Women’s Premier League: Sania Mirza to mentor RCB

Indian women’s tennis legend will be part of the coaching setup at RCB

NEW DELHI | Updated: 15 February, 2023 6:49 pm IST
Sania Mirza appointed as the mentor of the RCB women's team  (Photo Courtesy Royal Challengers Bangalore)

Sania Mirza, who will be winding up her illustrious career this month, is all set for a new role.

While the Indian women’s tennis legend will continue with her association with the game, Mirza will also mentor the Royal Challengers Bangalore women’s team in the Women’s Premier League (WPL), the franchise announced on February 15.

“I was a little surprised (about the appointment), but I was excited,” Mirza told RCB TV. “I want to make young girls believe sport can be one of their first career choices. I want to help the next generation to believe in themselves no matter how much the odds are against you, you can achieve your goals,” the 36-year-old added.

Talking about her role, Mirza said, “The mental aspect of it is something I look forward to working with the younger girls.”

“I feel I can (help) bring in the mental steadiness, the mental belief, I can talk of the experiences I’ve had over 20 years of playing. Being the only (Indian) woman doing it for so many years has been lonely, but the pressure has been high, that kind of stuff is something I can truly help with,” she added.

RCB also appointed Australian Ben Sawyer as their head coach. Sawyer is the head coach of the New Zealand women’s cricket team. He is also the head coach of the Birmingham Phoenix women’s team in The Hundred. He was also the assistant coach of the Australian women’s cricket team that won the Women’s World Cup last year.

“He has been involved in women’s cricket for over 20 years, knows the women’s game inside out, and knows the players very well. He has been thoroughly involved in our preparations leading up to the auction as well,” RCB director of cricket Mike Hesson said.

“Really delighted to get Ben. I sort of spoke to him prior to knowing we were going to get a team, just sussing out potentially whether he would be interested, and he was really excited too. He has been involved in setting up the Sydney Sixers from the start of the Big Bash (WBBL), setting up the franchise, and he did the same with The Hundred. So hugely experienced,” Hesson added.

The RCB coaching team will also include former India batter VR Vanitha as their fielding coach, while former Tamil Nadu off-spinner Malolan Rangarajan has been named as an assistant coach.

RX Murali, a well-known local coach, has also been hired as RCB’s batting coach. Murali has trained several Karnataka players, including Indian opener Mayank Agarwal.

Mirza, the first Indian woman to win a major title – she finished with six across women’s doubles and mixed doubles – is expected to join the squad following the conclusion of the ATP Dubai Open, which is likely to be her last professional tournament. Mirza, 36, announced her decision to retire from professional tennis prior to the Australian Open, where she and her partner Rohan Bopanna finished runners-up in the mixed doubles.

RCB will have an impressive line-up with Smriti Mandhana leading the charge with the experience and leadership qualities of Australia’s Ellyse Perry and Megan Schutt, New Zealand’s Sophie Devine, South Africa’s Dane van Niekerk, along with the highly regarded young wicket-keeper batter Richa Ghosh.

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