Biju George savours ‘the best days of my life’ coaching Indian women

As fielding coach of the Indian women's cricket team, the Sports Authority of India coach takes pride in India’s excellent fielding performance in the World Cup.

Biju George (right)... “We (Indian women) were a good fielding unit and saved a lot of runs.”   -  S. Gopakumar

As soon as he reached home from the Airport, Biju George wasted no time in celebrating and headed straight to the Medical College ground, where trainees at Sports Authority of India (SAI) coaching centre were waiting him.

For Biju, who lived a dream along with Indian women's cricket team in England, it was back to routine grind of moulding young cricketers. The SAI coach has produced a range of cricketers from internationals to district players but it was his stint with the women cricketers that brought him tremendous satisfaction. “The best days of my life as coach,” he said.

As fielding coach of the Indian women's cricket team, Biju George takes pride in India’s excellent fielding performance in the World Cup. He is proud to point out that Indian women had the least fumbles, the highest number of direct hits and run-outs, and accounted for less dropped catches.

“Our girls weren't physically strong as some other girls from England, Australia South Africa and New Zealand. But they were better disciplined on the field and made less errors. We were a good fielding unit and saved a lot of runs. Even in the final which we lost, Indian girls made less errors compared to England who dropped chances,” said Biju George.

But the slip between the cup and lip according to Biju boiled down the experience and stronger resolve of the English. “To be honest, the Indian lower order lacked the experience or strength to win against England in the final. Only our top four batters had the ability to hit the ball long and hard and once they got out, the pressure was on the lower order. Jhulan Goswami got out to a good ball that reverse swung and the field came up to dry up the singles. The lower order batters struggled to hit the ball over infield. England played well under pressure,” said Biju.

The Indian team started off with four wins on the bounce but faltered with big losses to South Africa and Australia. Biju says the India opted to chase against South Africa as an experiment as the team wanted to test itself in chase before the big matches.

‘Honest assessment’

“The chase against South Africans backfired and Australia were too good for us. We had a team meeting just before the crunch game against New Zealand and I was picked to address the team. I made an honest assessment of each player and pointed out the flaws and need to rise their game to win against New Zealand. The players responded well and scored a big win to reach the semifinal,” said Biju.

The campaign, according to Biju, was a watershed moment in history of Indian women's cricket. “Before the start of the tournament our realistic ambition was to reach the last four. But reaching the final was a big gain. The girls have learnt from experience. We have foundation for a future team. The girls have made people sit up and take notice that women can indeed play the cricket in India. The good show will probably open up new avenues for women cricketers,” said Biju.

At present, Railways is the only department in India which provides job to women cricketers. 10 members of the World Cup squad were Railway employees. Biju feels the scenario should change for the game to grow. “Women's cricket is surviving only because of Railways which offers employment to majority of the cricketers. But you need two or three institutions to provide job opportunities for women cricketers. The Punjab Chief Minister offered the DSP post to Harmanpreet Kaur after her World Cup performance. The Himachal Pradesh Government also offered the DSP post to Sushma Verma. It is a good gesture but along with that if these two States take steps to offer more job opportunities, other States will follow suit,” he said.

Though Biju has been part of many Indian squads before, the stint with the women's cricket team was one he enjoyed most. “The girls were honest and hard working. Moreover, they were very attached with the coaching staff. We were like a family. There was none without a tear when the team split after all felicitations. Personally for me it was a great experience,” concluded Biju.