Fitness, smartness key for Indian women's cricket team

Updated: Mar 19, 2020, 19:04 IST | Harit N Joshi | Mumbai

Coach WV Raman charts the roadmap for Indian women's cricket team to capitalise on their near-flawless T20 World Cup campaign; lauds Harmanpreet Kaur's leadership qualities

Dejected Indian players after losing the T20 World Cup final to Australia at the Melbourne Cricket Ground earlier this month. Pic/PTI
Dejected Indian players after losing the T20 World Cup final to Australia at the Melbourne Cricket Ground earlier this month. Pic/PTI

Having remained unbeaten in the four group-stage matches and a washout in the semi-final paving the way for a maiden T20 World Cup final, the ‘law of averages’ finally caught up with the Indian women’s cricket team in the summit clash where they were comprehensively beaten by defending champions Australia at the packed Melbourne Cricket Ground recently.

Nonetheless, Harmanpreet Kaur & Co’s performance in the tournament won them many accolades. From teenager Shafali Varma’s opening assaults to spinners bamboozling batters and some stunning catches throughout the tournament were some of the big takeaways for the Indian eves.

Coach WV Raman spoke to mid-day on Wednesday about Team India’s T20 World Cup campaign, the emergence of Varma, 16, Kaur’s leadership skills before throwing light on how the team brought about the big change in fitness and fielding standards.

Edited excerpts from a chat:

What's the biggest takeaway for the team from the T20 World Cup?

The important thing is that they have gained confidence of being capable of beating anybody on a given day. They have realised that if each one of them contribute in their own way, the team is going to enjoy success on a consistent basis.

Was it the pressure of playing in front of a packed MCG that affected the team in the final?

See, we can dissect such things as much as we want which is what is generally done after an event. I think more or less if things don’t go your way for the first 30 to 40 minutes in a T20 game, it is very difficult to come back. Let’s not forget that we were beaten by arguably the best side in women’s cricket. They were better than us on that particular day.

Did the seven-day gap before the final have an impact on the players?

In a way, that might have also contributed a bit. I don’t want to sound as if I am giving an excuse, but in a way that could have contributed simply because this is a young side and they are not yet experienced enough to switch on and switch off at will. So, eight days leading up to the final and having to sort of make do with a little activity could have also been one of the contributing factors. But I am sure that this being a young side, they would have learnt a lot of lessons from the final.

WB-Raman-Cricket
WV Raman

What are your observations about batting sensation Shafali?

The fact is that at a young age and on a big stage in a World Cup, she has done well. That’s an indication of her talent and temperament. She will work things out as she goes along because she is only going to get better. We should not try and tell her that this is how she should go, this is the route she has to take or this is how she has to mould herself. Let her continue playing her cricket.

Another promising player Jemimah Rodrigues had a poor tournament…

Let’s not get talking about individuals, please.

Is there a need to have a pool of fast bowlers?

We need to try and unearth some fast bowlers and groom them. That is definitely something that we need to do in the future along with the ones that we have right now. So, if we have about seven to eight options, then it becomes a healthy situation to be in. We need to do a lot of work [on this front]. Gradually, it has already started. The identification of raw talent is important. They have to be groomed and nurtured. It is not going to happen overnight. Fast bowling is a tough job whether it is men’s or women’s cricket. It is important to first identify the talented bowlers and then get them fitter and stronger in women’s cricket. Then comes the skill development part. Basically, the issue is our girls our not naturally strong to become quick bowlers. So, you have first train them physically and then make them work on their technical side of the game.

Is captaincy affecting Kaur's batting?

We should not compare these two things. As captain, she did a tremendous job. Let’s not forget it is a pretty young side and T20 is something that these girls are still trying to figure out how to go about. It was a tough tour. The tri-nation series [before the T20 World Cup] was played against tougher sides. She handled the team quite well. The fact that she could motivate the team to do well despite her personal form [30 runs in five matches] not being at her best, speaks volumes about her character and her leadership qualities. It is not easy when the personal domain is not its best.

How has the fielding evolved?

What has helped them is the kind of training regime brought into place. We have a dedicated fitness camp. Once in three months, we try and monitor they stand fitness-wise. And when the girls relate that to performance like in the home series against South Africa [winning T20Is 3-1 and ODIs 3-0], you don’t need to even tell them. They do things on their own now. They understand how important fitness is. It is all about nudging them and telling them that what benefits they can derive. After all, it is their cricketing career and they are responsible and hard working, so that is what has made the difference on the field.

Is there any scope for improvement?

They need to step up on the fitness [front] a little more now because the base has been set. They need to build on this, which makes them even better on the field. They also need to improve on speed and agility.

Is power-hitting still a concern?

Each player has to do things their own way, based on strengths. Now, it is not always the case that you will be powerful to achieve victory. You need to be smart as well. For example, if our girls squad is 60 per cent as strong as the others, they can make up by playing smart cricket for the 40 per cent of the strength that they don’t have. So, it about being physically fitter and smarter on the field to win matches.

When you took over in 2018, the Indian women’s team was in the news for all the wrong reasons. You have brought the focus back on the sport. Can you talk about your coaching style?

Forget what I did and what I didn’t do. As long as they are happy with the current status of the team, everybody should be happy. If they are happy with where they are today, I think it is a big step forward. It is just a case of trying to make the girls understand the potential they have and what they can do with the talent they have. When I took charge, I did not even bother to look back. I went in looking to make a fresh start and see what needed to be addressed.

Is the time ripe to launch a full-fledged women's IPL?

See, I am not going to endorse or disregard the opinions of others. Each one is entitled to their own opinion. Finally, it is up to the BCCI. They have been doing a good job in terms of what is required [for women’s cricket]. So, I will leave it at that.

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