‘Mithali said she was kept in darkness’: book by Vinod Rai

In his book ‘Not Just a Nightwatchman – My Innings in the BCCI’, former CoA chief Vinod Rai writes about the intrigue surrounding the Women’s National Team at the 2018 T20 World Cup and the spat between the coach Ramesh Powar and Mithali Raj. Extracts of the book published by Rupa Publications

The two players – Mithali (Raj) and Harmanpreet (Kaur) – had separate meetings with Rahul Johri (CEO of BCCI) and Saba Karim (GM, cricket operations). (Ramesh) Powar, the coach, also met with these officials. Mithali and Powar were asked to report to the CoA with written statements… Mithali and Powar both submitted their version of the incidents in the West Indies (T20 World Cup semi-final).

Mithali had expressed her deep anguish over the way she had been treated by the coach. She felt that more than the fact that she was benched in the semi-final game, it was the way she was treated by the coach that distressed her…

She (Mithali), however, made it clear that she had nothing against Harmanpreet, the captain of T20. Powar, on the other hand, wrote a lengthy report, most of which was devoted to the difficulty he faced in managing Mithali. He maintained that it was due to her low strike rate that the team’s management decided to drop her for the semi-final game and keep the winning combination from the last game.

On November 30, I was informed by Saba that the girls wanted to end the controversies and close the file. I admire Harmanpreet for reaching out to Saba and expressing a desire to have a frank conversation with ‘Mithali di’ to make sure no hard feelings remain and all issues are resolved. I was asked to sit with them. It was with some trepidation that I accepted. The meeting was arranged in Delhi with one day’s notice. The sincerity of both players was evident as Harman drove six hours on a Sunday morning from her home in Moga to Delhi. Mithali, who was playing a league game at Guntur, arrived that morning. We met and talked for over three hours.

Harmanpreet, as team captain, was clear that the decision had been made collectively to play the winning combination. In this decision, the coach and the coach of the team had been implicated. Of course, she was unaware of when this news was conveyed to Mithali. On the other hand, Mithali felt that in addition to his unwarranted exclusion, the manner in which it was conveyed to him had been most humiliating. She said she was kept in the dark about the decision and it was just before the two captains left for the draw that the coach informed her.

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