The men’s team might have had its share of controversies vis-a-vis appointment or handling by coaches in the past - Kapil Dev, Ajit Wadekar, Greg Chappell, Duncan Fletcher, Anil Kumble, Ravi Shastri have all been involved among one back in the day. Strangely the women’s team which has been denied spectator interest, glamour, mass appeal for years, seems to be just as condemned to suffer similar woes.
If anything the women have been more mutinous. In a short span of 20 months, three coaches – Purnima Rau, Tushar Arothe, Ramesh Powar – have been wrung and hung out to dry while the fourth, Woorkeri Venkat Raman is all set to walk through its dreaded revolving door.
However, Raman, former India cricketer, is no stranger to coaching cricket teams and has greater experience in handling players of diverse temperament and attitude than the earlier incumbents. Of course, he might not have handled women players and hence could find it a different sort of challenge.
In his heyday, the Tamil Nadu southpaw was elegance personified, especially at the crease. He successfully made the transition from a pure left-arm spinner to a top-order batsman who could bowl. The ODI century in South Africa, when he became the first Indian cricketer to score an ODI hundred against South Africa was an endorsement of his batting prowess.
Certainly Raman the coach knows what it takes to make a hundred in international cricket and can thus instill the same skill in players, helping them play a long innings in Tests and ODIs.
This aside, Raman was a roaring success in domestic cricket with a triple hundred and a couple of double hundreds in Ranji Trophy to embellish his effort. Obviously he knows a thing or two about the value of keeping an end going. As such, women’s cricket will benefit immensely if he could inculcate this trait in its players.
His ODI batting experience and skills should help the women plan even their T20 innings better.
Co-incidentally Shastri and Raman who during their playing days were vying for the same spot in the men’s team — as batsman who could double up a left arm spinner — are now in charge of India men and women’s teams respectively. The appointment probably would see them renewing their competition. And if that spurs the respective teams to compete harder, Indian cricket could be in a better place.
Raman, thanks to his richer experience in handling teams, has a better chance to succeed than predecessors Powar and Arothe. He was initiated into the job in 2006 when he took charge as Tamil Nadu coach. He did two stints of three years apiece in 2006 and 2013 and in the interim period coached Bengal. All these stints came with different challenges, the major one being managing players with big egos. May be the exposure to these situations would have prepared him well for the current assignment.
Additionally, his coaching stints included a spell with KKR as batting coach, followed by another as assistant coach of Kings XI Punjab. Of late Raman has been actively involved with India U-19 teams.
Raman, to his advantage, could be aware of many of the women cricketers’ strengths and weaknesses as he has been engaged as batting coach at the National Cricket Academy in Bengaluru since 2015.
Nevertheless, the 53-year-old former India cricketer would have his task cut out as the women’s team is rife with groups. How well he manages to get the warring groups to sit together and take on a common enemy will define his role in the team.
Of course it won’t help matters that the two-member Committee of Administrators is a divided house which will use every opportunity to have a go at each other. There is already resistance to his appointment and the way it was done. This certainly cannot augur well for smooth functioning as coach.
It is no secret that the T20 captain Harmanpreet Kaur and ODI captain Mithali Raj, both senior players and valuable members of the team, are at loggerheads. Raman’s challenge would be to either diffuse the crisis and ensure that the team does not get split down the middle or ease both of them out of a position of responsibility. Neither would be an easy task and as such his ability to coax good performance from the team despite the apparent lack of team work would be tested to the brim.
In short, cricket is on the back burner as other off -the-field games are being given a free run. And that’s not cricket.