Mithali Raj has said that the controversy surrounding her differences with Ramesh Powar, the former India coach, “was the most difficult phase of my career off the field.”
Mithali was not chosen in the team for the World Twenty20 semifinal against England in Antigua in November last year despite being fully fit. It was for the first time since she established herself as the batting leader of the team in the early 2000s that she was ‘dropped’. On returning to India after losing the semifinal, Mithali expressed her viewpoint in a letter to BCCI where she explained her issues with Powar. Soon after that Powar in his tour report submitted to the board listed out his issues with Mithali. Both the emails were leaked, spilling into a major controversy.
Harmanpreet Kaur, the T20I captain, then told the board that decision to play Mithali in the semifinal was a call made by the team management consisting of her, Powar, Smriti Mandhana, the vice-captain, and Sudha Shah, the travelling selector. She and Mandhana extended their support to Powar and requested the board to extend his contract. The Committee of Administrator chairman, Vinod Rai, however, backed the process of selecting a new coach and eventually a three-member ad-hoc committee made up of Shantha Rangaswamy, Kapil Dev and Anshuman Gaekwad chose Gary Kirsten, WV Raman and Venkatesh Prasad in that order of preference.
Since Kirsten was unavailable owing to conflict of interest owing to his role as Royal Challengers Bangalore’s head coach in the Indian Premier League, Raman was offered the role.
“I would like to sum it all up by saying that it was not a very good experience. Definitely, it was the most difficult phase of my career off the field. I don’t need to justify after all these years what I have done and what I am as a player,” Mithali told Times of India on Wednesday (January 9). “I can’t change people’s perceptions. It is not in my control. But what is in my control is that as long as I am playing, as long as I take the field as a player or as captain, there will not be any less percentage of commitment.”
One of the points Powar had was that Mithali’s strike-rate is not conducive in the Power Play overs in T20Is. She, however, saw the situation in a different light.
“When you have to put someone down, you will find ways to do it, even if that person has some good qualities it gets overshadowed by the dislike of that person. I don’t intend to justify anything about my scoring rate as there are people who score at a faster rate but are not that consistent. So it works both ways, but people don’t see it that way when they are negative about the player,” Mithali said. “If you see the percentage of matches that India won with me scoring runs it will be a testimony to my abilities. I play the way I think best suits the situation and the way the team requires me to bat.”
With Harmanpreet and Mandhana not in agreement with the change of coach, the divide is clear. Mithali, however, felt that as professionals everyone will put the interest of the team ahead and move on.
“I am not sure how things will be off the field, but as professional cricketers who have been playing for so many years, each one of us understands what it takes to get the team together on the field and perform,” she added. “Also these things are secondary when you have a job on hand to represent the country at the highest level. I am sure everyone knows that they have to put their heads down and perform.”