Powar re-applies for India coach post; COA remains divided with the selection process

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“I’m happy with what Mithali is doing at the top” - Ramesh Powar

Ramesh Powar as the India coach. ©Women's CricZone

Ramesh Powar, the India Women coach whose three-month contract had expired on November 30, has finally reapplied for the vacant post. Powar had first taken up the role after Tushar Arothe resigned in July, and was in charge during India’s ODI and T20I series win in Sri Lanka and first World Twenty20 semifinal appearance after eight years, in the Caribbean.

He was eligible for a 12-month extension of his contract based on favourable review, but things became volatile after his differences with Mithali Raj, the senior-most player who was not included in the playing XI for the semifinal against England, became public through a series of leaked emails.

Mithali accused Powar of putting her under “house arrest” in the Carribean. Powar, on the other hand, felt Mithali needed to prioritise team over self. Soon after that BCCI put out an advertisement for interested candidates to apply for the vacant post by December 14. Powar, it was believed, was no more interested, but two separate letters by Harmanpreet Kaur and Smriti Mandhana, the T20I captain and vice-captain respectively, vouching their support for him led to his change in mind. Both appreciated Powar for changing the mindset of the players and instilling the virtues of playing a dominating brand of cricket.

“After seeing Harman and Smriti’s backing, I have decided to re-apply. Rather, I felt it was my duty to apply as I did not want to disappoint them if they believe in this kind of coaching,” Powar was quoted as saying to Cricbuzz. “Rest is, obviously, in BCCI’s hands. In fact, a lot of girls have spoken good for me and I didn’t feel like letting them down.”

Powar, who finished his Level 3 coaching from Australia before being appointed the head coach in August, said that he put his hat into the ring because he felt that he still had a lot to offer. He also felt that his perceived differences with Mithali can be sorted out over discussions.

“I hope we can carry forward all the good work we have done so far. Hopefully, that won’t go waste. Hopefully, we can build on all the positive cricket we have played and the hard work we have put in these three months as we build for the future,” he added. “I am looking at a team, 15 players and not any individual. It’s for the betterment of the women’s team, I will doo whatever it takes. Simple as that. There are a lot of positive vibes around that group of people and in the team on the whole. And I have been and will always be open to talks. I never had closed the door on anyone, for that matter. I am always open to communication, from Day 1 to the last day of my contract. And going forward it will be the same.”

Powar will have competition from Manoj Prabhakar, Herschelle Gibbs and Owais Shah among others. If he is shortlisted then he will be interviewed by the ad-hoc committee of Shantha Rangaswamy, Kapil Dev and Aunshuman Gaekwad at the BCCI headquarters in Mumbai on December 20. The selected candidate will be given a two-year contract, with the tour of New Zealand in late January next year being his or her first assignment.

Meanwhile, Diana Edulji, one of the two-member Committee of Administrator, had written to her counterpart Vinod Rai asking for the extension of Powar’s contract till the New Zealand tour. She also had not given her approval for the formation of the three-member ad-hoc committee. Edulji also accused BCCI for breaking the rules for the removal of Anil Kumble as the men's head coach on the insistence of Virat Kohli and replacing him with Ravi Shastri last year.

"You (Rai) went ahead to issue an advert for a new coach without closing the previous process which was not completed and 6 shortlisted candidates are waiting for a result. The CAC (Cricket Advisory Committee) has to select the Head Coach but before their availability was checked, Saba (Karim, BCCI General Manager> had already spoken to Kapil, Anshuman and Shubhangi (who was later replaced by Rangaswamy). I enquired for clarity on their conflict roles as how an ad-hoc committee was being formed without proper authority," Edulji wrote in her email, which Mid-Day has access to. “On the other hand, when I mentioned let's refer the ad-hoc committee issue to the amicus curiae (an impartial adviser to court), you suddenly care about the deadlines and timelines. Regarding the coach, right from the beginning, I have expressed that there should be no change but with someone's ulterior motive emails were leaked and the team was shown as a divided lot which they are not. In my absence, you had a meeting with the 2 Women Cricket Captains (Kaur and Mithali in New Delhi) and when I enquired on the same; you replied saying they wanted to meet you so you met them. Once again, you have failed to understand that I have an equal say in all matters of BCCI as CoA with equal rights not less not more. As chairman, he can't take any unilateral decisions as there is no casting vote."

Rai, in his response wrote: "The advert for the head coach has issued. If media is to be believed, internationally reputed coaches have applied/are applying. We cannot now withdraw and say that we will continue with our ad-hoc coach of three months - who has been the reason for such bad blood in the team. The team must realise that that coaches are not decided on team votes. If it is a question of respecting opinions of senior players - why not respect the opinion of the senior most player - in fact the ODI captain (Mithali) of the team? What I cannot understand is why some members of the team, or any other person advising them, is against having an internationally-acclaimed coach. Don't we seek to upgrade the team from the plateau that they keep hitting in international games?"

If Powar does not get an extended run then India would have their fourth coach in 19 months after Purnima Rau was sacked before the 2017 World Cup and Arothe’s resignation earlier this year after the T20 Asia Cup final loss against Bangladesh.