WV Raman working on building a team that plays fearless cricket
- The team had a dedicated fitness camp where the players were made to realize the importance of enhancing their fitness.
- "I'm more careful about what I say and how I convey it," Raman said.
- "There is no senior-junior business here. Either they are experienced or inexperienced cricketers," Raman added.
As India - the 2018 semifinalists - begin their preparations for the T20 World Cup with a home series against South Africa, TOI caught up with the 54-year-old to learn more about his role, the challenges and the way forward.
Post the 3-0 loss to England in the T20 series at home earlier this year, you spoke of the need for improvement. What are the areas on which the team needed to work?
First thing was enhancing the fitness levels. The other, we needed to bat more freely. Both against England and before them New Zealand, we could not convert tight games into victories. It meant that these girls needed to realize that whenever there is a tight situation, you just hang in there. Also, currently the situation (in the team) is that we have a lot of youngsters coming into the side. All of them are on a learning curve.
How did you'll work on fitness?
We had a dedicated fitness camp where the players were made to realize the importance of enhancing their fitness. To be fair to them, the players have been very enthusiastic, sincere and diligent in going through the training protocols and also follow-up camps for fitness. The signs are very encouraging in terms of their fitness and skills enhancement.
What was the key area of fitness that needed to be worked on?
I wouldn't go down to the specifics, but in general terms, they needed to work on their speed and agility. In both the England and New Zealand series, the opposition players were stronger, more agile and far more powerful in their hitting. That said, we have our limitations genetically and in the way we are built. In that sense, despite all the shortcomings, I believe our players punched above their weight. So, improving was a case of knowing how to go about training and what regimen they need to follow individually. That is being sorted out and all of them have improved.
And skill set?
If you look at the last couple of T20 series, we didn't do all that well in the most important patches of batting. What was done after that was to encourage the players to play with a lot more positive intent. It was a case of them going for a big shot in a primitive manner, which is not their strength. But now they try to hit through the line. They are shaping much better than what they were.
How important is this five-match T20 series against South Africa?
It is very important. There will be a lot of learning. For the players who are young and just making it into the team, each outing will give them exposure. We have a couple of more series before we get into the World Cup and each international game teaches them a lot. Along those lines, the players will get to know what it takes to do well in international cricket.
Does your extensive coaching experience, especially in age-group cricket, come in handy in understanding younger players?
Yes, of course. As you do more assignments, you get better. It is a learning process for everybody. It is a tricky thing because it is not about telling them all that you know, but what needs to be said and you need to find that wavelength with each player quickly. The moment you find out what needs to be told to a player, it becomes easy.
How different is it to work with a women's team, especially since this is your first time?
I think at the end of the day you are only doing what needs to be done, which is imparting knowledge and trying to help in cricket. The common denominator here is cricket. Men or women does not make a difference. Yes, the pace of play may be a little slow or the numericals are different on the scorecard but otherwise, there isn't much difference.
What were the adjustments you needed to make in terms of approach?
I'm more careful about what I say and how I convey it. You must realize there are limitations. That is because the women cricketers are not as experienced as even the India U-19 boys. The boys play a lot more cricket because they start playing representative cricket by the time they are 14 or 15. So, you can't compare the men and women teams and say this is where you should be. If you are trying to set a benchmark, it should be in relation to another women's cricket team. In terms of results, yes, you compete. Otherwise, it is neither prudent nor sensible to compare.
Are there specific expectations you have in terms of a team environment?
You should not control the environment. That's the trick here. When you are handling cricketers in the 16-23 years age group, they should be allowed to evolve. They cannot be moulded into one shape. That is an age of self-discovery and you should look forward to them making mistakes because that's how you learn faster. Also, you should not prevent them from making mistakes, because you don't know what they want to do. When they make mistakes early, the lessons learnt will remain with them longer as against me trying to spoon-feed them. If that happens, then they start looking over their shoulder for everything. That's what experience is all about. If first punishes you, then teaches you.
Do you go through team-bonding exercises?
Even there, you must allow them to get to know each other by themselves. It happens best that way. I cannot be butting in and tell them that they must make it a point to bond. They come from different backgrounds and states. Sometimes they don't even know each other, yet they immediately get together, go out and play. Once they get to know the others better, they sort out bonding by themselves. In that aspect, this bunch is fantastic and gets along well.
What about the gap between juniors and seniors?
There is no senior-junior business here. Either they are experienced or inexperienced cricketers. They have all be thrown together because they are good at cricket. Age on either side of the spectrum is just a number.