The ouster of WV Raman as the Indian women’s cricket team head coach and the reinstatement of Ramesh Powar to the post has shown that the Board of Control for Cricket in India has not been looking at it long-term. Without taking away the coaching credentials of Powar, who earlier this year guided Mumbai to Vijay Hazare Trophy (domestic 50-overs competition) and also did his BCCI Level-2 coaching course, it was difficult to understand why Raman was not given an extension, just the same way Powar was ousted after just a half-year stint in 2018 in which he guided the team to ICC Women’s World T20 semifinals.
And, just when you thought Raman did a fair job, guiding India to the T20 World Cup final last year before the world went into the lockdown due to the pandemic and was also preparing the team for next year’s 50-over World Cup in Australia-New Zealand, came this latest development.
In the past, the women’s team coach post was not fixed. Former India women’s team captain, off-spinner and all-rounder, Purnima Rau, was sacked a couple of months before the 2017 Women’s World Cup. Rau was the last woman coach of the Indian team, after which Tushar Arothe, Ramesh Powar and WV Raman held the reins.
Rau, who played in five Tests and 33 ODIs between 1993 and 2000, is steering herself clear of the unpleasant developments in women’s cricket. The 54-year-old is devoting her time to organic farming about 40kms away from Hyderabad. “I grow organic vegetables and fruits and distribute them to families and friends. In women’s cricket, I could not enjoy the fruits of my labour during my playing and coaching days. In organic farming, I am enjoying my moments and they are sweeter than what I tasted in Indian women’s cricket,” she tells news18.com in this exclusive chat.
Rau is deeply hurt with the turn of events in the recent past and was pained to reflect upon what happened to her four years ago. Excerpts:
What did you make of the whole situation in Indian women’s cricket? Ramesh Powar is the new coach but WV Raman has not done anything wrong in his tenure to be not given an extension?
Coaches are taken for granted. There seems to be no respect for us. It is a rot and everybody is responsible. The players, administrators, support staff, everyone. Now it has come to a stage where it is affecting the game. When I took over as coach in the mid-2010s, I had a fun-loving, innocent, very talented, lovely team. A couple of months prior to the 2017 World Cup (in which India lost to England by nine runs in the final at Lord’s), I was booted out for whatever reasons that were not given to me at all. Do you mean to say, any coach can make a team in one month before the World Cup? Tushar Arothe then or for Ramesh Powar, now with less than a year left for the 2022 ICC Women’s World Cup, it is not possible. Everybody has stopped thinking why this team is doing well. There is no mention of me in the sense that I have sacrificed so much for the team. It was a pleasure to be a part of the team and bring it to this height. Unfortunately, I was not there to enjoy that moment. No regrets. It is a rot that worries me now. No one wants to do anything about it. Things are continuing the way it was. Everybody is to be blamed – former players, administrators of every state. They have neglected the game. It is doing more harm now.
Can you elaborate on the rot you mentioned?
When we won the T20 series for the first time in Australia in 2015-16, I remember the team to be a very innocent, happy, hungry bunch. It was nice to see them in the World Cup final in a matter of months. But, after tasting success, the contract system, social media becoming powerful, Big Bash League, media attention, money, captaincy issues, everything started snowballing into a big issue between them. There is no camaraderie, no bonding between the players. Suddenly everything could change with the whiff of money. They could not handle success and money.
Former players have been doing it for ages. When you get a little bit of power, everything else goes out of the window. It is infectious. They were always power hungry. Women’s cricket suffers. One administrator blamed the other, and this continued into the player’s system. It is a rot. Sourav Ganguly has to go ahead and fix it. How long will this go on, I don’t know. It will take time. Ramesh Powar has taken over as the new coach, he has to fix it. The onus is on him. Some stricter measures and accountability, whether it is for selectors, coaches, administrators in each state, need to be in place. Women’s cricketers have it in them to win the World Cup. I have told this many times in the team meetings when I was the coach. Indian team can win the World Cup not once but three-four times consecutively and stamp their class. Our domestic structure is good. But the mental part, the attitude of the players are totally going astray.
Why is this happening to the coach always? The coaches are not given a longer run.
Nobody is happy with any coach. What are the coaches there for? They are there to guide the players. Each coach has done it in his or her own way. They have brought something or the other to the table. The players know what I have done for them, what Ramesh Powar (in his first brief stint), Tushar Arothe or WV Raman have done for the team. We are just thrown aside. Is that right? Something is wrong. Somebody is encouraging this kind of behaviour.
Are the current players also to be blamed for the ‘rot’ that you mentioned above?
Whoever these superstars are, the ones with a bit of success, they just build a wall around them, have agendas, there is a constant bickering within the team and the game is just out of the window. Nobody is giving reason for any kind of sacking.
