Raman is now the fourth coach of the Indian team within 20 months after Purnima Rau was sacked before the 2017 World Cup, Tushar Arothe resigned earlier this year after the Twenty20 Asia Cup loss and Ramesh Powar’s three-month contract, which expired on November 30, was not renewed despite Harmanpreet Kaur and Smriti Mandhana, India’s T20I captain and vice-captain, respectively wanting him to continue.
Raman had been interviewed along with other candidates by the ad-hoc committee of Shantha Rangaswamy, Kapil Dev and Aunshuman Gaekwad earlier in the day at the BCCI headquarters in Mumbai. The committee made three preferences with Gary Kirsten being their first choice, Raman second and Venkatesh Prasad the third.
Kirsten, however, was not willing to let go of his role as head coach of Royal Challengers Bangalore in the Indian Premier League and that would have entailed conflict of interest as per the BCCI constitution.
It had been widely speculated Raman would be the front-runner given his credentials as the batting coach of the National Cricket Academy where he has been in charge since December 2015. He has also coached India Under-19 during their tours of England and Sri Lanka when Rahul Dravid has been busy with India A assignments. He recently returned from Sri Lanka where the Jayant Yadav-led India Emerging side finished runners up in the Emerging Nations Cup.
Raman, in fact, was the first one from the BCCI coaching staff to pronounce that India will win the 2018 Under-19 World Cup during an interview with the now erstwhile website www.wisdenindia.com.
Prior to taking up the assignment at NCA, Raman had coached Bengal and Tamil Nadu senior men’s team. During his time as Bengal coach, they won the 50-over Vijay Hazare Trophy in 2011-12. He has also been involved with the Kings XI Punjab and Kolkata Knight Riders.
The BCCI release, however, did not say if Raman, whose first assignment will be the tour of New Zealand in late January 2019, has been given a two-year contract or not as had been advertised.
A left-handed batsman, Raman becomes the third male Test cricketer after Lala Amarnath in 1970s and Powar to be offered the role. He made his international debut in January 1988 and played 11 Tests and 27 One-Day Internationals till January 1997 for 1065 runs across the two formats. He made four Test fifties and one century in ODIs. A domestic giant, he finished his first-class career with 7939 runs in 132 matches with 19 centuries, mostly for Tamil Nadu. He made his first-class debut in 1982-83 and ended his career in 1998-99.
Raman's appointment may put an end one of the biggest controversies in Indian women’s cricket history. Powar had come in as an interim coach after Arothe stepped down very early into his two-year contract.
Powar’s work was hailed by many of the Indian players after their ODI and T20I series win in Sri Lanka. Soon after that he oversaw the 3-0 T20 series win over Australia A by India A, with the World T20 squad forming the line-up.
India won all their league games in Guyana to top the group and make it to the World T20 semifinals for the first time in eight years. Eyebrows were, however, raised when Mithali Raj was not fielded in the XI for the semifinal against England in Antigua that India lost by eight wickets.
After the team returned to India, both Mithali and Powar met BCCI officials and expressed their disappointment over each other through email which were leaked to the media. It spiralled into a major issue with Mithali tweeting that it was the worst phase in her career.
Soon after that, Harmanpreet and Mandhana too wrote separate letters to BCCI vouching for the work Powar had done. Both also put it on record that the decision to not play Mithali in the semifinal was a collective call and not that of Powar. Those letters were also leaked to the media.
Diana Edulji, one half of the two-member Committee of Administrators, wrote to Vinod Rai, his counterpart, saying that Powar should be given an extension at least till the end of New Zealand tour, but it was shot down. Powar had been eligible for a 12-month extension of his contract in case of favourable review.
Rai said that taking a step backwards was not possible as interested candidates had already applied for the vacant post. Powar was among the last few to apply.
The formation of the ad-hoc committee after the Cricket Advisory Committee consisting of Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly and VVS Laxman did not reply to BCCI’s email to conduct the process was also not without controversy.
Edulji disapproved the committee, and before that Shantha had replaced Shubhangi Kulkarni. On the day the committee met to select the coach, Anirudh Chaudhary, the BCCI treasurer, distanced the board from the process.
“An appointment that may be a result of this process can in no manner be called an appointment for and on behalf of BCCI,” Chaudhary was quoted as saying by ANI. “Since there is no decision of the CoA in the selection of the women’s coach, the process and appointment, if any, in the present facts & circumstances, are without jurisdiction & without authority.”
With the BCCI release not bearing a signature, there could still be a few twists left to the saga.