Mithali Raj has reacted for the first time since her exclusion from the playing XI in the semifinal of the ICC Women’s World T20 against England.
Mithali Raj scored back-to-back fifties against Ireland and Pakistan at the ICC Women’s World T20. (Source: PTI)
India’s captain in the ODI format, Mithali Raj has accused BCCI Committee of Administrators (CoA) member and former player Diana Edulji of bias after she was dropped from for the semi-final against England in the ICC Women’s World T20. A controversy had erupted since the experienced batsman’s exclusion from the team and the team’s subsequent exit from the tournament.
Raj slammed the team coach Ramesh Powar for humiliating her in her first reaction to the development. In a letter she shot off to the BCCI, she said that “a few people in power are out to destroy me”.
She hit back at Edulji, a former India captain, for defending the team’s decision to drop her. “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 T20 World Cup has left me deeply distressed, more because she knows the real facts having spoken to me.”
“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,” she lamented. “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,” said Mithali.
“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,” she wrote in a letter to BCCI CEO Rahul Johri and Cricket Operations GM Saba Karim. “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.”
On Powar, she narrated a series of instances where she felt slighted by the coach. “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. 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,” she said.
“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. 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.”
Mithali said she was even asked not to show up at the ground by Powar during the game against Australia. “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,” she alleged. “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.”
Edulji, former India women’s captain, had said the CoA will not interfere in the controversy. She had said the court appointed CoA, appointed to supervise BCCI by Supreme Court, could not burden itself with cricketing decisions. “The CoA will not get involved in the issue,” Edulji said. “We will not go into cricket issues. Who plays in the XI is not our headache. And it should not be anybody’s headache. It is a decision to be taken by the team management.”
In the semi-final, Raj was left out despite being passed fit. She had missed the final group game, against Australia, due to a knee injury. Prior to that, she had scored back-to-back fifties. India went on to lose the semi-final by eight wickets after collapsing from 89 for 2 to 112 all out.
Earlier on Monday, Raj, India captain Harmanpreet Kaur and team manager Trupti Bhattacharya had separate meetings with Johri and Karim. After meeting Powar later in the week, Johri and Karim are likely to prepare a report that they will submit to the CoA.
It had emerged that the decision to leave Raj out of the semi-final was taken by the team management comprising Harmanpreet, Powar, vice-captain Smriti Mandhana and selector Sudha Shah after they watched the first semi-final between Australia and West Indies. Allrounder Anuja Patil kept her place in the XI ahead of Raj.