Tushar Arothe (left), coach of the Indian women's cricket team since 2017, had a good rapport with the players till differences crept up with seniors including skipper Mithali Raj (Pic: Twitter).
The precedent was set by Virat Kohli and the men’s team last year, who revolted against the coach, leading to his ouster. The Indian women cricket team players seem to have followed in the footsteps of their illustrious counterparts, ridding themselves of their coach. But, a deeper analysis reveals the women’s team is a history-sheeter when it comes to sacking coaches.
Kohli’s much publicized dressing room cold war with Anil Kumble last year, which even the great Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly and VVS Laxman -- Board of Control for Cricket in India’s (BCCI’s) observers -- couldn’t pacify, saw the former Indian skipper resign as coach. Ravi Shastri, a Kohli favourite, has been in charge of the men’s team since then.
Also Read | Messi as Argentina’s Tendulkar: A GOAT Soup Recipe
Now the women’s team skippers, Harmanpreet Kaur (T20) and Mithali Raj (ODI) -- stars no doubt in their realms if not a superstar like Kohli -- have used their muscle within the system and the BCCI Committee of Administrators (CoA), to push coach Tushar Arothe out of the dressing room.
Arothe, who led the women’s side to the final of the ICC Women's World Cup last year as well as ODI and T20 series victory away in South Africa this year, resigned on July 10 citing personal reasons. But the real reason, reportedly, is that senior players in the side had complained against his coaching methods. More specifically, they didn’t want to train two times a day, which was prescribed by the coach.
The “revolt”, PTI quoted sources in their report, is the real reason why the BCCI postponed the training camp for the team that was scheduled from June 15 to 25.
“The BCCI on Tuesday accepted India women's team coach Mr. Tushar Arothe's resignation. Mr. Arothe cited personal reasons behind his resignation and thanked the BCCI for giving him an opportunity to work with the Indian women's cricket team," read the statement from the Board.
Also Read | How the Cricketing World Failed Afghanistan
The BCCI CoA member Diana Edulji, a former India captain, is the person who makes decisions on women’s cricket. Apparently, Harmanpreet and Mithali, who are close to Edulji, didn’t have anything good to say about Arothe’s coaching methods when BCCI asked them for feedback. The Board was reviewing the recent poor performance of the team under Arothe, including a tri-series loss against England and Australia, and the two defeats at the hands of Bangladesh in the Asia Cup -- the more damaging one in the final which cost them the prize.
Sources in the know-how revealed to Newsclick that Arothe, who has played 114 first-class games for Baroda, was quite popular with the players until recently, when he had a fallout with the seniors. The recent poor run could have been the result of the clash, possibly of egos.
The two losses to minnows Bangladesh might have been the tipping point for Arothe. What’s interesting is that the Bangladesh side was coached by former India coach Anju Jain, who was ousted in a similar fashion in 2013.
Also Read | Indian Wheelchair Cricket Team Faces Affiliation and Identity Crisis
The current women’s team players are “perpetual complainers”, said a cricket expert who is close to the players.
BCCI had not just removed Anju, but Purnima Rau as well (in 2017), after “requests” from senior players, just ahead of the World Cup. “Nobody bothered to even ask what is happening, what am I doing for the World Cup, what are my plans. There was no reason given,” Rau was quoted by Firstpost then. BCCI replaced Rau with Arothe.
Another bit of history: In 2010, the Board had removed then coach Sudha Shah, that too a month before the 2010 World T20. The script of all the thee episodes remained the same -- players’ whims being taken into account when deciding the coach’s fate.
India are not exactly world beaters in women’s cricket. They have a long way to go to attain the kind of clout the men enjoy, both on and off the field. And it certainly doesn’t help their cause when differences about training schedule escalates into the sacking of a coach.
Such indiscipline shouldn’t be encouraged in the men’s squad as well. But then Kohli’s clout triumphed last year, and the not-so-great precedent, if not started by the men, was set in concrete by that episode.
BCCI is now trying to answer the “what next question” once again, and has invited applications for the women’s team coach. But will any coach be able to meet the qualifications that is needed for the Indian team -- credentials in cricket as well as a deeper expertise in ego management.