ICC Champions Trophy 2017 Final: There's a hell of a good vibe in Pakistan dressing room, says coach
After Pakistan were thrashed by India by 124 runs two weeks ago, coach Mickey Arthur blamed "the magnitude of the occasion" for the fear his side showed. That was their opening match of the Champions Trophy. The teams meet again on Sunday in the final, an obviously bigger occasion. Asked why Pakistan's effort will be different this time, Arthur said on Saturday their attitude is different. "They're genuinely excited," he said at The Oval before their last practice. "I said before the Edgbaston game, I thought they were really, really calm, but they're very, very excited now, and there's a hell of a good vibe in that dressing room."
Arthur suggested he and the staff made a mistake in analysing India too much, creating a fear that came out on the field at Edgbaston. The fielding was sloppy, the bowling didn't stick to the game plan, and the batsmen didn't run well between the wickets. The end result was embarrassing.
In this buildup, Arthur said they've focused much less on India and more on reinforcing what they do well. Their strength was their bowling, and the ability to take wickets, especially through the middle overs when teams consolidate. Fast bowler Mohammad Amir, who missed the semifinals because of a back spasm, will play.
"If we can get amongst them with the new ball, we can expose the middle order that hasn't batted much this competition ... that's pretty much our aim and focus," Arthur said. "We have the attack to restrict them or defend against them."
Following that humbling defeat to their archrival, the Pakistanis had to beat South Africa and Sri Lanka, and did so. Then they crushed England in the semifinals, and the least surprised was Arthur, who didn't hide his emotions in the stands.
"The India game ... was an aberration," he said. "What we've produced after that doesn't come as any surprise because that's how we trained, and that's what we worked at. It was very disappointing to see that go wrong in the Indian game. But we've closed the chapter on that. We're moving forward. And the guys have played exactly as I thought they would play."
Like Pakistan, India have tried to treat the final as just another game. India have won the Champions Trophy twice and the Cricket World Cup twice, but never successfully defended a title. They could make history at The Oval.
"We haven't spoken about this game in any different way," captain Virat Kohli said. "We've practiced the same way from the first day we came here. Even today's practice was absolutely similar. There wasn't any drop of intensity or something extra. There's no overexcitement. People are just doing the normal things that they do in any practice session.
"It's just another game of cricket tomorrow, and whatever the result, we have to go forward and play more games after that. The more relaxed you stay in these kind of situations, it's a good thing, because it helps you take better decisions when you are composed and calm mentally, and you can help the team come out of difficult situations only if you're thinking in that fashion."
India is used to finals, used to embracing the pressure and expectations. But isolation has stymied Pakistan. This is its first Trophy final. It hasn't beaten India in a major ICC event in eight years, and it hasn't won a global ODI title since 1992.
But Arthur believes the team is much better than it was two weeks ago.
"Let's hope we can put out our A game again tomorrow," he said, "because if we can, and I said it before the England game, if we put our A game together and do the basics well, we can beat anybody."