Lack of communication with the players, growing differences with the senior players, taking decisions without the consent of the captain, and bad rapport with selectors are being cited by top BCCI officials as reasons for removing Ramesh Powar as head coach of the Indian women’s team two months ahead of the T20 World Cup. In a surprising move on Tuesday, the Board shifted Powar to the National Cricket Academy to work as a spin-bowling coach with the men’s set up headed by VVS Laxman.
The decision once again puts the spotlight firmly on the players, who continue to have a say in who gets to coach them. After the infamous Anil Kumble-Virat Kohli spat in 2017, this is the third such instance where a coach has been removed due to differences with the players and all three have come with the women’s team. In 2018, Tushar Arothe and Powar (first stint) had to vacate the seat because of not seeing eye to eye with the players.
The board has not named any new head coach for the women’s team. Instead, former India cricketer Hrishikesh Kanitkar, who has been a batting consultant at the NCA, has been elevated to the senior women’s team as batting coach and will oversee operations. Kanitkar has already linked up with the side in Mumbai as India are set to face Australia in a T20I series beginning on Friday. Kanitkar is not new to the women’s team set-up as he accompanied it to Sri Lanka as batting coach and was also there when they clinched silver at the 2022 Commonwealth Games. Kanitkar also enjoys a good rapport with the players, especially with regards to the technical aspects and players often rely on him for inputs.
Although the press release issued by the BCCI didn’t mention any reasons for the reshuffle, the timing raised eyebrows as the ICC women’s T20 World Cup is just two months away. However, it is reliably learnt that the BCCI was forced to act after some of the senior players requested for a change of guard, which even the top board officials felt was necessary, having sat through a few meetings with Powar themselves.
According to those in the know, few of the players seem to have expressed their concerns, especially with regard to board-room planning and tactical issues. They are also understood to have informed the selectors about their reservations in the past.
During the meeting with the BCCI top brass, it is understood that the players also spoke about the short team meetings and lack of communication and inputs from Powar. It is understood that a few of the support staff who had worked alongside Powar with the women’s team in the recent past had also raised similar concerns in their feedback to the BCCI. With selectors also not on the same page as Powar, the writing was on the wall.
It is understood that the board was contemplating the move for a while and finally decided to pull the plug after consultation with all the stakeholders. The BCCI had informed Powar before their decision to make Kanitkar the batting coach and he was offered the role at NCA, which he agreed to take.
This is not the first time Powar’s tenure has come to an abrupt end. In 2018, just months after being appointed head coach, he was not given an extension by the Committee of Administrators as he had a fallout with former captain Mithali Raj. When he was reappointed by the BCCI in 2021, concerns still persisted about his people management skills, but Powar was still chosen ahead of WV Raman, who had guided the team to the final of the 2020 T20 World Cup.
With just two months left for the T20 World Cup in South Africa, the BCCI is unlikely to bring in a new head coach. However, newly- appointed batting coach Kanitkar is expected to be in charge of the team with head of cricket at NCA, VVS Laxman likely to help with the preparations for the big event. Kanitkar, who has been part of the NCA, was the head coach of the men’s Under-19 team that won the World Cup earlier this year, and has assisted the India A team on a regular basis as a batting consultant. Moreover, he has also been part of the senior men’s side as batting coach whenever Rahul Dravid & his support staff have been given a break.
With Powar’s contract running till the World Cup, the BCCI has now placed him at the NCA as a spin-bowling coach. It is understood that the former India spinner will also link up with the men’s team as and when required as there is talk of having a specialist spin-bowling coach till the 50-over World Cup.
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