When India senior women’s team takes on Australia for a five-match T20I series, beginning on Friday, the team will have a new batting coach in Hrishikesh Kanitkar.
A couple of days ago, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) announced that Kanitkar will take over and ‘former coach’ Ramesh Powar will be returning to the National Cricket Academy as its spin bowling coach.
While there were reports that Powar was moved to the NCA due to growing differences with some of the senior players, India captain Harmanpreet Kaur rubbished such claims.
“There was nothing like that (no differences). Whenever I have worked with him, I have always enjoyed it. As a team we have grown and we have learned a lot from him. It’s a BCCI decision that he has moved to the NCA and whenever we will be at the NCA, he will always be available,” Harmanpreet said on the eve of the first T20I.
Kanitkar has previously worked with the women’s team and travelled to Sri Lanka earlier this year.
“We had a very good experience with Hrishi sir when we toured Sri Lanka and when we were at the NCA, he was always available, whenever we needed his help. Hrishi sir brings in a lot of experience to the team and we are looking forward and focusing on the road ahead,” Harmanpreet said,
“We are in the right hands, and whatever decision the BCCI takes, we are okay with it,” she added.
With the Women’s T20 World Cup just a couple of months away, the timing of this decision to replace Powar came as a surprise, even though this was not the first time such a thing happened in Indian women’s cricket.
In 2017, just a couple of months before the 50-over World Cup, Purnima Rau was sacked and Tushar Arothe was brought in as the head coach.
Even though the team went on to play the final of the tournament, the timing of sacking a coach did draw flak.
But Harmanpreet made it clear that since the team has already worked with Kanitkar in the past, they won’t have difficulty in adjusting to his style of coaching.
“Had there been a new coach, it could have been a difficult, but since we have worked with Hrishi sir in the past, I don’t think there will be any problems. If a new person comes in, you need to explain a lot of things, but Hrishi sir already knows how we work, so there won’t be much changes,” she said.
After the 50-over World Cup debacle earlier this year, Indian team bagged a series win in Sri Lanka in June-July and Kanitkar played a key role in improving the team’s batting department.
“We discussed with him how to achieve our targets and we spoke about setting those small targets. He helped us in terms of how to execute plans. There were times on that tour, when we lost early wickets, but we bounced back and scored big totals. He helped us in understanding how to bat in those circumstances.
“We needed someone who could give us that calmness on the field. You have seen in the past that in crucial situations, girls need that support in someone who can guide them calmly and tell them what to do and there should be clear thoughts,” she said.
“In Sri Lanka, we seen that side of Hrishi sir. When we heard that he will be the coach for the Australia series and even beyond that, there was a positivity in the team. We really liked the way he worked with us in Sri Lanka.”
The five-match T20I series against Australia will be important for the Indian team in the lead up to the T20 World Cup and Harmanpreet believes that the team will want to “continue the kind of cricket that we played for three months and we won’t make any changes to our approach.”
Senior campaigners like Sneh Rana have missed out on the series and the Indian captain stressed on the fact that the performers in the domestic circuit got their reward for being consistent.
“The members of the team have performed well, especially the new girls have done well in the domestic circuit. Anjali took the highest wickets and then other players have done really well, selections depend on your performance. Sneh Rana and others are good players, whenever they perform, they will come back,” the skipper said.
In the past, Harmanpreet had admitted that the presence of mental conditioning coach Mugdha Bhavare helped the team, and this time, too, the players plan to request the Board and see if she can be roped in for the T20 World Cup and the tour of South Africa.