Better communication of decisions and allowing all members of the team to express their grievances and issues openly have been the standout aspects of Ramesh Powar's short tenure as head coach of India women, according to senior middle-order batsman Veda Krishnamurthy.
"The best part about Ramesh is that he is getting everyone to talk," Krishnamurthy told ESPNcricinfo. "Communication has improved. He has asked us to speak out more. If there's anything running in our mind, he wants us to openly have a conversation about it, which wasn't the case earlier. Players are sitting and discussing what their role should be in the team and what they should actually do. There's a lot of cricket being spoken. That's the one thing he's been stressing on ever since he joined us, he wants everyone to come together and work towards it."
Powar was appointed on an interim basis following internal discord that eventually led to Tushar Arothe's resignation five months ahead of the Women's World T20 in the Caribbean. Under Powar, India tasted success across formats on their tour of Sri Lanka last month. Since then, the players have had a rigorous camp in Mumbai and have topped off their preparation for the World T20 by combining as an India A outfit that whitewashed Australia A 3-0 in an unofficial T20I series.
It was only in June that the same team underwent a torrid time at the Asia Cup, where they were beaten twice by Bangladesh, including in the final. In the aftermath, reports of rifts between the senior players and the then coach Arothe first surfaced. This eventually led to the BCCI calling off a scheduled fitness and skills camp in Bengaluru. Things have improved for the better since, and Powar, who has had previous coaching experience with Mumbai's Under-23s, has gone out of his way to foster camaraderie and confidence within the group.
"It's a different atmosphere around him. We've been used to a similar kind of coaching for a long time, and for him to come in and change the atmosphere completely, it's a big deal," Krishnamurthy said. "I think everyone likes it. There 's conversation between the players as well as the coaching staff now. You don't hold back anything and you're speaking your mind. That's the biggest change in the dressing room."
Things have not been as upbeat as expected for India since their run to the World Cup final last year, and their inadequacies have been exposed, especially in the shortest format. While they won the T20I series against hosts South Africa earlier this year, they couldn't qualify for the tri-series final against England and Australia at home. The final nail in Arothe's tenure were the Asia Cup losses to Bangladesh, which Krishnamurthy put down to "over-planning".
"We planned too many things for the Asia Cup. We should have just stuck to our basics instead," she said. "There were so many things the management was doing and the players were doing but at the end of the day it taught us all something - that we shouldn't overdo anything. We knew there was a World T20 coming up and our focus should have turned towards that. But now whatever happened during that phase does not hurt us much as we've shifted our focus."
Krishnamurthy's form in recent times has particularly come under scrutiny. She has made just 177 runs in 11 T20I innings this year, her highest score being a match-winning unbeaten 37 in a chase of 165 against South Africa in February. Following her poor run in the format, she was left out for the last two matches against England and Australia in the tri-series. Her only other significant contribution - an unbeaten 29 off 23 balls - came against Sri Lanka in the Asia Cup. In the final against Bangladesh in Kuala Lumpur, she walked in amidst a batting collapse, and was out for 11. The recent failures, however, haven't deterred Krishnamurthy in her quest to be the X-factor in the middle order.
"I think I'm the most suitable person to bat in the position in the team," she said. "Not everybody can do it and I have been doing it for a really long time. I've been a middle-order batsman ever since I started playing. I'm experienced enough to handle that position, it's very tricky. I'm aware that my wicket is like the final nail in the coffin. In a collapse if I get out, it is like I'm nailing my team's coffin. It's a very tricky position to bat in but I like that kind of pressure. I would definitely want to keep that spot unless the team thinks someone else should replace me."
While she has earlier spoken about the mental challenges she faced, especially after a spate of poor performances, Krishnamurthy now seems more confident in her abilities and also seems to have grown more understanding of what the team expects from her. And again, she stressed on how communication within the team has enabled everyone to dovetail their roles and responsibilities.
"It's pretty clear what I have to do for the team and that gives me a lot of confidence," she said. "I don't have to break my head anymore over what exactly my role is. It's important for me to go and get those quick runs and make sure I put the team in a commendable position. It makes life easier for a player when that happens. Since the Sri Lanka series we've been very clear with our plans and roles, everyone knows what to do. It all now comes down to how we are going to implement that during the World T20."