Note: This article was first published when Mithali Raj’s email to BCCI officials accusing coach Ramesh Powar of humiliation was leaked to the media. It has been updated to reflect the later developments.
Less than a week after her controversial exclusion from India’s playing XI in the ICC Women’s World T20 semifinal against England, veteran cricketer Mithali Raj on Tuesday lashed out at the coach and former cricketer Diana Eduljji for their roles in the saga.
Raj, the highest run scorer in the women’s international game and still India’s one-day captain, wrote a furious letter of complaint after having met Board of Control for Indian Cricket (BCCI) leaders to vent her anger.
“For the first time in a 20 year long career, I felt deflated, depressed and let down,” said the 35-year-old in an email, the full text of which is available here.
Raj questioned whether “my services to India are of any value to a few people in power who are out to destroy me and break my confidence.”
Raj, who has played 197 One-day Internationals, 85 T20 matches and 10 Tests for India since making her 50-over debut in 1999 against Ireland, was declared fit on the eve of the England semi-final but was left out for the knockout game. Raj hit two straight half-centuries at the World T20 in the West Indies before missing India’s last league game against Australia with a knee injury.
England lost to Australia in the tournament final.
Here’s how the drama has unfolded over the last five days.
Thursday, November 22 (Friday AM, IST)
Harmanpreet announced at the toss that Raj will not be in the playing XI for the semi-final as the think-tank wanted to stick with the team that beat Australia in the final group stage match.
India went on to lose semi-final by eight wickets on a sluggish pitch, despite witnessing Australia and West Indies struggle to score runs in the first semi-final that happened earlier. India collapsed from 89/2 to 112 all out.
Questioned in the post-match press conference, Harmanpreet backed the decision to leave Mithali Raj out. “We did really well against Australia. And that is the reason we just wanted to go with the same combination,” Harmanpreet said.
Friday, November 23
While the decision continued to dominate discussion on social media, one particular person was so incensed with the decision that she went on a tirade against India captain Kaur on Twitter. Raj’s manager Annisha Gupta who, according to reports, called Harmanpreet a “manipulative, lying, immature, undeserving captain”.
In a series of tweets that have since been deleted, Gupta reportedly said, “Unfortunately, the Indian women’s cricket team believes in politics not sport. After witnessing what Mithali Raj’s experience could do in India vs Ireland, it’s shocking that they went with what pleases Harmanpreet Kaur – a manipulative, lying, immature, undeserving captain.”
In another tweet, she called Harmanpreet a “manipulative, lying cheat”, according to ESPNcricinfo.
Details of that episode here.
The Times of India also reported on Saturday that the Indian team management took the decision after watching how the Antigua pitch behaved during the first semi-final between Australia and West Indies earlier on Friday and that selector Sudha Shah was involved in the decision-making process. Captain Harmanpreet Kaur, vice-captain Smriti Mandhana, coach Ramesh Powar and selector Sudha Shah met after the Australia-West Indies match to decide on the Indian playing XI, the report said.
Also read: What next for Mithali Raj?
Sunday, November 25
The first signs of BCCI’s involvement in the matter emerged with news that Committee of Administrators could summon India’s Twenty20 International skipper Harmanpreet Kaur and Mithali Raj, PTI reported.
“It is understood that a meeting will be held soon here and CoA is likely to speak separately to Harmanpreet, Mithali, Ramesh (coach Ramesh Powar), manager Trupti Bhattacharya and tour selector Sudha Shah to understand what led to Mithali’s omission,” a senior BCCI official said on conditions of anonymity.
CoA chief Vinod Rai was unhappy that players’ agents are making unsavoury comments about team selection. “The comments made by people who appear to be associated with the Indian women’s team have been viewed with concern. Such statements made in the media are totally uncalled for,” Rai told PTI on Sunday.
Issues like alleged bias in team selection will be looked into, considering that strained relations between the One-day International and T20 captain is an open secret in the Indian cricket fraternity, the PTI report added.
Monday, November 26
Diana Edulji, one of the two COA members, said on Monday that the Indian team management’s controversial call cannot be questioned.
Edulji believes the Indian team simply had a “bad day” after remaining unbeaten in the group stage of the World T20, according to PTI.
“The management made the decision of not changing a winning combination and that backfired,” Edulji, a former India captain, told PTI. “If India had won the game, I am sure nobody would have questioned their decision.”
Contrary to reports, Edulji said CoA was not going to intervene. “It was a selection matter,” she said. “There is no need for the CoA to intervene. If they want to have a word with us, then that can be looked at. We only step in when it is required, like it was when [former India coach] Tushar Arothe stepped down.”
Arothe had to quit in July after he reportedly developed differences with the senior players over his training methods. Former India spinner Ramesh Powar was appointed head coach in August and his term will end on November 30.
Tuesday, November 27
And then, things got messier. In a furious e-mail written to BCCI CEO Rahul Johri and General Manager of cricket operations, Saba Karim, Raj slammed the way she had been treated.
Raj singled out BCCI committee of administrators member Diana Edulji and national coach Ramesh Powar for dropping her from the team beaten by eight wickets by England.
“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,” Raj wrote.
“Never did I think she (Edulji) will use her position against me, more after hearing what all I had to go through in the Caribbean as I had spoken to her about it.”
The BCCI did not immediately comment on Raj’s tirade.
Wednesday, November 28
News agency Press Trust of India had carried a report earlier in the day saying that Powar had admitted that his professional relationship with Raj was strained as he always found her aloof and difficult to handle. They had cited an anonymous BCCI official as the source of the news.
However, Powar immediately denied the report on his Twitter account, saying he is shocked by the PTI story.
Thursday, November 29
Coach Powar voiced his side of the story in a report submitted to the BCCI, which was just as scathing as Raj’s email. He wrote that the veteran could not understand and adapt to team plan and played only for her personal milestones.
In his official report, Powar has said that the 35-year-old threatened to leave the World T20 and announce her retirement in West Indies if she was not allowed to open against Pakistan. He went on to say that he blackmailed and pressurised everyone and was not a team player.
In the tournament report which is over 2500 words long, more than 1500 words are about Raj and her behaviour.
You can read the report, which was accessed by Scroll.in, here.
Raj reacted to Powar’s statement on Twitter soon after, saying this was the darkest day of her life.
This is a developing story and will be updated with every new development