Mithali Raj vs Indian cricket team: A blow by blow account
The last few days have been the lowest phase of Mithali Raj's career; the batswoman has been accused of throwing tantrums, disobeying team orders and threatening to quit by the coach and team management
Mithali Raj is the equivalent of Sachin Tendulkar in the women’s cricket. The right-handed batswoman has broken almost every Indian batting record that existed and has won India numerous ODI matches and Tests single-handedly. With a batting average of 51 both in Tests and ODIs, Mithali Raj’s achievements on the cricket field are applaudable.
But the last month has been the lowest phase of Mithali Raj's career with the batswoman being accused of throwing tantrums, disobeying team orders and threatening to quit by the coach and team management. The altercation between the two parties saw Mithali Raj, who had scored two match-winning fifties in the Women’s World T20, being dropped from the team for the World T20 semi-final against England. India went on to lose the match by 8 wickets and questions were asked if Mithali Raj’s exclusion from the team was the reason for the loss.
Let’s take a look at how the controversy unfolded:
India slump to a humiliating defeat against England in the Women’s World T20 semi-final:
World T20 trophy favourites India took on England in the all-important semi-final of the tournament, and one of the highest scorers of the series, Mithali Raj, was a certainty in the playing 11 before the two captains met at the toss. But India T20 captain Harmanpreet Kaur dropped a bombshell when she revealed that Mithali Raj was dropped for the all-important match. India struggled against a dominant England bowling attack and was all out for 112. England strolled towards the target and won comfortably by 8 wickets.
Captain Harmanpreet Kaur said she had ‘No Regrets’:
India’s T20 captain Harmanpreet, in the post-match presentation spoke about Mithali Raj’s exclusion, she said, "Whatever we decided, we decided for the team. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't, no regrets. I'm proud of the way my girls played through the tournament."
Indian ex-coach questions Mithali Raj’s exclusion:
India’s ex-coach Tushar Arothe who resigned in July 2018, and was replaced by Ramesh Powar, said there was something fishy in the Indian team after Mithali Raj’s ouster from the team. He said, "I don't know what is happening there, sitting miles away from the action. But something is definitely fishy. How can you leave out Mithali? If you wanted her to sit out then they should not have included her in the first place." Arothe fumed over the phone from Baroda in a chat with mid-day. “It was such a big game and we have an experienced campaigner in our team. When you read the pitch, you should have known that it is slow in nature and we need some experienced players. We have just two or three match-winners in the team like Harmanpreet Kaur, Smriti (Mandhana) and Mithali Raj. I fail to understand why Mithali was not included," he added.
Sourav Ganguly sympathises with Mithali Raj:
Perhaps India’s most inspiring captain Sourav Ganguly, recalled how he was ousted from the Indian team in a similar fashion by then Indian coach Greg Chappell, when Ganguly was on top of his game. Sourav Ganguly said, “No! I also have also sat in the dugout after captaining India. When I saw Mithali Raj being dropped, I said 'Welcome to the group'," Ganguly said at the Tollygunge Club here. "Captains are asked to sit, so just do it. I have done it in Faisalabad. I didn't play an ODI game for 15 months when I was probably the best performer in one-day cricket. It happens in life. The best in the world are at times shown the door," the 46-year-old said recalling the 2006 second Test against Pakistan. Ganguly, however, said it's not the end of the road for Mithali. "You should always remember you're best because you did something and there's an opportunity again. So I am not too disappointed seeing Mithali Raj being asked to sit out. I have not been disappointed to see the reactions on the ground," he said.
Mithali Raj says she was humiliated by coach Ramesh Powar at World T20:
Breaking her silence on the omission from the World T20 semifinal against England that raised quite a few eyebrows after India's eight-wicket loss, Mithali Raj wrote a letter to BCCI CEO Rahul Johri, giving her side of the story, she said, “For the first time in a 20 year long career, I felt deflated, depressed and let down. I am forced to think if my services to my country are of any value to a few people in power who are out to destroy me and break my confidence,"
Mithali Raj continued, “I would also like to point out that I have nothing against the T20 captain Harmanpreet Kaur except for the fact that her call to support the decision of the coach to leave me out of the eleven was baffling and hurtful. I wanted to win the world cup for my country and it hurts me because we lost a golden opportunity."
Mithali Raj narrated a series of instances where she felt slighted by the coach Ramesh Powar. "For instance, walking off if I am sitting around, watching in the nets when others bat but choosing to walk away when I am batting, looking into his phone and walking away when I approach him. It was embarrassing and very evident to everyone that I was being humiliated. Yet I never lost my cool," she said.
Ramesh Powar responds to Mithali Raj’s allegations against him:
Head coach Ramesh Powar in his report, accessed by mid-day, had said the team manager Trupti Bhattacharya received, "abusive and threatening calls" from a former cricketer named Nusheen for the alleged ill-treatment to veteran batswoman Mithali Raj before the big game.
"As per the team manager's words, she received abusive and threatening calls from a person called Nusheen stating that what you were doing with Mithali as she cried the whole night and her mother is worried. Nusheen also threatened that you all will face consequences.
Ramesh Powar recalled, “Out of panic, the team manager took the physio to her (Raj's) room to check on her. As described by the team manager, Mithali wanted to go back home as she was very upset that the coach is not looking after a legend player like her. She threw a lot of tantrums and created chaos. The team manager and physio tried their best to calm her. We immediately called Syed Saba Karim (BCCI GM) and informed the matter. Saba sir told us to sort the matter out amicably. Saba sir also told us to concentrate on the crucial and important World Cup semi-final match," Ramesh Powar stated in his report which is submitted to BCCI CEO Rahul Johri and General Manager Saba Karim.
Ramesh Powar said Mithali's issue took away precious preparation time before the semis. "Within some time, Mithali shot a message on the team manager's phone that she does not want to speak with the coach. Her irresponsible behaviour took my time away as I was supposed to speak with a few players regarding preparations for the all-important semi-final match, which could not happen. Biju George [fielding coach] gave a feedback that Mithali was not interested in fielding drills with intensity. He tried to convince her every time but she did not improve," he stated.
Ramesh Powar reveals that Mithali Raj threatened to leave the tournament mid-way:
“She had packed her bags to leave with the announcement of retirement in the morning. I was shell-shocked. The team had just beaten one of the top teams [New Zealand] and Mithali Raj, a legend, is still complaining about her batting position which she had agreed upon and threatening to leave. "I was saddened and baffled by her attitude. It gave me an impression that for Mithali, she comes first and then Team India. I called the team manager [Trupti Bhattacharya] early in the morning and discussed the issue. I did not convey this to the captain [Harmanpreet Kaur] and vice-captain [Smriti Mandhana] as I didn't want them to lose their focus on the most important match. During breakfast on the match day, I told Harman & Smriti that we will open with Mithali and they agreed. We opened with Mithali due to pressure from the travelling selector and Mithali's threatening behaviour to go back home if not given a chance to open the innings," Ramesh Powar said.
Mithali Raj says this is the darkest phase of her life:
Mithali reacted to Powar's report by posting a brief statement on her official Twitter page. "I'm deeply saddened & hurt by the aspersions cast on me. My commitment to the game & 20yrs of playing for my country," she wrote.
"The hard work, sweat, in vain. Today, my patriotism doubted, my skill set questioned & all the mud slinging- it's the darkest day of my life. May god give strength," she added.
Mithali Raj is apparently in the last phases of her career and it will be interesting to see how the batswoman and current ODI captain redeems herself in the team.
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