There’s no shame in losing to Australia, the unquestionable numero uno in women’s cricket and now the five-time world champions in the shortest format. But defeat in the final notwithstanding, India could bring home a lot of positives from their campaign in the Women’s T20 World Cup.
They won all their group league matches, including a victory against Australia, and all along, Harmanpreet Kaur and her team gave enough indication that they have been upwardly mobile. From behind the scenes, WV Raman has made a telling contribution to the team’s progress; from nurturing young talent like Shafali Verma to bringing back stability in the dressing room.
Well tried #BCCIwomen. You stood up to some stern challenges in the last few weeks..
You learn a lot from games which didn’t go your way..
Thanks folks, for all the support and encouragement through the #ICCWomenT20WorldCUp..
— wv raman (@wvraman) March 8, 2020
And Deep Dasgupta, who knows Raman from close quarters, is not at all surprised.
“He (Raman) is a fabulous coach. He does not over-coach. He stays in the background, he is always there for you… He is technically very strong, but he will come in only when you require him,” Dasgupta, a former India stumper who also led Bengal to back-to-back Ranji Trophy finals in 2005-06 and 2006-07, told The Indian Express.
“He (Raman) is not someone who talks a lot, because he is a support staff. That’s the whole idea of coaching. But he gives you the confidence that you are being looked after and you are not alone. And he gives you the freedom to express yourself,” Dasgupta adds, explaining how as a young cricketer he benefitted from the association with Raman during he latter’s first stint as Bengal coach in 2001.
“One thing I learnt from him is that your talent and performance can vary, but discipline is non-negotiable.”
Raman took charge of the Indian women’s team at a time of ferment. Things had turned ugly after the 2018 World T20, where India had lost to England in the semifinal. After being left out of the playing XI for that match, Mithali Raj had accused then women’s team coach Ramesh Powar of discrimination and bias. She had taken her protest to the BCCI through a letter as well. Just hours after the semifinal exit, Mithali’s manager had hit out at captain Harmanpreet via a tweet, which she later deleted.
During the interviews in December 2018, the ad-hoc Cricket Advisory Committee (CAC) comprising Kapil Dev, Anshuman Gaekwad and Shantha Rangaswamy asked the coaching aspirants about their methods to win over the dressing room. Raman trumped 28 candidates to get the job. Ahead of the Women’s T20 World Cup this year, when Raman was asked about the dressing-room atmosphere, he spoke about how the team was united to win matches for India.
India, their part in the presentation done, were trudging off towards the dressing room. WV Raman called them back and has got them to stand and applaud their opponents. Hard, but the right decision and a good touch.
— Snehal Pradhan (@SnehalPradhan) March 8, 2020
Player-management is a delicate issue in women’s sport. Former Bengal medium-pacer Shib Shankar Paul, who now coaches the Bengal women’s cricket team, elaborates on the subject.
“First, you have to be fully aware of the players’ strengths and weaknesses with regards to technique and power. You can’t enter the dressing room when a match is on. If you want to convey or discuss anything, you have to send someone to inform the players about your impending arrival. This could affect in-game coordination. Your communication skills must be top-class, for you can’t have a go at the players to drive home your point. I had conversations with some India players (before the World Cup) and they spoke highly of Raman’s management. They were also impressed with his methods to develop team spirit,” Paul tells this paper.
Paul himself played under Raman’s coaching and liked the planning aspect and also how clearly the latter analysed opponents.
One of the major attributes of Raman’s coaching, according to former India seamer Lakshmipathy Balaji, is his ability to be ahead of his time.
“During my injury phase (2006-07), he handled a cricketer who was looking to make a comeback… It was a very doubtful moment for me, whether I would be able to play again. I was under so much stress. Raman sir played a huge part. I had a back stress fracture and we discussed a lot whether I needed to go for surgery. Eventually, I went for a surgery. During that phase, he was very eager to take up the challenge, in fact, more than me,” Balaji recalls.
Back in 2006-07, sports medicine, and the importance attached to it, was not the same in Indian cricket as it is now. There was hardly any data available in terms of injury management and recovery. “He (Raman) was far ahead of his time. Now we talk about bio-mechanics. I remember Raman sir used to talk about bio-mechanics during that period. That way he was the only person I was able to trust those days,” Balaji says.
Raman worked for four seasons from 2006 during his first stint as Tamil Nadu coach. That was a transitional phase for the state team and under Raman’s tutelage, Ravichandran Ashwin and Murali Vijay flourished and went on to become established India players.
“When he took over as coach, not only did he bring in changes from the past, but he also changed the future of some of the players he nurtured. His eye for talent and his talent-scouting had been fantastic. He gave opportunities to young players who went on to play for India. Murali Vijay and Ashwin were pretty young when Raman sir took over as the coach. I think they all owe something to him,” Balaji observes, adding: “Irrespective of the result in the (World Cup) final, he has been doing a great job with the Indian women’s team.”
Even mercurial pace bowler Ashok Dinda falls for Raman’s ability to improve players. “In 2010 (when Raman came for a second stint as Bengal coach), I had already played for India. But I was having problems with my rhythm. He advised me to bowl with a shorter run-up and worked hard with me at the nets. My bowling, from loading to release and rhythm, improved significantly and I enjoyed a very successful domestic season,” Dinda rewinds.
Performance in the T20 World Cup attested the Indian women’s team’s steady progress. By Raman’s own admission, though, the team now needs to reach the next level – winning big matches and big moments.