In the latest development in the ongoing saga over Mithali Raj’s controversial exclusion from the World T20 semi-final last Thursday, coach Ramesh Powar has now voiced his side of the story in a report submitted to the BCCI.
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.
The coach’s report touches up the performance and attitude of every player in the squad at World T20 but focuses lot on the Raj’s attitude in the team. He has written that he hopes that India’s most experienced player “stops blackmailing, pressuring coaches and also stops putting her interest first than team’s (sic).
“I hope she will look at the bigger picture & work towards betterment of the Indian women’s cricket,” said Powar, who sent the report after meeting BCCI CEO Rahul Johri and GM (Cricket Operations) Saba Karim on Wednesday.
On Tuesday, Mithali Raj’s 2000-word letter to Johri and Karim stating that Powar had humiliated her during the World T20 was leaked to the media.
Earlier on Wednesday, he had denied any problem with Raj through a tweet, after a news agency reported that he admitted to having a strained relationship with her because she was aloof and difficult to handle. But his report clearly indicates that there was indeed an undercurrent of animosity during the tournament in West Indies.
The former India international also explained that the team management took the decision of shifting Raj to the middle order in the opening game against New Zealand because she was struggling to score quickly in practice games and the lack of momentum was putting pressure on other batters.
“(She) could not understand and adapt to team plan. (she) Ignored her role and batted for own milestones.... (I) Worked really hard as a coach to address her power hitting, batting skills and running between the wickets in almost every session,” Powar said, adding “(she) could not lean and execute shots due to limited ability in skills and fitness.”
The Indian team coach alleged that Raj tried to put pressure on him through the selectors who asked as to why the 35-year-old was moved to the middle order in the game against New Zealand and claimed that the selector was very clear that either she opened the innings or can’t figure in the XI.
“Before the Pakistan match video analyst Mr Pushkar Sawant came to my room with the news that fielding coach Mr Biju George conveyed to him that Mithali is upset about not changing the batting order and not allowing her to open in Pakistan match. “She has packed her bags to leave with announcement of retirement in the morning,” the report said.
Powar claimed that Raj’s attitude created trouble in the team and he had discussed the problems cropping up because of her behaviour with Karim from West Indies and was advised to resolve the issues amicably.