The Indian Women’s Cricket team could muster only a solitary win during the T20 World Cup last year in March. Sixteen months later, in the ODI World Cup 2017 in England, they reached the finals.
Meet the man behind the team’s reform – former Baroda player and the head coach of the national women’s cricket team, Tushar Arothe.
Arothe was appointed as the head coach in April this year, after Purnima Rao was sacked. It can be noted that he has previously worked with the national women’s team between 2008 to 2012 as the fielding coach and head coach.
However, in his second stint, which began from the quadrangular series in May, he tasted immediate success.
Tushar Arothe told The Quint The girls put up brilliant performances in the World Cup, but the journey for it began from South Africa where we won the quadrangular series. That was where we picked confidence from. Coming into the World Cup after having to play the qualifiers, we beat England in the opening game, after which we thought we could take it home from there Tour to South Africa.
Arothe’s coaching techniques are novel. He believes that workload needs to be shared, and a single player shouldn’t be expected to don more than one hat. He specified the role of each member to the team, which helped their case in South Africa.
Tushar Arothe It all began from the South Africa tour. Soon after landing, we had a meeting on the first day. I told the girls to bury the failures of the past and concentrate on the road ahead. We were staying near to the ground so we practiced a lot. There were discussions on how to bat and bowl in the power-play, and in the last five overs, etc.
Arothe, the former First Class all-rounder also explained,
Each girl was assigned a specific job. One player doesn’t have to do everything. We used to nominate the fielding captain because one person cannot take the responsibility for 3 hours 10 minutes. We would nominate three fielding captains and change them in every session during the game. Distributing the job made my job easier too. At the same time the player doesn’t get bored. We would also evaluate their performance and encourage them by giving them points.
Arothe does not believe in curbing a player’s instincts, which is another intelligent technique that he follows. Since the tour to South Africa was his first assignment, the girls approached him with their problems, to which he had befitting solutions.
Girls would tell me about how they got out four to five times while playing their favourite shots. But I always encouraged them to play their favourite shots even if they lost their wicket to it. Instead of asking them to avoid that particular shot, I would explain the ideal timing for it. I told them to get used to the pace and bounce of the wicket and only then hit the ball the way they wanted. That way the girls got success. A Brilliant World Cup Journey but Lapse in the Final
The 50-year-old hailed the women for their remarkable journey to the finals.
“We played the first four games like champions. Especially against Pakistan, despite scoring only 196, we got them out cheaply and won by 95 runs. We were bound to lose a game or two since it was a long tournament.”
India lost to Australia and South Africa, after which the quarter-final against New Zealand was a must-win.
We had a team meeting ahead of the quarter-final in which both the batsmen and bowlers performed really well. Mithali, Veda, Jhulan, Shikha, everyone performed well. And then in the semi-final it was Harmanpreet – her knock was one of the best I’ve seen in my life.
However, Arothe expressed disappointment on India’s batting in the final. When asked the turning point of the game, he addressed the issue of inexperience in the lower order.
But in the final, from 191-3 to all-out was shocking. There were 2-3 things that went wrong. One was Harry’s wicket, other was Veda’s. Veda usually bats at No. 6, but was sent on No. 5 that day to play till the end. However, she played a pull shot and couldn’t do her job. If the batsmen don’t get runs then who will? The job was given but it was not performed. But I will not blame any single girl. The line-up after Veda was young and inexperienced, they had not played in front of packed stadiums, there was panic and we lost.
To make sure that no more matches in the future are lost to panic, Arothe has planned to meet a sports psychologist to help the girls. That explains that there’s no stopping for this team.
“After returning, I spoke to a sports psychologist and he is soon going to give us a date for the meet.”
In cricket, the support staff is often unglorified. The viewers only recognize those they watch on television, while the rest slot back in the background. Arothe feels that the support played an important role in India’s journey to the finals.
“I told the support staff the very first day that we are here to help the girls, they are not here to help us. I’ll not take away anything from the girls – they performed brilliantly. But at the same time, the support staff too played a crucial role.”
Arothe strongly believes that a team that syncs well, performs well.
From the very beginning, we created a family-like atmosphere, I wanted the girls to be happy all the time. We used to enjoy our time together, eat together, go on walks together, there was always a lot of communication, and that’s where the team’s success lies. Captain-Coach Opinion Always in Harmony
For the captain and coach, the two pillars of the team, it is natural for views to clash. However, Raj and Arothe’s opinions are always in sync. And that’s one aspect the team stands out in.
I have never had difference in opinion with Mithali. We always come up with the same ideas, be it choosing the playing XI or anything else. She will always come up with the same opinion as mine, and I will come up with the same opinion as hers, always. Because eventually both of us want good results for the team.
For the coach, replacing the two cornerstones of the team – Mithali and Jhulan will be difficult. But while they still play, Arothe hopes they scale many new heights.
“They have not retired yet, and while they continue playing, I hope they keep scaling new heights. But it will very, very difficult to replace them once they retire. Both are World No. 1. However, quite a few youngsters are rising and shining as well.”
Emphasis on Fitness
As the coach, fitness is one aspect Arothe gives the most importance to. He believes that fitness t is the platform to build talent.
Arothe concluded by saying:
The girls have gone back to their respective places. I have asked them to enjoy time with family and friends and then we’ll get back and start working on the fitness. Fitness comes before everything else. If you are fit you can do wonders in cricket – it helps in bowling, fielding, throwing, catching, running in between wickets and everything.
(Umaima Saeed is a self-confessed introvert who binges on cricket and lets her writing do the talking.)