Back to the drawing board for India Women as they gear up for another big year ahead. © AFP

Back to the drawing board for India Women as they gear up for another big year ahead. © AFP

When the 15 members who made up India’s senior women’s squad gathered in Bangalore along with support staff for a camp at the NCA that ended on Saturday (November 18), it was the first time they were getting together as a group since their inspired run at the Women’s World Cup.

Back in late July when the team had returned after finishing runners-up in England, emotions were running high as a “family” went their separate ways, members had said. So at this ten-day camp, when they reconvened after a considerable break of over three months, there was excitement at getting together again, seeing where they stand, and in looking forward to another big year ahead, which would culminate in the Women’s World T20.

After the World Cup, Tushar Arothe, the coach, made fitness and fielding his priority, and those areas remained the focus of this camp. The day after the nine-run loss in the final, he had advised the team to hire personal trainers to maintain and elevate their fitness levels – and he told Wisden India that several players had taken his suggestion.

“They have improved in fitness levels and fielding,” he said.

Doctors and a nutritionist were also brought on board to help develop specialised diets for the players.

“They are trying to see what’s required more to make us stronger,” said Mithali Raj, the One-Day International captain. “On TV and in general, people feel that we are puny compared to the England, Australian and New Zealand girls. And also, it reflects in our fielding.

“So that’s why this time around we have given a complete test of our body to see where we lack. Some girls might lack in bone density. That’s something they are looking at. They are calling a dietician to see that we get specific diets according to our body types and lifestyles so that it enhances our performance because next year we have a lot of series lined up.”

“It’s up to the individual whether they want to continue with the dietary programme or not. Most of the girls are ready to go with the individual programmes. Hopefully we’ll see the changes,” added Arothe.

On Saturday, the women took the yo-yo test. Unlike in the men’s side, it will not be the last word on selection, but the management wanted to set a benchmark for the women’s team as well.

The players also went through individual drills for bowling and batting, with the focus on developing shots for the Twenty20 game.

Apart from this, in a first, six wicketkeepers, including first-team picks Sushma Verma and Nuzhat Parween, had a special camp with NCA’s Kiran More.

“We worked on their skills,” said More. “I gave them drills – keeping to spinners, keeping to left-handers, right-handers, fast bowlers, how to perform injury-free wicketkeeping.

“They worked hard. In five days, each person must have taken 2000 balls!”

More said it was a learning experience for him too, as it was his first time coaching in women’s cricket. “They are talented girls. The best part was that most of them were from small towns. It was nice to see them (overcome) the challenges they faced. Where they come from, their backgrounds are unbelievable. I enjoyed working with them,” he added.

“In future, I hope to have a spinners’ or fast bowlers’ camp as well,” said Arothe. “It’ll take time, but at least I’m happy we’ve moved one step ahead with the wicketkeepers’ camp.”

After their time at NCA, players, except the couple who are travelling to Australia for the Women’s Big Bash League, will join their domestic teams for the senior women’s one-day competition starting in December. An ‘A’ side is set to take on Bangladesh next month. The senior team’s first international assignment after the World Cup will be next year’s limited-overs tour of South Africa.

With inputs from Sidhanta Patnaik.