On a typical English evening, with overcast skies and a breeze blowing, Firstpost spoke to India women coach Tushar Arothe at the team hotel, a sprawling estate on the outskirts of Derby. While this correspondent was digging her hands deeper into the pockets of her sweatshirt, Arothe seemed comfortable in just a T-shirt and jeans. Not surprising, considering England has been a second home to him.
Two factors weighed in Tushar Arothe’s favour when he was picked to replace Purnima Rau as the coach of the Indian women’s team and both hinged on familiarity. First was familiarity with the players; he had been the fielding coach of the team between 2009 to 2012, and knew most of the squad. The second, was familiarity with England.
Arothe has more than a hundred first class games under his belt, being part of an 18-year career with Baroda. But the time spent on the red soil of his home state is only a part of his career. For almost a decade, Arothe has played league cricket in England, appearing in competitions like the Lancashire League.
For a team that was preparing for a World Cup in the same country, it was the perfect combination. After his side convincingly beat hosts England in the tournament opener, Arothe sat down for an exclusive chat.
FP: How does it feel to be back with this team, this time as head coach?
Arothe: It’s challenging, but it’s a good opportunity for me (as) everyone’s eyes are on the World Cup. We had a good South Africa preparatory tour. South Africa are pretty strong, and we beat them in South Africa. The girls did well in all departments, and we’re looking for same thing here .
FP: Do you see a different style of play not as compared to when you were with the team before?
Arothe: Yes, the mindset has changed. The girls are more focused; they know the importance of this tournament. They need to know their role in the team: as a batter the job is to get runs. As a bowler, it is to bowl well.
FP: Last time you were the fielding coach of the squad. Do you notice a difference in the fielding standards now?
Arothe: Physically, some of the girls are fitter. One needs to be fit enough; if you’re fit, the agility comes. If you’re agile, you can convert ones into twos, twos into threes. But we still need to work on strength and conditioning.
FP: From your experience in England, what advice have you given the girls?
Arothe: England has tricky conditions, the wind blows over here. You saw how they (England, in the first game) also dropped a few catches. So I’ve been telling the girls, adapting to the conditions is very important. I thank BCCI for sending us almost two weeks early, but we could have played more games before this World Cup. We played about three (four) games, but I still feel in these conditions, we could have played more matches. The West Indies came here on 1 June, wasn't it? Even Pakistan have been here for three weeks, and see how their performance is improving.
FP: Specifically how have you looked at dealing with the conditions?
Arothe: I know it’s cold and windy, but if we say it’s cold, it straightaway goes into your mind, and affects your body. I told the girls, just chill out. It’s cold, you can’t help it. Jo cheez tumhare haath mein nahi hai, uske bare me sochna nahi hai (there is no point thinking about something that’s not in your hands). Is it going to rain or not, it’s not in your hands. Just forget it.
Mentally one has to be tough enough to play in these conditions, and ignore what’s not in your hand. Thanda hai to hai. Garam hai to garam hai (if it’s cold, it’s cold. If it’s hot, it’s hot). We humans usually keep moaning about things. Too cold, too hot, food has no salt. Why don’t we accept whatever it is? Then I feel we will become world champions.
Even for the bowlers, it won’t be easy because of the wind; the ball is going to drift. If you want to bowl on off stump, and wind is going this way (indicates off to leg), the ball will go on middle and leg. It’s not going to be easy; you need to change your line. So we have done specific things like bowling with and against the wind. That becomes important.
FP: Are you the type of coach who analyses videos of the opponents a lot, or do you prefer just concentrating on your team and not worry about the opposition?
Arothe: We work on both sides. We are trying to work more on our strengths rather than our weaknesses. At the same time, we go through videos of the others, see what their strengths are, and we discuss those in team meetings.
FP: Was bringing Ekta Bisht to bowl the first over against England one of those decisions where you planned specifically for something?
Arothe: Yes. We decided, if (Katherine) Brunt opened, we would have used our quick bowlers. Since (Tammy) Beaumont and (Sarah) Taylor came, we went with Ekta.
FP: What did you say to the team after the England game?
Arothe: We had a good meeting the next morning. (Immediately after the match) I wanted the girls to chill out, even though they knew I was unhappy with the fielding. But I didn’t want to mention anything immediately. The next day, we had a meeting, and I mentioned that only fielding can take us long. It’s in your hand, you have to do it.
FP: You took over in slightly controversial circumstances, when the players asked for a male coach. Have the girls adjusted quickly from one coach to another?
Arothe: I knew quite a few; I knew 11 (of the) girls, I have worked with them in the past. They accepted me straightaway. What happened in the past I don’t know, it’s got nothing to do with me. The girls were ready to accept me.
As we talk, three of the more mischievous players in the team walk by. They don’t hesitate to imitate Arothe while talking to each other, copying his most common phrases.
FP: They already seem to be having fun with you?
Arothe: (Smiles) Out of the 15, I think I didn’t know Nuzhat (Parween), Deepti (Sharma), (and) a few. You need to have good fun. And need to keep the two things separate on the field and off it.
On the field I don’t let them do masti (mess around), I’m very strict about timings. Personally I feel if the discipline (in the team) is good, everything will be good . The girls have also bought into that.
FP: Biju George joined the team as a fielding coach for the World Cup. How has it been having him on board?
Arothe: We have been gelling like anything. We’re having good fun on and off the field. It’s about coordination; sometimes I do his work and vice versa. We can progress only this way.
I made it clear in the team meeting, that we (support staff) are here to help the girls. The girls are not here for us. If you need any help from the support staff, we are here. No support staff will say, "No, I don’t have time."
FP: Looking ahead at the rest of tournament?
Arothe: I’m sure if we field well, we will do well.
Snehal Pradhan is a former India cricketer and now a freelance journalist. She host the series ‘Cricket How To’ on Youtube, and tweets @SnehalPradhan.