While the last week would normally have been about the final legs of the group stage of the now suspended IPL 2021, the attention instead is squarely focused on the BCCI and the Indian women’s cricket team. And it isn’t for the nicest of reasons!
It all kicked off with the rather hurried process, an email announcement, by which former cricketer Ramesh Powar was reinstated as head coach, replacing WV Raman. The head coach was announced the same day the interviews were conducted, with over 35 applications received.
While Powar led India to the 2018 T20 World Cup semi-final, Raman and the team went one step further to the final in the 2020 edition in Australia, losing the summit clash to the hosts.
Did Raman do anything wrong to not deserve an extension? What did the CAC comprising, Sulakshana Naik, Madan Lal, and Rudra Pratap Singh, find more compelling in Powar’s case, whose exit in 2018 due to differences with Mithali Raj is well documented?
In a season when the steadily improving team will be touring England and Australia before the 2022 ODI World Cup, the change of coach, break in continuity, might not be what the doctor ordered for India.
Understandably, the chronology of events, days before the squad for the multi-format tour to England was to be announced, raised a few eyebrows.
WV Raman and Ramesh Powar exchanged pleasantries on Twitter while former cricketers had their say as well.
Madan Lal said the CAC would monitor Powar’s handling of the team and the performance on the field, the end result. “We would wait for the result. Everybody lays out his/her vision during interviews and promises about giving the best. But at the end of the day, result matters. (Also), how you manage the team, how you handle the team (matters). They (Powar and Raman) were equally good, but we thought Powar might be the better candidate to look after the women’s team. Also, you always look into all other aspects, like his looking after (the) Mumbai (team), looking after women’s cricket; a lot of things come into play. Indian women’s cricket (team) is growing and we want them to grow more (under Powar),” the former all-rounder was quoted as saying by the Indian Express.
Former India keeper-batter and pundit Deep Dasgupta emphasised on the need for continuity and more time for coaches.
"I Know WV from the last 20 years, I mean personally. He came in as our coach in 2001 and I have obviously a great rapport with Ramesh, obviously I have played a lot with him and against him. The only thing which strikes me as you mentioned, it hasn't been too long with WV and whatever he has done. He has done well, my only concern is that there has to be some continuity. The last time Indian cricket team a major tournament, played the finals of the World Cup. Like I said both of them are extremely close to me and I like both of them but I just wish there is some continuity. There hasn't been much cricket (for India Women due to Covid-19) so I don't know on what basis WV Raman was not there. You can ask the same question why Ramesh was initially sacked because he did fairly well as well. So, I just hope there is continuity now," Deep Dasgupta told Sports Today.
Tushar Arothe, who was the coach of the Indian women’s team before Powar’s first stint, also wasn’t very pleased and about how it is the coach bearing the brunt.
"Simply put, there is a lot of politics in women’s cricket. In comparison, men’s cricket is very transparent. What I have seen from very close quarters in the team is that there is a lot of appeasement going on. I think the blame falls on former women players. Also, it is about the culture in the team. If the team doesn’t do well in a tournament, the coach is sacked. If a player doesn’t get along well with the coach, the latter is changed at their behest. You look at the coach before me, the way Purnima Rau was treated after doing so well with the team is beyond belief. I think players should be made accountable for their’s and team’s performance. That’s how the responsibility will come in the team,” Arothe told News18.
The day after, Raman wrote a strongly worded letter to the BCCI President Sourav Ganguly and NCA Chief Rahul Dravid, former India teammates, opining on the system he had been part of.
"If some people in the system have been highly accommodated to the extent of being seemingly obsequious to an accomplished player for years, and if that performer feels constrained to that culture, I would leave it to you to decide as a successful former captain if the coach was asking for too much," Raman wrote on Friday (May 14).
"If I were to be rejected due to my incompetence as a coach, there is no argument at all because that is a judgement call. But what will be extremely disconcerting is if my candidature was rejected due to any other reasons especially due to allegations from people who more focused on achieving their personal objectives at the expense of the overall hygiene and welfare Indian women's team and pride of the country. In my career spanning 20 years, I have always had a work culture in which 'team comes first' and no individual was overriding the game or the team."
"The time has come for you two accomplished former legends to salvage women's cricket falling which things could gather momentum in the wrong direction," he warned.