Ramesh Powar Would Hope For A Longer & Controversy Free Second Innings
Former India off-spinning all-rounder, Ramesh Powar was re-appointed as Coach of the Women’s Cricket Team completing a full cycle after his last tenure had ended on a turbulent note which resulted in his sacking post the World T20 in the Caribbean in 2018 in the aftermath of the fallout with senior player Mithali Raj. Powar had been replaced by former India opening batsman, WV Raman who was at the helm for a period of approximately two and a half years starting December 2018.
The Powar-Raj Controversy
Powar was appointed the interim coach of the women’s team in July 2018 replacing Tushar Arothe and his contract was then extended till the end of the World T20 in the Caribbean in November 2018. While India made it to the semi-finals of the mega event where they were beaten by England, a massive controversy broke out between Powar and Mithali Raj post the tournament. Raj accused the coach of discrimination and unfair treatment throughout the course of the competition and in an email addressed to the BCCI CEO Rahul Johri stated that she felt deflated, depressed and let down. The issue of the controversy was around the batting position of Raj who had historically played as an opener for India.
However, Powar wanted the senior India batter to move down in the order in order to give the batting some depth. This did not go down well with Raj who gave a detail of how Powar ignored her during practice sessions, walked away if she was around and did not pay attention to her batting sessions. Raj was pushed down the order in India’s tournament opener against New Zealand and it was only after a formal complaint to the national selector on the tour that she was allowed to open against Pakistan and Ireland registering half-centuries in both the matches. However, she was left out for the big semi-final even after recovering from a knee injury she sustained during the Ireland clash.
Powar replied to the accusations and in a formal letter to the BCCI stated that Raj was playing for personal milestones and not acting in the best interest of the team. He added that Raj had threatened to retire if she was not allowed to open the innings for India.
Subsequently Powar’s contract was not renewed by the BCCI and although he reapplied for the position in December, WV Raman was appointed the head coach.
WV Raman’s Stint
The Indian Women did not play much international cricket with Raman as Head Coach, particularly in the latter half, due to the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic. However, they had a great run under his eyes in ODI cricket winning four successive bilateral series. India beat New Zealand 2-1 in an away series in January 2019 before overpowering the fancied English team at home in February. India then defeated South Africa 3-0 sweeping the home series in October before again recording a 2-1 win in the Caribbean against the West Indies next month.
It was a mixed bag in the T20Is. After suffering crushing defeats away in New Zealand and at home against England (both 0-3), India came back to defeat South Africa 3-1 in a home series in September 2019. Their biggest triumph came in the Caribbean when they swept the series 5-0.
However, Raman’s most significant achievement as Head Coach was to lead India to the final of the World T20 in Australia in early 2020 eventually going down to the hosts at the MCG. There was no international assignment for the Women’s Team for almost a year courtesy the Covid-19 pandemic that raged destruction all over the world.
And when it did resume India fared badly which resulted in the BCCI to seek a new coach for the Women Team – the double loss (2-1 in the T20I series and 4-1 in the ODI series) at home in March 2021 against South Africa led to Raman’s ouster from the position of Head Coach.
The Return of Powar
The Indian Board invited applications for the Head Coach position in April before the Cricket Advisory Committee, comprising Madan Lal, RP Singh and Sulakshana Naik, decided to re-appoint Powar. Incidentally, Raman was also again in the fray as he re-applied for the position but was not in favour with the committee. A total of 35 applications were received which included the likes of Ajay Ratra, Hrishikesh Kanitkar, Hemlatha Kala and Suman Sharma.
Powar is expected to oversee the India A and Under-19 Teams along with providing his services for the Senior Women Team.
His efforts were lauded as under his guidance Mumbai went on to win the 2021 Vijay Hazare Trophy. Powar played 2 Tests and 31 ODIs for India between 2004 and 2007. He had a good record in the 50-over format returning with 34 wickets in 29 bowling innings. Powar has also picked 470 first-class wickets in 148 matches.
His first job back as Head Coach is to help assist the selectors in picking the squad for the upcoming tour of the United Kingdom which commences with a Test match in Bristol on June 16. Powar would hope that his second stint is free of controversy, longer in duration and more fruitful for him and the Indian Women Cricket team.