Ramesh Powar returns as India women’s team coach

Former off-spinner Ramesh Powar on Thursday returned as the head coach of the Indian women’s cricket team, a little over two years after a public fallout with senior player Mithali Raj had led to his ouster. Powar, who recently guided the Mumbai men’s team to the Vijay Hazare Trophy title, replaced WV Raman.

Raman, too, had applied for the job as also former India all-rounder Hrishikesh Kanitkar. The BCCI received “over 35 applications” for the post. In the end, the Madan Lal-led BCCI’s Cricket Advisory Committee (CAC) picked Powar because of his “previous experience” as the Indian women’s team head coach and the “recent success” with the Mumbai men’s team.

Madan Lal said the CAC would monitor Powar’s handling of the team and the performance on the field, the end result. “We would wait for the result. Everybody lays out his/her vision during interviews and promises about giving the best. But at the end of the day, result matters. (Also), how you manage the team, how you handle the team (matters),” the World Cup-winning former all-rounder told The Indian Express.

“They (Powar and Raman) were equally good, but we thought Powar might be the better candidate to look after the women’s team. Also, you always look into all other aspects, like his looking after (the) Mumbai (team), looking after women’s cricket; a lot of things come into play. Indian women’s cricket (team) is growing and we want them to grow more (under Powar),” he added.

It would be interesting to see how Powar’s second stint as the Indian women’s team coach goes off, given that he would return to a dressing-room that he allegedly had lost. “During the interview, we asked him about that and he said it won’t be a problem,” a CAC member told this paper.

Powar was in charge of the women’s team from July to November 2018 and India had reached the T20 World Cup semifinal under his charge. The team also won 14 T20 matches on the spin. But the team selection in the semifinal against England eventually became his bugbear.

The Harmanpreet Kaur-led side had dropped former captain Mithali for the game and the latter in turn hit back at Powar, accusing him of bias and expressing her anger over the “humiliation” she faced. Later, in a tweet, Mithali had described it as “the darkest day” of her life. “Today, my patriotism doubted, my skill set questioned & all the mud slinging – it’s the darkest day of my life. May god give strength,” the tweet read.

Powar’s response was a stinging criticism of the senior cricketer. “I hope Mithali Raj stops blackmailing, pressurising coaches and also stops putting her interest first than team’s. I hope she will look at the bigger picture & work towards betterment of Indian women’s cricket,” he had written in a 10-page report to the BCCI. The report had also accused Mithali of focusing more on personal milestones. “(She) ignored her role and batted for own milestones. Lack of keeping the momentum going which was putting extra pressure on other batters…”

The Indian women’s team will travel to England on June 2 for a one-off Test, three T20Is and as many ODIs. It remains to be seen if a clear-the-air meeting is arranged between Powar and the team (read, Mithali) in the lead-up. Sources, however, informed that the CAC spoke to senior members of the team before recommending Powar’s candidature to the BCCI.

“The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) announces the appointment of Mr Ramesh Powar as the Head Coach of Team India (Senior Women). The BCCI had advertised for the post and received over 35 applications,” stated the BCCI press release, adding: “The three-member Cricket Advisory Committee comprising Ms Sulakshana Naik, Mr Madan Lal and Mr Rudra Pratap Singh interviewed the applicants and unanimously agreed on Mr Powar’s candidature.”

“Looking forward to take india women’s cricket ahead. Thanks a lot CAC & bcci for this opportunity,” Powar tweeted.

As for Raman, he coached India to the T20 World Cup final last year, but the ODI and T20Is home series defeats against South Africa in March had been a setback. “All the best to Ramesh and the team. I wish them every success,” the former India batsman told this paper.

A second-string Indian men’s team is set to tour Sri Lanka for a bilateral limited-overs series in July. It is learnt that Raman could be in contention to coach the side. The first-team under head coach Ravi Shastri and captain Virat Kohli would be in England for a five-Test series.

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