There are issues with selection of players. What’s happening there?
If somebody is good, her technique is good, can get runs at a good pace, why not select her for all the formats? Did not Virender Sehwag change the way Test cricket was played? Why can’t we pick Shafali Verma for all formats (Shafali was not included in the ODI series against South Africa recently but has earned her maiden Test and ODI call up for the upcoming tour of England). First of all, getting young talent in women’s cricket is tough. And, when you get it, why can’t you use her in all formats? Former players have vested interests. Everything is happening as per the vested interests. Everybody has an agenda, and the agenda is not Indian cricket. The girls know it and they have messed it up for themselves.
I learnt that Ramesh Powar prepared the team that was taken over by Raman, and Raman has now said that he has prepared this team that Powar is taking over. If that is the case, who made the team for Tushar Arothe to take charge in 2017 before the World Cup? Why are the girls not talking about it? Whatever I have achieved, everything has gone down the drain. Not that I care but I have conscience, players should have conscience, administrators should have conscience. I have managed without support staff. I did not have a team manager initially. I was doing the manager’s role. I had just three support staff – a video analyst, a physio and a trainer. Team manager came in late by which time I had already prepared the logistics. Today’s coach has a large support staff. The current players don’t have the courage and guts to acknowledge my contribution. Is this what the game has taught them? Don’t they have conscience? My only thing is let the focus be on the game, let the aim for the World Cup and work towards it.
How can this issue be solved?
Put the players in their places, put the former cricketers in their places. Ask them to work for a few months without being paid. Let them identify amongst these people who are genuine without any vested interests. Cut the dead twigs from the plant, remove the pests, and keep the plant in sunshine, so to say in farming language. Throw away all the rubbish that is in women’s cricket. Someone with power has to do it. If it is not done, this rot will continue. Someone has to show more interest towards women’s cricket in the BCCI. They have thrown away us coaches after keeping us just for the sake of it.
It must hurt you not just as a former coach but also a former India women’s team captain and a successful off-spinner and all-rounder. How was it in your playing days?
It was even worse. I was kicked out of captaincy. We won the Centenary Cup in New Zealand (1994-95), a rare overseas victory also involving Australia. Can anyone take away my achievement as a player and later as a coach? They can take away the coach’s post from me but not what I have contributed to the Indian women’s cricket out of my life. People might ask me why I did not speak then. The answer is simple. I had none to whom I could write a letter to. I did not have a Sourav Ganguly then. I had people coming in and out of the BCCI. I did not know whom to talk to, ask for a reason. It was so ill-mannered to not give a reason as to why I was removed as coach. People were hearing only the one side of the story, which is the players’ side. But I am not hurt, I am not pained. It is a game after all. Now with WV Raman’s removal, there is so much attention to his ouster. The players and the BCCI know what I have done to the team.
It is not happening only now. It has been happening since 1973 (when Women’s Cricket Association of India was formed). The girls are good, very talented, they can really stamp their class, but there are so many people pulling it down, and those people know it. The players, ex-players, administrators, support staff, they know what they have done. It is time they made amends.
Did you expect Raman to be replaced as coach when he has not done anything wrong with the team and guided it to the T20 World Cup final last year? And, the entire nation went to a lockdown soon after, so nothing much could be done about women’s cricket.
I knew Raman’s days as women’s cricket coach were numbered. I also know that Ramesh Powar’s days as coach of the women’s team are numbered if people don’t take action now. It is the coaches who are axed. Nothing happens to anybody else. We coaches are made the mincemeat of the whole situation.
Why is it that the coaches are easy targets always?
Senior players have achieved and contributed to the game that you leave it to them to make their decision when to quit. They know they cannot go on forever. Senior players know what can contribute and what they cannot. They know the roles themselves. We should leave it to the players. That respect we should give them. They may not have learnt to give respect to others but at least I give them respect for their longevity. Also, you have not unearthed talent to replace them. You are cutting and chopping, not allowing players to be nurtured. How will you make another Mithali Raj or Jhulan Goswami? That is also what I mean by rot. I have faith in this game. The game will not suffer because of a few individuals.
Should the women’s team be coached only by a woman?
It doesn’t matter. The players should be able to assess and know what each coach has brought to the table. They are the ones who should be able to answer this question better. They wanted a male coach, in fact. They have been with both, male and female coaches. In this Covid time, they (all those connected with women’s cricket) have more time to look back and ponder over what they have done to women’s cricket, what they could have done and where they have messed up and make amends if they are in a position. It is a thankless job. From the bottom of my heart, I thank WV Raman, Ramesh Powar, Anju Jain, Sudha Shah and whoever has coached the women’s team for suffering so much. It is a challenge for Ramesh Powar now.