Fitness and fielding top priority, says new head coach
MUMBAI: Guided by a new head coach in Amol Muzumdar, a former domestic stalwart, the Indian women’s team will look to launch into its preparations for the T20 World Cupin September next year in style when it launches into a busy home season, starting with a three-match T20I series against world No.2 England at the Wankhede Stadium on Wednesday.
While it may give him some comfort that he begins his new job in his hometown and in a stadium where he has played since he was a teenager, the first task ahead of Muzumdar won’t be easy. India have a poor record against England in T20Is, having lost 20 out of 27 games against them while winning just seven. Even playing at home, India have lost seven T20Is to England while winning just two. The last time England played a T20I series in India, in 2019, they blanked the hosts 3-0 at Guwahati.
In his first presser as the head coach, Muzumdar stressed that his team won’t be bogged down by history.
“As a team, we have decided to leave the statistics and whatever has happened behind us. We are looking forward to a fresh start. The numbers are there to be seen, but these girls and the team are looking forward to the season ahead. We are not going to go back in history-of course, it is important but at the same time, it is also important to look forward to the season ahead. They are all raring to go,” he asserted.
It’s apparent that Muzumdar wants the Indian women’s team to play the same ‘fearless’ brand of cricket that their male counterparts were admired for during the 2023 ODI World Cup.
Asked on what his advice would be for the likes of Shafali Varma and Jemimah Rodrigues, who can play attractive strokes, but can also succumb to a loose shots, Muzumdar replied: “Look, we need to play a certain brand of cricket, which we’ve been known for so far. Shafali and Jemimah are both very important cogs in the wheel. I would like them to continue what they’ve been doing. Fearless cricket is something which I’ve always advocated. So, we would be playing that brand of cricket.”
The new India women’s head coach emphasized that there are two areas on which he won’t let his players compromise: “I will touch upon two points. Fielding and fitness are of highest priority. There’s no compromise on fielding or fitness. They (the fitness parameters) have already been set and we will follow them rigorously and religiously going forward. We have already had fitness tests at the NCA. There will be three tests in a season.”
While bilaterals are important, Muzumdar knows that it is the Indian women’s team’s performance in the World Cups-2024 T20 World Cup in Bangladesh and then the 50 overs World Cup in 2025 in India-which will be ultimately counted to judge his stint.
“We are moving towards the World Cup. Every series and match will have its own importance and the series against England and Australia will count a lot. We had a chat about it with the team and they are all raring to go. Every step that we take (hereon) is (about) moving towards the World Cup,” the head coach said.
Going by the large number of crowds during the home series against Australia last year, the Indian women’s team can expect a good turnout to cheer for them in the next few weeks. “It will be a good, well-fought and competitive series for sure. The crowd support will be there and hopefully they (the fans) will come in huge numbers,” Muzumdar said.
India have three new faces for this series with right-arm Karnataka spinner Shreyanka Patil, Punjab’s left-arm spinner Mannat Kashyap and Bengal’s Saika Ishaque-another left-arm spinner-being roped in. All three have put in impressive performances to get a look-in. The Harmanpreet Kaur-led side will certainly draw confidence from their last outing, when they won the gold at the Asian Games in September.
Cooley to be bowling coach for both series
Meanwhile, Australia’s Troy Cooley will be the bowling coach of the Indian women’s team for the upcoming series against England and Australia. Since 2021, the 57-year-old Cooley has been the fast bowling coach at the BCCI‘s National Cricket Academy in Bangalore. He was the bowling coach of the Indian women’s team in the T20 World Cup in South Africa in February.