Mithali Raj has accused India women head coach Ramesh Powar and former captain Diana Edulji – a member of the Committee of Administrators (CoA) supervising the BCCI’s operations – of leaving her “deflated, depressed and let down” with their actions during the recently concluded World T20 in the Caribbean.
Raj, who was controversially left out of the starting XI in India’s eight-wicket semi-final loss to England, has also termed India T20I captain Harmanpreet Kaur‘s decision to support her exclusion “baffling and hurtful”.
Raj laid bare her feelings in an email on Tuesday to the BCCI CEO Rahul Johri and the BCCI general manager, cricket operations and women’s cricket, Saba Karim. Raj sent the email a day after meeting Johri and Karim in Mumbai to discuss the fallout of the controversy concerning her exclusion from the World T20 semi-final. Among others who met Johri and Karim on Monday were Harmanpreet and team manager Trupti Bhattacharya.
In the email, accessed by ESPNcricinfo, the majority of Raj’s ire is directed at Powar, the former Mumbai and India offspinner who took over as the India women head coach in July, after Tushar Arothe’s resignation.
According to Raj, Powar revealed “small signs” of what she alleged was “unfair and discriminatory” behaviour towards her as soon as the India squad landed in the West Indies.
Raj, who has opened the batting across formats for the past several years, was pushed down the order in India’s tournament opener against New Zealand. According to Raj, Powar told her the move was made in order to increase India’s batting depth.
Raj says she approached Sudha Shah, the national selector on tour, after Powar told her she wouldn’t open. On the morning of the next game, against Pakistan, Powar told her she would open. Raj opened against Pakistan and Ireland, and scored half-centuries in both games.
Raj reaching out to the selectors, according to her email, changed Powar’s behaviour towards her.
“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.”
Raj says she approached Bhattacharya to resolve the issue, and that the team manager arranged for a meeting between player and coach. During the meeting, Raj said, Powar was conciliatory and even apologised to her. “In front of the manager at numerous instances he agreed to his fault. ‘ haan Meri Galti hai, ‘Mujhe Aisa Nahin karna chahiye tha’ (Yes, it was my mistake. I should not have done that).”
Nonetheless, the email goes on to detail, the troubles with the coach would continue. “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.”
Raj injured her knee during the match against Ireland and missed India’s final group game, against Australia. Raj says Powar told her “not to come to the ground” for that match, and – after she asked the manager to intervene – “not to step out of the dressing room” for its duration. Then, Raj says Powar called her onto the ground to join her team-mates in a victory lap.
Raj’s knee recovered in time for the semi-final, but she says it was evident days before the match that Powar had made up his mind to leave her out. Raj says she was paired up with the lower-middle-order batsmen in the nets, and made to face part-time bowlers. “The kind of practice given to a player who is not in your scheme of things in a key match.”
Powar, according to Raj, did not reveal the playing XI on the eve of the semi-final, a move she found “unusual”. “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.”
Raj said she was left with no choice but to approach Johri and Karim because the episode had left her “utterly dejected and depressed”.
“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.”
When contacted by ESPNcricinfo, Powar refused to comment on the matter.
Raj also said she felt let down by Edulji, her former Railways and India captain, who had said it was not the CoA’s “headache” to interfere in the controversy surrounding the semi-final, or any other decision of the team management.
Raj said Edulji’s comments were a sign of “brazen support” for her being dropped, which left her “deeply distressed” only because the pair had spoken during the tournament.
“Thereafter her statement saying ‘selection is not the COA’s headache’ is like suggesting there is no system of cheques (sic) and balances and anyone can do anything and get away because they have the backing of people in power.”