Mithali Raj on coach Ramesh Powar: He's out to destroy me!
Breaking her silence since the selection row broke out in the World T20, Mithali Raj trains guns on coach Ramesh Powar and Diana Edulji
The problems are not just between Mithali Raj and Harmanpreet Kaur, the big issue veteran batswoman is facing is against newly-appointed coach Ramesh Powar. Raj, who was shockingly dropped for the ICC Women's World T20 semi-final against England, wrote a scathing letter to BCCI CEO Rahul Johri and General Manager Syed Saba Karim a day after she met the latter in person.
Raj alleged that Powar's behaviour towards her was humiliating, unfair and discriminatory. She also accused the coach of putting her under house arrest for the match against Australia, which she did not play due to a knee injury. Raj, who had opened the innings in the T20s against Sri Lanka and India 'A' before leaving for the World T20, said Powar's behaviour changed from the time they landed in the Caribbean.
"At first there were small signs that his behaviour towards me was unfair and discriminatory but I did not bother much about it. One day before the game after I came out of the nets, he walked up to me and informed me that he wanted me to bat in the middle order as we needed depth in the middle order against New Zealand [the opening clash]. Not having played middle order in recent times and without practice still, I agreed for the greater cause of the team. For me, [the] team comes ahead of anything.
"After the game, it was evident that the opening did not work as the team was 3-38 after Powerplay and yet in the team meeting the next day, he informed me that we are going with the same opening pair as against New Zealand. And he also praised the openers despite them not succeeding. This left me completely shocked as against Pakistan there was no requirement of strengthening the middle order and also I have a great record against them. I immediately reached out to the selectors and upon their intervention, he told me just before the game at breakfast that I was opening. I performed well in the game and we cruised to victory. But instead of saying any words of encouragement, it appeared he was out there to prove a point and from there on his behaviour changed dramatically towards me," said Raj, who slammed 56 against the Pakistanis.
'I never lost my cool'
Raj felt humiliated by Powar's behaviour. "For instance, walking off if I am sitting anywhere around. Watching in the nets when others bat but choosing to walk away when I am batting in nets. If I try to go up to him to talk, [he would] start looking into his phone and keep walking. It was embarrassing and very evident to everyone that I was being humiliated. Yet, I never lost my cool," said India's top run-getter in T20Is.
Raj thought the issues with the coach would ease out after they had a meeting in the presence of team manager Trupti Bhattacharya, but it wasn't the case. "I spoke to him politely yet firmly about all that was going on. In front of the manager at numerous instances, he agreed to his fault 'haan meri galti hai, 'mujhe aisa nahin karna chahiye tha'. After the meeting his behaviour turned worse. He would not even acknowledge me. To him, I didn't exist in the team. If I was around, he would immediately move away from the scene," she said.
Raj felt the worse when she was told not to come to the ground for Australia match after suffering a knee injury in the previous game against Ireland. "Ramesh rings up in my room and instructs me not to come to the ground as the media will be there. I was taken aback as to what media has to do with me being with the team. I was told I was not to be with my own team in one of our biggest games. I was shell-shocked. I spoke to the manager immediately and told her that I am not seriously injured and only seriously sick and that I want to come and watch my team play. She agreed and told me to come.
But I received a text from Ramesh in a few minutes after my conversation with the manager wherein he told me not to step out of the dressing room. When we won the Australia game, Ramesh sent a word across with a teammate to call me down to the dugout, so that I can join the team for a victory lap. It was strange because right through the match I had been put under house arrest and was never allowed to leave the dressing room," she said.
She revealed that she was told about her omission for the semi-final against England at the time of the toss. "Usually Ramesh announces the team a day before or on the day of the game before we enter the ground but it was unusual that on the day of the semis, he did not announce the team. It is when Harman walked to toss, he came running to me and said that they were going with the same team. It meant the whole team knew who was playing and it was just me who was not aware.
'Couldn't control my tears'
"Also, when the team was getting ready to field in the second innings, it is customary that even those who aren't playing should join the team huddle. But to insult me that day, he sent a word through the manager to tell that it was only the playing XI that can join in the huddle and the rest can go back to dugout. I couldn't control my tears having given it my all for 20 years. It seemed my efforts had no value," she said.
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