My patriotism doubted, darkest day of my life: Mithali reacts after Powar’s allegations

first_imgIndia great Mithali Raj has said she is “deeply saddened” and “hurt” by the negative image that is being projected about her by head coach of the women’s cricket team, Ramesh Powar.Mithali, who is in the midst of a storm that is brewing up in the Indian women’s cricket circuit after her controversial snub for the World T20 semi-final earlier this month, has expressed disappointment at her patriotism being questioned and said all that hard work she has put in over the last 20 years feels to be in vain.Mithali’s reaction comes after Powar alleged that the 35-year-old ODI skipper had been blackmailing and pressurising Team India coaches. The under-fire head coach said he was disappointed with the senior player’s attitude and added that for Mithali, she came first before the team.”I’m deeply saddened & hurt by the aspersions cast on me. My commitment to the game & 20yrs of playing for my country.The hard work, sweat, in vain,” Mithali wrote on Twitter on Thursday.”Today, my patriotism doubted, my skill set questioned & all the mud slinging- it’s the darkest day of my life. May god give strength.”I’m deeply saddened & hurt by the aspersions cast on me. My commitment to the game & 20yrs of playing for my country.The hard work, sweat, in vain.Today, my patriotism doubted, my skill set questioned & all the mud slinging- it’s the darkest day of my life. May god give strengthMithali Raj (@M_Raj03) November 29, 2018advertisementIt all began when Mithali was dropped from the playing XI for India’s semi-final against England in Antigua on November 23. The axing drew a lot of criticism as the leading run-scorer in women’s cricket had been consistent throughout the group stages of the tournament wherein India remained unbeaten.Mithali missed the final group game against Australia with a knee injury but reports suggested she was deemed fit ahead of the crucial semi-final tie.However, captain Harmanpreet Kaur and the team management decided to omit the senior-most batter and go in with an unchanged XI.India eventually bowed out of the competition after losing to England by eight wickets. Mithali’s experience was clearly missing as Harmanpreet’s side collapsed from 89 for 2 to 112 all-out.Mithali had earlier written to the BCCI that Powar had humiliated her during the tournament in the Caribbean.Here is Mithali Raj’s full letter to BCCI:Dear Rahul Sir and Saba,Warm greetings!First of all I would like to thank you both for lending me an ear to hear my grievances. In all the years I have played cricket for India and under the BCCI, I have always found the board to be open to player grievances and finding an appropriate resolution.However, 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.To put things in perspective, I have always reposed faith in Diana Edulji and have always respected her and her position as a member of the COA, Never did I think she will use her position against me, more after hearing what all I had to go through in the Caribbean as I had spoken to her about 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 and balances and anyone can do anything and get away because they have the backing of people in power.May I say that I am aware that by writing this email I am making myself even more vulnerable. she is a COA member while I am just a player. For the record, I scored back to back fifties in the games before the semi final, was adjudged player of the match on both occasions, to leave me out in the semi final and go with only three performing batters was a decision that left me baffled as much as it left the whole world.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.advertisementAt this juncture I would also like to point out that I have nothing against the T/20 captain Harmanpreet Kaur except for the fact that her call to support the decision of the coach to leave me out of the eleven was baffling and hurtful. I wanted to win the world cup for my country and it hurts me because we lost a golden opportunity. But I am of the opinion that Harman and I are senior players and our issues, if any, should be sorted out by the two of us by sitting across the table. As India’s 50 over captain, I value Harman as one of our best players and will always want to ensure that the two of us perform our best for India. Having said that, my issue is deeper. My issue is with the coach Ramesh Powar and in all stories circulating in the press, I find that issue getting diluted.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. Right from the Sri Lanka tour to Australia A matches I opened the innings and in the World Cup warm up games too I had done the same. One day before the game after I came out of the nets, he walked up to me and informed me that he wanted me to bat in the middle order as we needed depth in the middle order against New Zealand. 