Pakistan coach Mickey Arthur has insisted both he and chief selector Inzamam-ul-Haq have the same expectations over player fitness after Umar Akmal was axed from the Champions Trophy squad a week before the tournament.
Akmal had been omitted from the West Indies tour when he was the one player from a group of 31 who failed to meet fitness standards. He then made it into the final 15-man squad for the Champions Trophy at the last minute after clearing a fitness test supervised by Inzamam at the National Cricket Academy. However, shortly after arriving in England, he failed two further tests overseen by Arthur and was dispatched back to Pakistan.
Arthur, addressing the issue for the first time in the tournament, said there was no question of any part of the Pakistan management accepting different standards of fitness.
“Inzi and myself are on exactly the same page,” he said in Cardiff ahead of Pakistan’s decisive group match against Sri Lanka. “In terms of that test, I’m not sure how that happened. We were always going to test the guys here so every guy who is now here is fine. Inzi has bought into exactly what we want to do so there’s no disconnect between us at all, we are on the same page.”
Arthur struck an exasperated tone when talking specifically of Akmal, whose ODI career has stalled on 116 matches since the tour of Australia. “It was incredibly disappointing with Umar Akmal because he didn’t tour West Indies for the same reason. I would have thought in that month that he would have done something.
“He’s just got to get out there and do it. All the players know what the standards are and they need to do it because it’s a culture we are trying to develop. It doesn’t happen overnight. The standards are going to go up and up. There has to be that culture of hard work, commitment and dedication because that shows us players really want to play.”
At the time of Akmal being removed from the squad, Inzamam said: “We had a set a fitness standard which isn’t really a tough one to start with. But he still didn’t meet the average level. So whoever the player is, whatever his performance is like, we could not select him. Akmal being dropped is a reprimand and it’s a major blow for any player. He is a good player, we needed him, but we had to take a decision.”
Asked about the fitness levels on show at the Champions Trophy, Arthur said: “It’s one the things we work tirelessly on and we are going in the right direction.”