Former India Women’s team coach Tushar Arothe, who stepped down earlier this year after complaints from senior players about his training methods, is unconvinced about India’s chances at World T20 starting in West Indies on November 9. Arothe, who was replaced by former India spinner Ramesh Powar, believes that the team may not be adequately prepared for the assignment and has raised questions about the fast bowling and fielding standards.
The Indian squad named for the tournament has only three frontline fast bowlers in Mansi Joshi, Pooja Vastrakar and Arundhati Reddy. Between them, the trio have only 17 T20I wickets, leaving India heavily reliant on its spinners. In fact, India left Joshi on the bench recently for the warm-up series against Australia A. Arothe believes the selectors have erred in their choices for such a high-profile tournament.
"In batting, we have Smriti Mandhana, Mithali Raj and Harman, but my concern is the fast bowling department,” Arothe told CricketNext in an exclusive interview. “I am not happy with it at all. Mansi is short of match practice, Pooja is inexperienced and we don't have Shikha Pandey in the team. So, is the team going to play with only one pacer? And if that is the case, it's going to backfire.
"I don't know what the selectors were thinking while picking the team. The big question is where are we heading when all the teams have started playing with 3-4 fast bowlers?
"Your frontline bowler is Mansi, who didn't play in the series against Australia A. Then the bench doesn't look that strong too. If she is your strike bowler she should have played. What if we get a bouncy wicket in the West Indies. What combination will the team go with then?
“As for Pooja, if the team wants to go with her, the fielding will suffer. We lost in Baroda against Australia due to that. That was the case in Malaysia too when we lost against Bangladesh. She has been missing a lot of catches."
Arothe’s concern for the inadequate fielding standards of the team goes back to his time at the helm. He blames it on the attitude of the group towards practice sessions.
"The biggest problem is half of the girls don't turn for fielding practice sessions,” he claims. “We used to shout at them, and that's when they started having problem with me. Harman herself doesn't like to take the field and then the youngsters follow her. Seniors need to take the initiative to improve the fielding.
"To improve the fielding, fitness levels need to go up. Fielding coach Biju George has been working really hard with these girls but it's up to an individual to improve. We can't always be behind them to attend fielding practice sessions. The onus is totally on the girls."
Although the Indian team captured the imagination of the country by its stellar performances at the 50-over World Cup in England last year when they reached the final, their T20 performances have been patchy at best. While the likes of skipper Harmanpreet Kaur and opener Smriti Mandhana have produced some electrifying individual efforts from time to time, the team has lacked consistency.
Back to back losses to Bangladesh at the Asia Cup in June were a reminder of their frailties. India did beat Australia A comfortably in a three-match warm-up series for the World T20 earlier this month, but Arothe cautions against reading too much into that result. He also expressed surprise that besides Joshi, senior middle-order batsman Veda Krishnamurthy also didn’t play any of the three games.
"The team is certainly good on paper but we need to see the current form of the players,” he said. “We defeated the Australia A team which is a good sign, but that is not enough. I just hope they do well. If you see we had our full-strength team, while the Aussies did not, so we cannot judge the team on the basis of that win.
"I was surprised to see two big names not in the playing XI. I don't know if they are carrying an injury or not, but I have learnt that there are some fitness problems in the team."
India are in Group B alongside Australia, New Zealand, Pakistan and Ireland. The top two teams from the group go through to the semifinals and Arothe believes India can’t afford to slip up in their tournament opener against New Zealand on November 9 in Guyana.
“If we can beat them, then I'm sure we can make it to the semis,” he says. “But they are one of the best teams in the competition, and all the other teams have improved leaps and bounds too. So, we have a tough task at hand."