Smriti Mandhana and Harmanpreet Kaur have written to BCCI in support of Ramesh Powar, the coach, whose contract expired on November 30. ©BCCI
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In the latest twist to the controversy surrounding Ramesh Powar, the India coach, and Mithali Raj, Harmanpreet Kaur and Smriti Mandhana, India’s T20I captain and vice-captain respectively, have written to BCCI and Supreme Court-appointed Committee of Administrators in support of Powar.

In a letter addressed to Rahul Johri and Syed Saba Karim, BCCI’s CEO and GM respectively, and Vinod Rai and Diana Edulji, the two-member COA, Harmanpreet wrote:“I feel no reason to replace him.”

She felt that the team needed some stability with a busy year coming up starting with the tour of New Zealand in January 2019. The seventh World Twenty20 scheduled is Australia in the first half of 2020, which is the next big ICC event.

Powar was given a three-month coaching contract till the end of November, with the World T20 in the Caribbean being the key assignment. Under Powar’s tenure, India won the ODI series and T20I series in Sri Lanka before topping their group in the World T20. It was India’s first semifinal appearance in World T20 after eight years, but the decision to not play Mithali in the knockout game against England, which India lost by eight wickets, spiralled into a major controversy.

Trupti Bhattacharya, the team manager, sent the details of the selection meeting just before the toss, to Johri and Karim. The email was leaked to the media, in which Bhattacharya wrote that the the decision was unanimously taken by the team think-thank consisting of the captain, vice-captain, coach and Sudha Shah, the travelling selector.

Things got worse when Mithali alleged ill-treatment by Powar and bias by Dian Edulji, one of the members of the COA, in an email to Johri and Karim. Powar in his report was equally critical of Mithali’s overall attitude, and felt that senior player needs to priortise team over self.

With both sides of the story leaked to the media, Powar tweeted cryptic messages, while Mithali took to social media to convey that it was the “darkest day of my life.”

Now with Harmanpreet and Mandhana backing Powar soon after BCCI advertised for interested candidates to apply for the vacant post of head coach by December 19, things have taken another turn. Earlier it was reported that Powar was not keen to apply, and he had changed his Twitter profile to reflect the same.

“I am writing to bring it under your notice that how tremendously our team has gone under positive changes in the past few months and has set a benchmark in the world top teams,” Harmanpreet wrote in her letter accessed by The Hindustan Times. “Our defeat in the semi-finals was very disheartening and it brings us all to feel more miserable to see how the controversies have stained our image and questioned the entire cricket fraternity.Sir Ramesh Powar not only improved us as players but did motivate us to set targets and challenge our own limits. He has changed the faced of Indian women’s cricket team both technically and strategically. He has inculcated in us the sense of winning.”

Harmanpreet reconfirmed that the non-inclusion of Mithali against England was a collective decision, and Powar alone could not be held responsible for it. “The decision was entirely based on the cricketing logic and observations from the past. Keeping in mind the need of the hour, me, Smriti, selector Sudha Shah and the coach together in the presence of our manager felt that we should go ahead with the winning combination.

“Cutting the conversation short, I, as the T20 captain and ODI vice-captain is appealing before you to allow Powar to further continue as our team coach. There are hardly 15 months for the next T20 World Cup and a month to go for the New Zealand tour. The way he has transformed us as a team, I feel no reason to replace him.”

Meanwhile, Mandhana wrote: “All the meetings that were held with respect to the playing XI for all the matches came to a unanimous decision which was taken by the captain, the vice-captain, coach and selector in the presence of our team manager (Trupti Bhattacharya). Since the introduction of Powar, he along with the support staff has boosted our confidence as a team which has helped us win 14 (11) consecutive T20 matches. He changed the intent of the players and gave everyone confidence. It is important for Indian cricket’s growth that everybody is on the same page and I believe that any difference can be amicably resolved via discussion.”

If Powar, who was eligible for a 12-month extension of his contract on favourable evaluation, does not continue then India could have their fourth coach in 19 months. Purnima Rau had been sacked just before the 2017 World Cup and Tushar Arothe had resigned earlier this year early into his two-year contract after India’s T20 Asia Cup loss.

Kaur and Mandhana will shortly be leaving for Australia to play in the Women’s Big Bash League.

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