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.advertisementFor 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. Yet I never lost my cool. Finding the situation completely out of control and realising that it is important to resolve issues as it affects the team I reached out to the team manager and conveyed my grievances. She convened a meeting at my request between the coach and me in her presence and I spoke to him politely yet firmly about all that was going on. In front of the manager at numerous instances he agreed to his fault ‘ haan Meri Galti hai, ‘Mujhe Aisa Nahin karna chahiye tha’. I also offered for the team cause that if he wants to send youngsters to open to try them it would be best if he can try them against Ireland as they were the minnows to which he said no you will open against them. I hoped this would be the end of the differences between us but clearly I was wrong.After the meeting his behaviour turned worse. 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. In the game against Ireland also on a tough pitch I scored another match winning performance but unfortunately took a bump on my knee while fielding. The physio advised some rest and said to review it the next day. Because of all the stress I was running low grade fever also. We had no game the next day but there was a training session. The physio advised me to rest it out as there was slight swelling and because I had fever. 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 taken aback as to what media has to do with me being with the team. 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 andthat 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.When we reached Antigua for the semi-finals, we had 3 days before we played England. The first day there was no nets, it was just a fielding session, but Ramesh was taking 5 girls for extra practise. When I heard this from one of the girls I thought that since I did not bat for 2 days, I should also join them for practice. So, I texted Ramesh that I would like to join for the extra training. However, I did not receive any response from him and hence I reached out to the manager. She got back to me saying Ramesh wants you to come with the whole team later and skip the game, so I can bat..I went into the nets and as soon I got into the nets, Ramesh just walked away from the area. The sign was clear that he had already made up his mind that he didn’t want to play me in the semis. The next day he paired me up with Deepti, second last pair in nets wherein I had to play part time bowlers and sometimes I just had 3 bowlers in the nets. It was not even middle order, it was lower middle order where I was batting, the kind of practice given to a player who is not in your scheme of things in a key match. All this made me believe that he didn’t want me in the team and will oust me despite performing. Coming to the semi finals, usually Ramesh announces the team a day before or on the day of the game before we enter the ground but it was unusual that on the day of the semis, he did not announce the team. 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. 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.I couldn’t control my tears having given it my all for 20 years. It seemed my efforts had no value.After the Australia game, which we won, 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.In the light of the above, I as captain of India in ODI’s who has given her best for the country, do I have any hope left to be given justice. With Diana turning against me publicly and with the coach’s unjust behaviour ,I feel utterly dejected and depressed. As I was told not to go to the media I write this email to you as the last resort. Please advise against the next course of action.RegardsMithali’Mithali had minimum inputs in team meetings’Powar responded to the claims during his meeting with the BCCI CEO Rahul Johri on Wednesday.Mithali Raj – a senior player in the team. Minimum inputs in team meetings, not a single word of appreciation after finishing at the top of the table.Could not understand & adapt to the team plan.Ignored her role and batted for own milestones. Lack of keeping the momentum going which was putting extra pressure on other batters. Worked really hard as a coach to address her power hitting, batting skills and running between the wickets in almost every session.In practice games, she was struggling to score quickly, as wickets were low bounce & slow. The intent was missing. Could not lean and execute shots due to limited ability in skills & fitness.We wanted to make most of powerplay as powerplay was most important phase of the match (considering slow pitches) to score big with hardball & it was challenging to score against spinners.It was conveyed to her logically that she will be batting in middle order & she agreed too. (Before New Zealand match)Mithali’s lack of intent to score quickly in practice games prompted us to open with Taniya Bhatiya (in first league game vs New Zealand) who always shown intent every time she batted. We used Taniya and Hemlatha in powerplay vs New Zealand which got us 24 runs in 13 balls. It’s not always about individual milestones, it’s always about team strategies and executions. (team first)After New