After India swept the T20 leg of the series 4-0, coach Ramesh Powar spoke exclusively to Women’s CricZone about his first full tour with the Indian team, talking in detail about what seems to be a fresh approach from the players to the shortest format.
How would you describe the T20I part of the tour?
It was a good learning experience. The way we started the first game in ODIs and the way we finished the last T20, that will make a lot of difference to their thinking. They have started to think more about positive cricket rather than just competing, about dominance rather than just competing. That’s what we were planning to do.
I saw a batting approach in the first T20I that I haven’t seen before from India. What was the message?
The message was loud and clear: it was always about getting runs at a brisk pace from every batsman. No one can have that allowance to get settled for one or two overs. You have to go after the bowling.
The wicket might be helpful for the batsmen or the bowlers, but the approach will not change. That’s what we have been working on in the nets also, and it helped. They could see the results in first game, and that was a blessing. They could see that if we can bat like this, we can get close to 170.
We also saw the experiment with Taniya Bhatia. In the last couple of years we haven’t seen an Indian wicketkeeper bat so high in the order.
Taniya has shown growth in the Challenger Trophy. I as a coach, and the support staff, felt very positive about her. We wanted her to be one of the main ingredients of the team. The knock she played (in the Challenger Trophy), she got only 20 odd runs (28 off 17 balls). But the way she changed the whole dynamics of the team in that particular tournament, we wanted to do that again. And she has been working hard in keeping, she’s brilliant behind the stumps. She was batting well in the nets. It was our job to back her and that’s what we did.
India used one pace bowler and four regular spinners in four matches. Was that a plan based on the conditions or a long term strategy?
Mostly the conditions and the way they (Sri Lanka) were playing against spin. If conditions are favouring spin, why not. All the spinners mostly bat as well, we wanted to back them also. Why not think out of the box`and go with only one pacer, in conditions where opponent is struggling against spin, and there’s help from the wicket.
Again you were out of the box with your choice of pacer. Arundhati was the only pacer who played all games, despite having the least experience. What did you see in her, was it the ability to use variations?
I think she is one bowler who can in future maybe replace Jhulu (Jhulan Goswami). Thats what I’m looking at. You’ll not get second Jhulan, but you can try to get someone close to her. I thought that way, our selector also thought that way, so we are backing her. No matter how many runs you give, the way you come back into the game is important for us. The way she did in the last T20, it shows the character, and you look for that character. This tour was always about character which was hidden somewhere.
What have you learned about the character of the players in these two series?
I’ve been seeing them from Challenger Trophy, so I knew what to expect. I was not surprised when Taniya got runs or Hemalatha got runs or Arundhati got wickets, or Anuja got runs and wickets.
I was little disappointed with the second and third ODI. The approach was not there. I think it happens after coming back with some series losses. I gave them that allowance of having those kind of games, but I think henceforth they will realise that you can’t afford to do that in any series. It doesn’t look nice from the outside. It’s not about winning or losing all the time, it’s about the brand of cricket that India women play. After this five T20 series, they have understood the brand of cricket they want to follow.
You mentioned before this series that Jemimah Rodrigues was a part of your plans. How encouraging is her performance?
The way she was batting in the nets, I knew one good innings would take everything (negative) away from her. We just backed the players we thought are good enough to do the job. She got out in the third ODI (for a duck) but that doesn’t make her a bad player. You have to back a player till she gets her groove, simple as that. If you have picked that player you have to back that player.
On a good batting surface, what’s the target you have in mind?
We’re still targeting 180+, that’s the way it is. If you’re competing with the best, like Australia etc, see what they scored last time around, what they chased. We have to be at par with that score. If the wicket is slow, still we have to go with the same attitude, you can’t change attitude along the lines of how pitches play. If you do that, your batsmen will get into a shell and not score runs. It’s better to carry on with this attitude.
I’m happy if they get out in 15th or 16th over. I was not complaining at all when they got out (in the 18th over, in the 5th T20I). We can’t be thinking ‘we have to look good, so we should bat for 20 overs’. People will say, how can you not bat 20 overs, that doesn’t make sense if you bat dot balls.
So I suppose you’re not worried about Smriti Mandhana’s poor run in the series?
Not at all. Harman (Harmanpreet Kaur) also got runs. They are big players. At some point you will get those downs, because it’s a fast paced game, they will take their chances. I’ll always back Smriti, she is a proven player. She will head to her home, work on her game and come back strong again.
There is a school of thought that feels Jemimah’s natural game is more suited to the opening slot, and Mithali’s is more suited to the middle order. Does the team management feel that way?
Not really. I’m happy with what Mithali is doing at the top. Mithali has carried this team for a long period of time. I know she can open, I know she can play brisk innings. You’ve seen some innings where for last T20 (4th T20I) she got 14 (13) runs off the first over. That makes a huge difference. It’s not always about scoring fifties. 10, 20 runs in this game can make a lot of difference.
We saw some improved running between wickets from some players. Do you feel that’s an area where India still falls behind?
We have started these things just now, maybe about 20 days back in the camp in Chennai. So it will take some time. It is a learning process, how to run. There are a lot of techniques involved. They are learning a few tricks, and hopefully they will implement them by the WT20.