Mithali Raj meets top BCCI officials seeking justice after being let down by coach Powar

(Photo Courtesy: Indian Express)
Mithali Raj has alleged that coach Ramesh Powar humiliated her and discriminated her during India’s World T20 campaign in West Indies which ended with a semifinal exit. Mithali Raj was left to warm the bench as India went down to England in the semi finals at Antigua.
The duo of Mithali Raj and T20 captain Harmanpreet Kaur decided to meet the top BCCI officials today in order to discuss further about the problem. According to a letter sent by Mithali to BCCI CEO Rahul Johri and general manager Saba Karim, it is stated the Mithali and coach Powar had in differences between themselves leading into the tournament.

“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 but I did not bother much about it,” stated Mithali in the letter revealed by India Today. She alleged that despite adhering to some of the decisions taken by Powar in the interest of the team – like batting out of her usual opening position and delivering with back-to-back fifties when asked to return to her preferred slot – the coach’s indifference to her caused her a lot of stress.
After repeated failures in the warm up games leading into the tournament, Mithali was dropped down the order in the first game vs New Zealand in which she did not get a ball to face. However, she was restored back to the opening position in the games against Pakistan and Ireland in which she scored successive half-centuries and was also adjuded the Player of the Match award. That she was able to open again was only due to the intervention of the selectors before the match against Pakistan, stated the letter.
“Not having played middle order in recent times and without practice still, I agreed for the greater cause of the team. For me team comes ahead of anything. After the game it was evident that the opening did not work as the team was 3/38 after power-play and yet in the team meeting the next day he informed me that we are going with the same opening pair as against New Zealand. And he also praised the openers despite them not succeeding.
“This left me completely shocked as against Pakistan there was no requirement of strengthening the middle order and also I have a great record against them. This was a match we had to win. I immediately reached out to the selectors and upon their intervention, he told me just before the game at breakfast that I was opening. I performed well in the game and we cruised to victory. But instead of saying any words of encouragement it appeared he was out there to prove a point and from there on his behaviour changed dramatically towards me and really caused a lot of stress in the middle of one of the most important tournaments for us.”
The letter alleged that Powar ignored and avoided Mithali during net sessions which left her embarrassed and humiliated, and that she sought the team manager’s help to facilitate a meeting with Powar to air her concerns and offer her suggestions.Thing only got even worse following the meeting, as Powar asked a sick Mithali Raj to stay back in the team
hotel and not attend the game vs 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… I was told I was not to be with my own team in one of our biggest games. I was shell shocked. I spoke to the manager immediately and told her that I am not seriously injured and only seriously sick, and that I want to come and watch my team play. She agreed and told me to come.
“But I received a text from Ramesh in a few minutes after my conversation with the manager wherein he told me not to step out of the dressing room. I found it strange why is he getting involved when it was purely the managers’ and physio’s call. When we won the Australia game Ramesh sent a word across with a team mate to call me down to the dugout so that I can join the team for a victory lap. It was strange because right through the match I had been put under house arrest and was never allowed to leave the dressing room.”
Having reached Antigua three days before the semifinal against England, India only had a scheduled fielding session. Powar, however, took five players for extra practice and upon hearing the news of the same, Mithali had expressed her willingness to take part in the session having not had the opportunity to bat for a few days. The letter stated that there was no reply from Powar and she was only asked to join later with the whole team. The letter also said Mithali was among the last to get a hit out in the nets, a clear sign “that he had already made up his mind that he didn’t want to play me in the semis.”
The playing eleven and the news about her exclusion for the semifinal was only known a few minutes before the toss, contrary to the usual methods of deciding upon the team a day before or on the eve of the game, stated the letter. “It is when Harman walked to toss, he [Powar] 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.
“Also, when the team was getting ready to field in the second innings, it is customary that even those who aren’t playing should join the team huddle as it has always been the norm in our team. But to insult me that day, he sent a word through the manager to tell that it was only the playing eleven that can join in the huddle and the rest can go back to dugout making us feel as outcasts. It was worrying and insulting because the coach was out to destroy and humiliate me.”
Mithali’s criticism wasn’t restricted to Powar alone as the letter alleged that CoA member Diana Edulji, despite being aware of what had transpired, chose to ignore 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. 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.
“I have always adhered to protocol and haven’t said a word in the press regarding anything that happened in the West Indies believing that the BCCI is there and in the end ‘my truth ‘ will have an ear there and my matter will be handled justly. 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,” the letter stated.
Sources in the know of developments said that the CoA is awaiting the report that Johri and Karim will submit before taking a call on the whole fiasco. Johri has decided not reveal anything about the meeting as of now.
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