In her first public statement over the fallout with Tushar Arothe, the former India Women coach, Harmanpreet Kaur has told Cricket Monthly that the two of them had a difference of opinion.
Arothe became India’s coach just before the 2017 World Cup after the seniors felt the need for a change in support staff. After Mithali Raj, Jhulan Goswami and Kaur met BCCI, Purnima Rau was sacked as coach despite having produced good results in her second tenure, with ODI series win against New Zealand, Sri Lanka and West Indies at home, Twenty20 International series win over Australia in an away assignment and against Sri Lanka at home, successful defence of Asia Cup and title finish in the World Cup Qualifier in Colombo standing out. India, though, failed to make it to the knockouts of the 2016 World T20 at home under her. Arothe’s first assignment was the tour of South Africa where India won the Quadrangular Series also involving Ireland and Zimbabwe.
Arothe then conducted a pre-World Cup in Mumbai, and his overall approach was lauded by the players. The team made a strong start in the World Cup, beating hosts England, West Indies, Pakistan and Sri Lanka in their first four matches. Losses against South Africa and Australia left them in a must-win position against New Zealand in Derby where Mithali Raj scored a century and put on big partnerships with Kaur and Veda Krishnamurthy to set the tone before left-arm spinner Rajeshwari Gayakwad in her comeback game finished with career-best figures of 5 for 15 to script a 186-run win.
Kaur’s unbeaten 115-ball 171, regarded by many as one of the best knocks ever in white-ball cricket, was the standout in the semifinal against Australia, as India made it to the World Cup final for the first time since 2005. As has been reported widely, the pressure of the occasion in front of more than 26,500 people at Lord’s against England got the better of India as they fell short by nine runs in their chase of 229. The overall performance of the team was lauded in the Indian media, and BCCI offered two-year contracts to Arothe, Biju George, the fielding coach, and Tracy Fernandes, the physiotherapist. It was an unprecedented move considering the support staff of the Indian Women’s team had always been appointed on an ad-hoc basis.
Arothe began his post-World Cup tenure with ODI and T20I series win in South Africa in early 2018, but things went wrong after that. India lost three ODIs against Australia in Baroda and then failed to make it to the final of the T20I tri-series also involving England in Mumbai. The major upset came in the T20 Asia Cup in Malaysia where India lost to Bangladesh twice including the final. There were whispers from within the team that all was not well between Arothe and the players. A scheduled camp in Bangalore was cancelled after the players reached the city, and not long after that, there was another meeting between the senior players and BCCI. Soon after that in early July Arothe resigned as coach citing distrusting atmosphere in the dressing room. He had told Times of India then that he was unable to understand “why Kaur suddenly felt that the net sessions are gruelling.”
“Tushar sir has always supported me – even when he was our fielding coach (2009-11). But hamari soch kabhi kabhi nahi milti thi (we had the difference of opinion),” Kaur was as quoted saying to Cricket Monthly in a profile feature on her published on Thursday (November 8). “As a group – and it wasn’t only me – we felt we needed to step up. You can’t expect players to improve on their own. We needed a more up-to-date perspective, so as a coach with international experience, who could help us strategise better, even when the conditions are in not in our favour, was the need of the hour. Our spin attack needed this particularly.”
In an interview with The Week in August, Vinod Rai, the chairman of Committee of Administrators had said that Arothe “had reached the limit of his professional abilities.”
Since then Ramesh Powar, the former India spinner, has taken charge of the side and his approach has been widely embraced by the players. In an interaction with Women’s CricZone while the Indian team was in Sri Lanka, he had explained his philosophy as a coach. Veda Krishnamurthy, a senior player in the squad, approved Powar’s style of work, saying that communication has improved under him and the dressing room atmosphere has become more open.