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Lack of continuity has stalled women's cricket growth, time for BCCI to make projects long-term

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Indian women in the World T20 in 2020

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Lack of continuity has stalled women's cricket growth, time for BCCI to make projects long-term

On 20 December 2018, BCCI had appointed former Indian batsman WV Raman as the head coach of the Indian women’s team, for the next three years. Three years later, Ramesh Powar, who was replaced in the first place, has returned to become the head coach of the national team. But what does this hold?

WV Raman’s exit as the head coach comes at the wrong time for the Indian women’s team, in a year that was supposed to be their most crucial one in a long time. The Indian women’s team had just returned to international cricket for the first time in 15 months, after their glorious run in the Women’s World T20 in front of nearly 95,000 eyes. 

India not just reached the final but made a stunning impact in the tournament, in their run where they swept past asides, including the host and favourites, Australia. But post that, the pandemic had put a stand-still on all global events and even as cricket returned elsewhere, women’s cricket in India had to play the long-waiting game, only before returning in March 2021 for a full-fledged limited-overs series. 

"In terms of what transpired in this series, it's very simple: the girls lacked the game time and they are obviously short in terms of the mental stamina and cricketing fitness," Raman said at the post-match press conference. It wasn’t just that, there sat a coach who understood the game and perfectly put it down to how the team lacked game time even though the noise outside was pretty loud. 

"By that, I mean it's not easy to come back after 15 months and play a one-day series and retain the focus and the intensity that is required to put the opposition under pressure,” he added. Raman was right, India didn’t lack talent, India didn’t lack skills but they lacked game-time, they lacked continuity, which has been the major hindrance since 2018. 

Since 2018, the team have had two coaches, over three stints. Powar came in, changed the dynamics, dropped Mithali Raj in the all-important semi-final clash of the WT20. Then came the drama that unfurled in front of the public eyes, that seemingly cost Powar the job as the head coach of the team. But during his time, he was clear in his approach, youngsters were what the format demanded, talent is what the country demanded and that was exactly what he provided. 

He gave the youngsters a chance, a rare opportunity to shine in front of the more experienced guys in world cricket. But as the accusations were being traded left-right-centre, Powar’s time as the coach was done. Harmanpreet Kaur and Smriti Mandhana’s letter fell to the blind eyes and the deaf ears as the team had moved on to the era of Raman, who took the team to new heights, with the World T20 final, in a tournament they really impressed. 

But what has always cost them is the continuity!

Not getting enough playing time, not getting enough planning under a single coach and not getting a continuity have all cost the women’s team and has even set them back in comparison to the others. On the best of days, the women’s team can give a tough competition to the top-dogs and on the worst of days, they wouldn’t even compete with some of the smaller nations. The volatality has hurt them. It is now time to put the past away; there is a real reason why the former off-spinner has been considered for the second term. 

In 2018, a letter written by Harmanpreet Kaur to the BCCI stated Powar’s relationship with the team and the dressing room perfectly. The importance of the words being ‘motivate’, changed the face of the women’s cricket team technically and strategically. India had moved on from holding on to the dear pasts and moved into the unknown new. It stands true to date, India needed a coach who would do all of that, continue the Raman legacy. 

“Having kept in mind the confidence of each player that has built in the past three months, I tried to avoid and exceed the controversies blemishing our reputation. Sir Ramesh Powar not only improved us as players but did motivate us to set targets and challenge our own limits. He has changed the face of Indian women’s cricket team both technically and strategically. He has inculcated in us the sense of winning.”

“Cutting the conversation short, I, as the T20 captain and ODI vice-captain, is appealing before you to allow Powar to further continue as our team coach. There are hardly 15 months for the next T20 World Cup and a month to go for the New Zealand tour. The way he has transformed us as a team, I feel no reason to replace him with any better at this point of time when the team is coordinating well with him and amongst each other. It takes a while to understand and select combinations and equate with a coach’s temperament,” she added.

The cry was clear, the words were clear, she even suggested that a change of coach will affect the growth. This is where the continuity comes into play, like the men’s team have become a force to be reckoned with in world cricket, it has come down to long-term stints. Since 2015, Ravi Shastri has been involved with the Indian team. 

Barring the one-year hiatus in between, Shastri has not just helped to transform the team into a world-beater across formats, he has also relied on the continuity factor, well expressed by the skipper, Virat Kohli. In the last four years, the women’s team have had stints from three coaches, which has made it extremely confusing. If there is one thing that has hurt the team, it is continuity. 

Now is the right time to put aside the past, trust Ramesh Powar to take the side to new heights, give him a longer rope to prove that his tactics and management work perfectly. In footballing terms, India doesn’t need a coach for a short-term benefit, they need a long-overhaul, a long-term project that would elevate the status of the team year-after-year and it lies in the hands of BCCI, to provide the continuity. 

A day after they appointed him, everything broke loose, the secrets of the selection committee came out, the reason that they had dropped Taniya Bhatia and Shikha Pandey and ignored Shafali Verma came to the limelight. If the reasons are to be believed, that is where the continuity should come into play. Not just that, the fact that their fresh contracts haven't been announced despite it being well past the time, BCCI needs to start taking things seriously, starting from this term. 

Having one coach over the span of a long period will allow in that process and that combined with a selection committee that knows its players well would allow for the flourishment of the women’s team. For whichever way, the politics have spit venom in the system, and Powar needs to find a way to move past it and establish a boundary to take the team to a new height. 

Arranging international tours and finally allowing the flourish through a full-fledged IPL, it is time for the BCCI to walk the talk.

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