Many people were surprised when Shafali Verma and Richa Ghosh were included in India’s squad for the maiden Women's Under-19 World Cup in South Africa in January but Hrishikesh Kanitkar, the senior team’s acting coach, said the two established international stars will have set roles in the Youth team and want them to get used to the South African conditions ahead of the next T20 World Cup in February.
Shafali, 18, has already featured in two Tests, 21 ODIs and 50 T20Is for the senior team, while 19-year-old Ghosh has played 17 ODIs and 29 T20Is. The two young dynamic batters are set to miss India's T20I tri-series against South Africa and West Indies at the end of January and Kanitkar wants them not just to win the Under-19 World Cup but also get themselves ready for the next showpiece event.
"We'll have a few things we want them (Shafali and Ghosh) to continue doing in terms of preparation (for the Women's T20 World Cup)," said Kanitkar, who was appointed as the batting coach of the Senior Women’s team prior to the five-match T20I series against Australia.
"I'll have a word with the Under-19 coach so that the communication goes to both ends. We'll have a few (discussions so that) there's clarity with the coach as well as the players, and there's no confusion on what we want and what they should be doing. Obviously, they'll play for the Under-19 team and (we) want that team to win. And that's always the case. But we also want them to prepare a certain way."
The two batters have been in pretty good form of late. India are trailing 1-3 in the T20I series against Australia but both Shafali and Richa have been quite impressive. Having slammed 127 runs in four innings at a strike rate of 141.11, Shafali is India’s leading run-getter in the series. Meanwhile, Ghosh has 103 runs in four innings at an average of above 50 and a strike rate of 190.74.
"They are growing in confidence for sure. They know the game a little bit better, from a batting point of view. I really give a lot of importance to learning from each and every one of our experiences and not just go by if 'you've scored a fifty, it's a good day'. It doesn't work like that. Every day you learn something and you use that to get better the next day... it could be zero, it could be a hundred, it could be 20,” said Kanitkar.
"I think they buy into that and we are pretty frank about sharing views. If somebody has played well, got runs and then you know should have continued and didn't continue, I'll call a spade a spade. But I'll make sure it's positive."
However, things haven’t quite gone well for Jemimah Rodrigues. The 22-year-old has scores of 0, 4, 16 and 8 in this series but Kanitkar is not too worried. "It's absolutely not (a concern). I think she's got a lot of ability and has proven that in the past two-three games. I've had so many times where I've had four or five games that didn't go my way. That doesn't mean a player is not good.
"It's not always the technique; it could be technical, it could be tactical, it could be mental. There are so many things to it. Technique is the easiest thing that you put in place - you watch videos, you know this is happening, that's happening, you change this, change that, draw a few arrows on the screen and all those things.
"But many times, it's deeper than that and about how you think in a certain situation. These things can't change in five minutes. Jemi is hitting the ball well, as we saw she's striking it well. It's not like she's struggling to play those bowlers. But it's something that's a bit of a work-in-progress and she'll bounce back very soon."
Ramesh Powar, the former head coach of the senior women’s team, has joined NCA Chief VVS Laxman as the new spin-bowling coach of the NCA set-up. And for now, there is no update on who would be the head coach of the Women’s team with the T20 World Cup being less than two months away.
Talking about his role, Kanitkar said: "I know what works for each one as individuals. So that helps in talking to them, discussing things with them, and how they understand. It helps to know your players and that's made it a little easier.
"We've been able to address a few things that we could in a short time, and things are turning around. I think we are on the right track. But we are in the middle of a series so there's only so much you can do. You can't take everything off the rails and then do it (from scratch)."