we don't win it, I hope they break the shackles, because I know what they have put in to get there.”