Ramesh has his fingers crossed for W.V. Raman
Former India cricketer Ramesh Powar, who wasn’t offered a fresh contract as head coach of the women’s team despite a very good balance sheet, spoke to The Telegraph from his Mumbai residence on Saturday evening.
Q Over two months after the Board of Control for Cricket in India didn’t keep you on board, what are your feelings?
A I’m fine now... Initially, I’d been disappointed, but disappointments are part of any professional coach’s life. I accept it’s a competitive world and somebody may have something better to offer.
Q You’re not bitter...
A Because I’m not that type. There was an interview panel (Kapil Dev, Aunshuman Gaekwad, Shanta Rangaswamy) and it rejected me. That’s always possible... Of course, during my short tenure, we won 7 of the 8 T20Is and 2 of the 3 ODIs. It wasn’t recognised, but the statistics will remain highly satisfying.
Q The T20I captain Harmanpreet Kaur and vice-captain Smriti Mandhana almost pleaded with the Board that you be offered a fresh contract. But their plea cut no ice with Chief Administrator Vinod Rai... I suppose you will forever be thankful to both...
A Harman and Smriti’s support showed that they found some value in me as the head coach. They’re neither related to me nor are they friends. Nor did I ask them to write to the Board... Obviously, Harman and Smriti saw merit in the process I’d put into place and appreciated all that I and my colleagues on the support staff had done after the trauma of losing in the Asia Cup final to Bangladesh... With so much negative publicity, including reports of infighting, I first had to settle the girls emotionally in order for them to start winning again. It had been a challenge.
Q Surely, it’s unfair to overlook a successful head coach because one player, ODI captain Mithali Raj, has issues (real or imagined) with the person...
A That’s for you to comment on. I’d always been transparent in my dealings... As Mithali is the ODI captain, I’d worked very closely with her in Sri Lanka. She comes from a different generation, so her thinking is not the same as Harman’s... Harman and Smriti have played in the WBBL and been exposed to a different environment... They realise the importance of fitness and are happy to come out of their comfort zone... Mithali’s approach is not the same. In any case, she’s a skill player.
Q What exactly was the issue between you and Mithali?
A Nothing... I suspect Mithali imagined a lot of things, all without substance... It wasn’t my decision alone that Mithali wouldn’t play in the World T20 semi-final against England. However, if she felt that way, it could have been sorted out face to face... Mithali didn’t even say anything on the flights home from the West Indies... It was only after we landed that a whole lot of issues came up from her side. It’s water under the bridge now, but what happened was rather unfortunate. Maybe, Mithali got the wrong feedback from some quarters... The reality is that I wasn’t offered a fresh contract on the basis of one player’s complaint. It’s not that 5 of the 15 had been up in arms... Naturally, I felt hurt.
Q Mithali hasn’t played in both the T20Is of the ongoing series in New Zealand. Harmanpreet and her team lost both and only one match remains... Your successor W.V. Raman could just be a trifle worried, despite India winning the ODIs...
A Actually, I’m a little scared for Raman and I hope he doesn’t meet my fate... Raman’s been coaching for over a decade... Even he thinks that the way forward in T20Is is to have younger players (Mithali is 36)... Nothing may be said in New Zealand, but hell could break loose once the team returns home... I’m saying that from my own experience after the defeat in the World T20 semi-final... I’m confident Harman and her team will soon get back to winning. It’s about having faith in one’s ability.
Q Advice for Raman?
A Go by your instincts and back the decisions you take.
Q Is there a coach you’ve regarded as a role model?
A Look, I’m a product of the late Ramakant Achrekar Sir and Vasu Paranjpe Sir... Both gave everything to coaching and I’ve tried to do just that... Stay absolutely committed to the profession. If I’m not committed, how can I expect total commitment from the players?
Q Last year, Australia’s National Talent Manager and selector Greg Chappell invited you to work with the young spinners... How much time did you spend in Brisbane?
A It was very nice of Greg to have thought of me... I spent a fortnight at the Centre of Excellence. In fact, during my stay there, David Warner came for three-four days.
Q What did you make of Warner? Once his ban gets over next month, could he return the same batsman?
A As a person, I found Warner humble... The impression I got is that he’d learnt his lesson (after the mega controversy in Cape Town)... As a batsman, Warner was brilliant in a ‘practice’ match. I bowled a bit to him at nets.
Q How do you intend taking your career as coach forward?
A Much of the past two months had been tough... Tejaswani and I have a young family (Riddhi and Aayan) and I spent most of the time with the children... Now, I’ll be on the lookout for assignments. I’ll try and make the most of the opportunities which come my way. I’m only 40... Hopefully, there are many years ahead of me in this profession.
Q To talk of men’s cricket... Is it that wrist spinners alone will come to dominate white-ball cricket?
A No... Spinners who can get the ball to deviate both ways will get preference. That’s the key.
Q What’s the difference between Team India of 2019 compared to the India teams of your time (2004-2007)?
A We used to be optimistic; the present lot is decisive. Today, it’s not about hoping for a good result, but actually going for it with single-minded determination.
Q One more... Your take on Virat Kohli, the India captain across the three formats...
A In Test cricket, Virat’s record does the talking... He doesn’t look for draws... In ODIs and T20Is, the impression I get is that Virat is still learning and is blessed to have Mahendra Singh Dhoni in the two teams... There’s something special about Dhoni’s mind.