Asia Cup 2018: Pakistan suffering ‘confidence crisis’ feels Mickey Arthur, but backs team for final
Fakhar Zaman has had a poor Asia Cup, struggling with the bat and dropping catches. @Getty

Mickey Arthur, Pakistan’s coach, has attributed the team’s precarious position in the 2018 Asia Cup to a “confidence crisis” but sent out a warning ahead of their must-win final match of the Super Four against Bangladesh.

Pakistan began their campaign with an eight-wicket win over Hong Kong, but have since then lost to India twice and narrowly beat Afghanistan to turn their last game with Bangladesh into a virtual semi-final. According to Arthur, the team’s shaky batting and fielding – they dropped five catches in the game with Afghanistan – was down to a matter of confidence.

“They’re suffering a confidence crisis at the moment, there’s a little bit of fear of failure in the dressing room, there’s a bit of a reality check for exactly where we are as a cricket team,” Arthur told reporters after the loss . “In terms of the worst performance, nine wickets, it’s got to be up there but we’re on a journey, we’ll get better and stronger than this.”

“It’s a confidence thing. Certainly in terms of the amount of work these guys have put in, it’s second to none. These guys work every day on their catching, but the minute one goes down, it’s kind of like a disease. It catches off and catches on. It takes one good catch, one good innings or a five-for to turn it around and we will get the confidence back then. We’ve got to trust the skills to come out in the end. We’ve banked the work. It’s time for that to pay off.”

Highlighting Pakistan’s woes in the Asia Cup is the form of the opener Fazhar Zaman, who smashed his way to 515 runs in the 5-0 sweep of Zimbabwe this summer – in the process becoming Pakistan’s first ODI double-centurion – but has in the UAE managed 55 runs from four innings with a best of 31.

Again, Arthur defended Zaman’s poor tournament by speaking of confidence. “Look at Fakhar Zaman, he’s an incredible player, he’s an X-factor player and we expect him to take the game on at the top of the order, but he’s doubting his game a little at the moment. We’ve got to just ride the wave with him. If we do that, when he comes out, he’ll be a better player for this. We’ve banked the work, the work is all done,” said the South African.

After making 237 on Sunday in Dubai, Pakistan were pummelled by nine wickets as India openers Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan scored centuries in record opening stand of 210. Arthur admitted that the bowling strategies had come undone in a hurry.

“There was inconsistency in lines and lengths, and it’s disappointing,” Arthur said. “We went into panic mode. Once they got in, we started searching for wickets. The way you get wickets is, you’ve got to build pressure. We didn’t stay with our plans long enough. Our plans was to hit the hard lengths, hit top of off with our seamers, and then have the ability to put them under pressure in the middle. We’ve got to attack to take wickets, it didn’t happen and we weren’t patient enough. There were plans but they weren’t executed for long enough.”

Pakistan next play Bangladesh on Wednesday, and with a smile, Arthur reminded the media about how such situations have often worked in their favour: “That’s when we’re at our best, that’s when Pakistan come to the party.”