India coach WV Raman rubbished suggestions that his team was overawed in the T20 World Cup final, where they played in front of a packed Melbourne Cricket Stadium. Harmanpreet Kaur and Co were trounced by 85 runs by Australia.

India, courtesy of a washout in the semi-final against England, reached the summit event for the first time. “I don’t think the crowd or the stage or the occasion got to us,” Raman told in an interview to Cricbuzz.

The former India opener, though, acknowledged that rustiness might have played a part in the final, having not played in a week.

Raman said: “I don’t want this to sound like an excuse, but what didn’t help us was that leading up to the final, we were inactive for a week. It’s not easy for a young side to switch on and switch off at will.

He added: “It can be done by a very experienced side, maybe, just maybe. After almost a week, wherein half the week was spent looking at the rains and then you had a couple of practice sessions, you go into the final. It’s not that easy for the mental edge to be there or be switched on from ball one, and that’s something we will learn from experience.”

‘Let Shafali be a kid’

Teenage opener Shafali Verma made a name for herself with her big-hitting display in all the group games, setting the tone for India’s unblemished run in the early stages. What was more impressive is that captain Harmanpreet Kaur and vice-captain Smriti Mandhana had a lean run with the bat through the tournament.

Raman revealed the different facets of the 16-year-old’s batting with a incident during the T20 World Cup. “Before the Bangladesh game at nets when she was batting, she made it a point to hit every ball along the ground,” the India coach said.

“She came to me at the end of her stint and said, ‘Sir, maine toh sab neeche hee maara’ [Sir, I hit all the deliveries along the ground]. I smiled and didn’t say anything, but I was very curious to see what she would do the next day.”

Verma smashed a quick-fire 39 against Bangladesh, which included four sixes. “She didn’t disappoint me,” Raman said.

“Next evening at the game, nothing was along the ground. She hit four sixes in the Bangladesh game and that was hilarious! It was very entertaining to watch her do the exact opposite in the match to what she did in the nets. She is that kind of an impulsive, aggressive player, but most of all, she’s a kid and we must let her be a kid for now.”

Developing fitness and pacers

Raman thinks that improved fitness and developing a pace bowling arsenal is the next target for the Indian team. Next year, India travel to New Zealand to play the 50-over World Cup.

The 54-year-old is happy with the progress his team is making. “The girls performed as a unit as against what was being said, that they were dependent highly on one or two individuals. They fought well, they had a lot of challenges and they coped with the challenges well. All the games were hard-fought, we were up for it. The girls definitely did themselves proud,” Raman said.

Shikha Pandey, more often that not, is seen playing as the lone seamer along with four spinners. While India possess a bowling attack that seldom disappoints, Alyssa Healy and Co tore into them in the final.

“We need to try and develop a couple of seamers,” Raman said.

He added: “It can’t be done overnight, it has to be done over a period of time. A bit of work has been already done along those lines. But it’s one thing working on the fast bowlers, it’s another for them to churn out performances on a consistent basis.

“That will take some time. Let’s face it, most of our girls are not really strong physically, they need to work a lot more on their fitness, get stronger and get used to bowling well day in and day out. It will take some time but once we have that covered, this team will be on to greater things.

“The other area we need to work on is speed and agility. Yes, they are far better than what they were about 10 months ago, but we have started needs to be continued. And they have to step up a little bit on their fitness now.”