Voice from the Rooftop

Blog of Vincent Augustine D'Souza

Mithali Raj controversy

Women’s cricket in India has come of age.
Mithali Raj was dropped for semi-final against England in Women’s T20 World Cup and India lost the match. It was 22/11/2018 in West Indies and 23/11/2018 in India. The controversy continues unabated and refuses to die down.
India were 89/2 and were all out for 112. England scored 116/2 and won by 8 wickets. At the post match presentation ceremony, Harmanpreet Kaur justified dropping Mithali Raj. She said ‘We did really well against Australia. And that is the reason we just wanted to go with the same combination.” “Whatever we decided, we decided for the team. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t, no regrets.” Mithali Raj was not in the team against Australia due to knee injury.
Team management consisted of Captain Harmanpreet Kaur, Vice Captain Smriti Mandhana, Coach Ramesh Powar and selector Sudha Shah.
Mithali Raj’s manager Annish Gupta blamed Harmanpreet Kaur. She tweeted “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.” Later she deleted the tweet.
On 26/11/2018 Committee of Administrators (CoA) member Diana Edulji told PTI:
“The management made the decision of not changing a winning combination and that backfired. If India had won the game, I am sure nobody would have questioned their decision.”
“We can’t be questioning the team XI. Another example is of Krunal Pandya, who was thrashed in the first T20 but bounced back strongly yesterday. These things happen in the game.”
“It was a selection matter. 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 Tushar Arothe stepped down.”
This elicited a response from Tushal Arothe who was coach of women’s cricket team and had quit in July 2018.
“Why is Diana contradicting her statement by saying that it was the team management’s decision to drop Mithali Raj? Why did she interfere in team selection during the Asia Cup in Malaysia? At that time too, the team management had taken a decision to drop Pooja Vastrakar in the final.
“However, after the tournament, I, on tour selector Shashi Gupta and skipper Harmanpreet Kaur were summoned by Diana and asked why Vastrakar was not played in the final of the Asia Cup. At that time, I told her that it was the team management’s decision but she had clearly told me that I can’t pick and choose whom to play,”
“Now, within three months, the same person who questioned the team management on selection, is contradicting her own statement. Why did you question the team management on selection at that time? What has changed now? She needs to answer this question.”
Diana Edulji did not want women coaches for women’s team. She had said senior women cricketers bully women coaches.
Same day Mithali Raj and Harmanpreet Kaur met BCCI CEO Rahul Johri and GM (Operations) Saba Karim.
On 27/11/2018 Mithali Raj’s e-mail to Rahul Johri and Saba Karim became public. She blamed Ramesh Powar and Diana Edulji.
Excerpts:
“In all the years I have played cricket for India and under the BCCI, I have always found the board to be open to player grievances and finding an appropriate resolution.
However, 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.
To put things in perspective, I have always reposed faith in Diana Edulji and have always respected her and her position as a member of the COA, Never did I think she 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. Her brazen support in the press with regard to the decision of my benching in the semi final of the t/20 World Cup has left me deeply distressed, more because she knows the real facts having spoken to me.
Thereafter her statement saying ‘selection is not the COA’s headache’ is like suggesting there is no system of checks and balances and anyone can do anything and get away because they have the backing of people in power.
May I say that I am aware that by writing this email I am making myself even more vulnerable. she is a COA member while I am just a player. For the record, I scored back to back fifties in the games before the semi final, was adjudged player of the match on both occasions, to leave me out in the semi final and go with only three performing batters was a decision that left me baffled as much as it left the whole world.
I have always adhered to protocol and haven’t said a word in the press regarding anything that happened in the West Indies believing that the BCCI is there and in the end ‘my truth ‘ will have an ear there and my matter will be handled justly. But the brazen support of a COA member is a clear sign of bias and also that a stance has already been taken against me. By saying ‘I don’t support someone’ and then going all out to support my benching in the press is prejudice of the clearest sort.
At this juncture I would also like to point out that I have nothing against the T/20 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. But I am of the opinion that Harman and I are senior players and our issues, if any, should be sorted out by the two of us by sitting across the table.
My issue is with the coach Ramesh Powar and in all stories circulating in the press, I find that issue getting diluted.
My issues with the coach started immediately as we landed in the West Indies. At first there were small signs that his behaviour towards me was unfair and discriminatory but I did not bother much about it.
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 to 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.
Finding the situation completely out of control and realising that it is important to resolve issues as it affects the team I reached out to the team manager and conveyed my grievances. She convened a meeting at my request between the coach and me in her presence and I spoke to him politely yet firmly about all that was going on.
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, if I looked to wish him he would deliberately start looking in other direction. He continued to behave badly as I have already informed you yesterday. It appeared to me that for him the meeting had hurt his ego.
In the game against Ireland also on a tough pitch I scored another match winning performance but unfortunately took a bump on my knee while fielding. The physio advised some rest and said to review it the next day. Because of all the stress I was running low grade fever also. We had no game the next day but there was a training session. The physio advised me to rest it out as there was slight swelling and because I had fever.
In the evening after the team meeting before the Australia game, 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. I found it strange why is he getting involved when it was purely the managers’ and physio’s call.
When we reached Antigua for the semi-finals, we had 3 days before we played England. The first day there was no nets, it was just a fielding session, but Ramesh was taking 5 girls for extra practise. When I heard this from one of the girls I thought that since I did not bat for 2 days, I should also join them for practice.
So, I texted Ramesh that I would like to join for the extra training. However, I did not receive any response from him and hence I reached out to the manager. She got back to me saying Ramesh wants you to come with the whole team later and skip the game, so I can bat. I went into the nets and as soon I got into the nets, Ramesh just walked away from the area.
The sign was clear that he had already made up his mind that he didn’t want to play me in the semis.
Coming to the semi finals, 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 were playing and it was just me who was not aware.
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 as it has always been the norm in our team. But to insult me that day, he sent a word through the manager to tell that it was only the playing eleven that can join in the huddle and the rest can go back to dugout making us feel as outcasts. It was worrying and insulting because the coach was out to destroy and humiliate me.
I couldn’t control my tears having given it my all for 20 years. It seemed my efforts had no value.
In the light of the above, I as captain of India in ODI’s who has given her best for the country, do I have any hope left to be given justice. With Diana turning against me publicly and with the coach’s unjust behaviour, I feel utterly dejected and depressed. As I was told not to go to the media I write this email to you as the last resort. Please advise against the next course of action.”
Trupti Bhattacharya was the manager for T20 World Cup team.
It is sweet revenge for Rahul Johri against Diana Edulji who wanted him sacked even after panel report exonerating him. Vinod Rai and Diana Eduljee are not on good terms.
Win covers all faults, defeat exposes them. No point in Diana Edulji saying “If India had won the game, I am sure nobody would have questioned their decision.” India did not win the game. The decision to drop Mithali Raj is questioned. Ifs and buts do not matter.

Updated: November 28, 2018 — 12:57 pm

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