India women more adept in handling pressure now: Ramesh Powar
India women will face New Zealand in the World T20 opener. (Getty Image)

India women’s coach Ramesh Powar feels that the team is mentally in a better place in terms of handling pressure as they gear up for the ICC Women’s World T20 in the West Indies next month. India women suffered a heart-breaking nine-run defeat to England in the final of the Women’s World Cup last year, when chasing 229, they endured a batting collapse. From 191 for 3, India women lost their last seven wickets for 28 runs to lose their second World Cup final.

The women’s team leaves for the Caribbean today and during a pre-departure press conference, Power mentioned how he and the players have tried out various permutations and combinations to help tackle pressure.

“We have had that experience of playing a big-match final. We have been trying the aspect of handling pressure during the last eight games or so,” Powar said on Saturday. “The players have been exposed to various pressure, be it during the Powerplay or while chasing. We tried a lot of things. We wanted Taniya [Bhatia] to go and play her shots; we wanted Jemimah [Rodriguez] to do the same.

“So we have tried to create various scenarios and the players have responded well. The youngsters are fearless, and I hope that changes the perception of pressure. This team is more about dominance than just competing, and that mindset ought to take the pressure off.

Captain Harmanpreet Kaur echoed her coach’s thoughts and claimed that the side has learnt a lot since the final at Lord’s last year. “Before the World Cup, we have never played a final. Only Jhulu di (Jhulan Goswami) and Mithali di (Mithali Raj) had that experience. If you experience something once, you are able to work on it,” Harmanpreet said.

“So I believe we have learnt a lot from that World Cup final. That was a match where had we shown a little more control, the situation could have been handled better. I hope we don’t repeat the mistakes we had committed in the World Cup final. If we progress to the knockouts, the aim will be to maintain our cool and see through.”

The World T20 is Powar’s first big assignment following the tour of Sri Lanka and the series against Australia A. Replacing former coach Tushar Arothe in August, the former offspinner admitted that walking into the team was not easy, but the understanding of players is what made the development comfortable.

“The World Cup is a big challenge. My main objective is to monitor the growth of all players individually. We’ve worked a lot of our planning and how to execute them. We have also given a lot of thought regarding the combinations that we have to play, depending on the conditions and oppositions and learnt a lot from the series in Sri Lanka and against Australia A. Everything is almost finalised,” Powar said.

“To be honest, it wasn’t pleasant to walk into the team as a coach. But I think it was the experience of having worked with youngsters and other players over the years made it a smooth transformation. When you are building a team from scratch, it is important to have good communication with the team; making them realise their potential, understand the bigger picture. It took just a few days for them to realise.”

While the Indian team seems to possess a balance, without Jhulan Goswami, the team lacks a leader. Powar however feels the aim of the team is to create matchwinners than leaders and that they have the firepower in the fast bowling department to excel in the tournament. “We are not here to create leaders. We are here to create matchwinners. We want a unit that has most watch-winners. We haven’t thought about any leader in the batting or bowling department,” Powar said.

A former spinner himself, Powar admits having invested a great deal in development of spin. The likes of Poonam Yadav, Ekta Bisht, Radha Yadav, Anuja Patil and Deepti Sharma have been impressive for India, but the process is still an ongoing one. Powar added that spin is one the team’s main strengths and that the side’s win percentage will shoot up given the five spinners perform well.

“It’s a long process. Spin bowling isn’t mastered in a month or two. Women’s cricket is slightly different; the strength in their wrist and body isn’t on the same level as men. So we are trying to manage that first,” the coach said. “We are looking to build on fitness before anything else and using a lot of fundamentals of spin bowling. Women’s cricket tends to take slightly longer because the size of the players’ fingers. My belief is that the day we have three four bowlers bowling well, it will all gel smoothly. Poonam Yadav, Ekta Bisht, Radha Yadav, or Anuja Patil or Deepti Sharma are our spinners and if even three of them perform on a day, we can beat any team.”