The top Indian women cricketers "need to improve on all fronts" and "a long camp will pave the way for this", according to WV Raman, the head coach of the national team, who recently oversaw ODI and T20I series defeats at home to South Africa in India's first bit of international cricket in a year.
South Africa, who had played Pakistan at home in January-February, looked the better - and fitter - team, and topped India on all counts over the eight-game tour in Lucknow in what was the first time India hit the field in any format since the T20 World Cup final on March 8 last year.
"We have to start from scratch. A long camp will pave the way for this," Raman told "They have had a long break. The girls need to improve on all fronts. The girls themselves want these camps. They need to top up on their fitness and fine-tune their skills as well. To achieve certain goals, we need to have camps on a periodic basis.
"What we had in Lucknow cannot be dubbed as a camp. We had three to four days of nets. But this happened probably due to the fact that everything was arranged in the eleventh hour. A lot of protocols had to be followed. But going ahead, we would like to have about ten days of net sessions before going into a series."
The series against South Africa was mired in confusion, as Raman hinted there. The series was originally supposed to be hosted in Thiruvananthapuram, but had to be shifted after the ground in the city had to be handed over to the Indian military for a recruitment drive. Then, before the BCCI made anything official, the Uttar Pradesh Cricket Association announced that the series would be played in Lucknow. Then, the two squads were announced only after both the Indian and South African contingents had arrived in the host city.
Despite the hiccups, the series still took place, and ODI captain Mithali Raj felt that that in itself was the biggest gain for the women.
"Am sure each one of us will go back, work on what we need to do as individuals so that when we meet again, we have a different set of plans, we work on different things like training, fielding sessions, running between the wickets"
Mithali Raj
"If we don't have to stress more on the result of the series, I think the greatest takeaway is the game time," Raj told the same website. "Having five ODIs is very important. Earlier, we used to have three ODIs in a series. Having five ODIs gave me an opportunity to try new players. It gave me a fair idea as to what I was looking at, what the team requires, where we need to work on. All the players required game time.
"Am sure each one of us will go back, work on what we need to do as individuals so that when we meet again, we have a different set of plans, we work on different things like training, fielding sessions, running between the wickets."
Another takeaway for the Indians was the new and improved version of Punam Raut, who not only scored 263 runs in five innings, but scored them at a strike rate of 71.66 - a marked change in her approach.
"I had a chat with her. I told her to be a lot more positive," Raman said. "The reason I told her was that the average score in women's cricket has spiked a bit. We need to become a side that can get to 260 on a bad day. For that to happen, the batters have to learn to manage 50 overs. The top six is tightly packed."
During the course of the series, on March 8, Jay Shah, the BCCI secretary, also announced on Twitter the addition of a Test match during India's upcoming tour of England, most likely in June. It came somewhat out of the blue as India haven't played a Test match since November 2014. Not many teams have played Test cricket in recent years, and the last six fixtures in the format, since August 2015, have all been between Australia and England. On the domestic circuit, the BCCI discontinued the senior women's multi-day tournaments a few years ago. As for the England tour, no press release regarding it has been issued yet by either the Indian board or the ECB.
It is exciting for the players, but the preparation for it will need additional attention.
"We would need to try and have a preparatory camp or even before that, a fitness and skills camp for a few weeks," Raman said. "It would give the girls a good opportunity to improve upon not only the physical fitness and endurance but also work on the skills part when it comes to handling Test cricket.
"It's making the girls extend what they do in the other two formats. It's also a question of change in mindset required for duration cricket."