W. V. Raman: There is no hierarchy of seniors or juniors

The important thing is for the players to get together, work together and play together as a team, new India women’s team head coach W. V. Raman says.

W. V. Raman believes the India women’s team has all the potential to be a force to be reckoned with.   -  K. V. Srinivasan

In sport, there is no hierarchy of seniors or juniors, says W. V. Raman, the former India and Tamil Nadu batsman who was recently appointed head coach of the national women’s cricket team. “The important thing is for them to get together, work together and play together as a team,” he says, as he takes over at a time of controversy, which he describes as a “one-off thing.”

Raman, who doesn’t mince his words, wants to see his team become one that everybody would vie to beat. In an interview ahead of his first assignment — India’s tour of New Zealand later in January, the seasoned coach says he believes this team has all the potential to be a force to be reckoned with.

What are your immediate targets as the head coach of the Indian women’s team?

The immediate target is to encourage them to play the same way they have played in the last 18 months. They have played with a lot of panache and displayed tremendous skills. They have shown that they are formidable and can beat anybody when they are at their best.

You are taking over at a time when the team has been going through quite a bit of controversy. Taking charge, are there issues you would like to fix right away?

The others who are not a part of whatever you are talking about (the controversies), they have been more on this and are not letting go of it. So, as far I see, it is a one-off thing which happened and I don’t think there is anything to be gained by harping on it, or being fixated on it. It is akin to a run-out, where there was a little bit of misunderstanding. That’s all over and done with. In sport and in life, you move on.

Over the last few weeks, the team has appeared divided on whether to focus on youth or experience. What will your strategy or road map be?

It is a team game and they will be encouraged, motivated and guided to play as a team. There is no such thing as seniors or juniors, which I have maintained in all these years as a coach. It is a unit of 14-15 cricketers playing as a team for their country. It is as simple as that.

Are you saying that a youngster will get as much importance as Mithali Raj or Harmanpreet Kaur?

I would emphasise the fact that each of them belongs there and that is why they have been picked. So, in sport, there is no hierarchy of seniors or juniors. It is a case of experienced cricketers and inexperienced cricketers. The important thing is for them to get together, work together and play together as a team.

Recently, the Indian men’s team head coach, Ravi Shastri, said there is nothing called junior or senior in the team. Will we get to see something similar with the women’s team as well?

I have had this as a philosophy in coaching that there is nothing like a senior or a junior in a team. I am not surprised that Ravi had said that because his mindset was the same when he was a captain and when he was a senior member of the Indian team.

What inspired you to take up this job?

Having watched them play on the field, and the talent that the team exhibited, and given what all has transpired in the last 18 months, this is a very crucial stage. From here, they can sort of skyrocket, or if things don't go well, they can go down south. They would require somebody with the experience, somebody who’s seen a gamut of teams and performed various roles, to guide them. So, I fancied myself, and that’s the reason I am here.

How much of a challenge is it to be the coach of a team in such a situation, given that you’ve a two-year contract now?

It’s not about my contract. It’s about the fact that they went on to almost win the World Cup in England, and then to the World T20 semifinals in the West Indies. That’s one of the reasons I put my hat into the ring, because for me, it was an indication that there was great talent in the women’s cricket team. And they are capable of going places. That's what I’m going to be looking at, to guide them to continue to play as well as they did, or probably better than that, in the last 18 months.

You have handled junior national teams, state teams, Indian Premier League franchises. Will handling a women’s team be any different?

The common denominator is the game. There is not much of a difference in who plays it, as far as cricket is concerned or as far as the tactics and techniques are concerned. But yes, it is a paradigm shift for me in a way because I have been part of a different segment of the game. So, this is a new segment and I will probably take some time to see what are the dynamics that are involved in women’s cricket. Otherwise, cricket is a common denominator so there should not be a major problem.

For the last few years, Indian women cricketers have sought a regular mental fitness coach, but no one has been appointed yet. Do you think it is important to have a regular mental fitness coach with the team?

I would not even want to venture into what has happened in the past and what has been asked in the past. I would like to go in, take a fresh stance and take stock of things and see what needs to be done. Then I will speak to the concerned authorities.

Raman batting for South Zone in the semifinals of the Deodhar Trophy against North Zone in Patiala in January 1987.   -  The Hindu Photo Library


In your two-year term, what do you plan to achieve with the team?

There is a lot of work to be done in terms of skill development, in terms of (planning) programmes for enhancing physical fitness. Besides, it is critical to provide more experience to these girls by making them play more matches. This will help them overcome whatever little issues they may have.

If there’s one thing you would like to keep or change in the women’s cricket setup, what would that be?

It’s like you asking me that if you go to New York, will you go to the Macy’s first or will you go to Times Square? I haven’t reached New York yet. Let me go there and figure out (laughs).

Two years down the line, where do you want to see the side?

I want to see them become a team that everybody would vie to beat. This team has the ability and potential to do be the best in the business. Hopefully, the Indian women’s team will go on to become the No. 1 in the ICC (International Cricket Council) rankings and stay there for long in the future.