Zealand game we had a practice session where Mithali was showing anger and attitude, which was disappointing.In selection meeting where we picked 11 for Pakistan match, instead of appreciating the effort of the team against New Zealand selector asked us why Mithali is not opening where I gave the explanation of making most of powerplay and if needed Mithali can bat in the middle/lower order. On which selector said that she can only open or can’t figure in the team. We as team management convinced her that she is a key player and we will use her experience as and when needed.A lot of young players look at her as a role model and dropping her will hamper team environment.Before Pakistan match, video analyst Mr Pushkar Sawant came to my room with the news that fielding coach Mr Biju George conveyed to him that Mithali is upset about not changing the batting order & not allowing her to open in Pakistan match. She has packed her bags to leave with the announcement of retirement in the morning. I was shell shocked to understand why? Team had just beaten one of the top teams (New Zealand) and Mithali Raj a legend is still complaining about her batting position (which she agreed upon) & threatening to leave. (instead, should be happy with the positive start of the World Cup campaign of Team India)I was saddened and baffled by her attitude.It gave me an impression that for Mithali Raj she comes first and then team India. I called team manager early in the morning and discussed the issue. I did not convey this to captain and vice-captain as I don’t want them to lose their focus of most important match, India vs Pakistan of the group stages. During breakfast on match day I told Harman & Smriti that we will open with Mithali and they agreed. Conveyed Mithali also about her opening the innings against Pakistan.Against Pakistan, to save the positive team environment, we opened with MithaliRaj due to pressure from traveling selector and Mithali’s threatening behaviour (retirement) to go back home if not given a chance to open the innings.Against Pakistan, chasing 134 with 10 runs headstart 6 overs we were 48 for no loss. From 6th over till 15th over Mithali played 24 balls and scored only 25 runs (no intent to score fast) which hurt us in net run rate. Whole team especially batting unit was confused & angry as what she was trying to achieve by scoring fifty and not sticking to team plan. (dominance)After Pakistan game she was moving around with an attitude. Making her own group with selected few players sitting away from the team. As a head coach, I was very disappointed & saddened to see a legend like her dividing a team into two groups.After Pakistan match, Mithali asked for a meeting with me through team manager Trupthy Bhattacharya which I obliged. She conveyed that she is not very good player for this format compared to one day format where I convinced her that she is the most experienced player in the team and can adapt easily as she had scored a good hundred vs Sri Lanka, batting in the middle order in ODI series. (which reminded me she (captain) did not take the field for first 11 overs due to fatigue after batting & we lost the match as all bowling plans were known to her which she did not share with vice-captain Harmanpreet due to her sour relationship).She agreed to bat in middle order after hearing team plan from me.Still we wanted her to give one more opportunity to prove her ability as opening batter vs Ireland to execute the teams strategies that are to bat with intent (dominance) but against weak Ireland bowling attack she scored run a ball 50 (56 balls 51 runs) and played 25 dots which added extra pressure & cost us Smriti, Jemimah’s wicket & net run rate.She again questioned batting plan of dominance after the match.After Ireland game, as a senior player shown no interest to consult with team management to play or rest in very important game vs Australia.The physio informed us that she is not available for selection due to mild fever &minor injury to knee, which she got recovered in one day (quite strange).As a coach, I asked her to take rest in hotel so she can get better & recover quickly but she did not listen and came to the ground for Australia match, which was surprising.As we finished last league match in Guyana we called team members including support staff on to the ground to thank & appreciate Indian people, who were in attendance. Mithali was reluctant to come down.After reaching Antigua for semifinals I had created 2 groups for low-intensity practice session with 1st group consisting of 5 players for batting skills specifics and another group for warm up, team game &fielding.Mithali was in 2nd group but she wanted to come with us in the first group. I requested her to come with 2nd group do warm up and skip the team game and come for the batting skills with practice bowlers as everyone was involved in team game. (she was supposed to do fielding with team after batting which she did not) I stayed and watched her bat for 10 minutes and went in the ground to check how ia s session going inside the stadium.Mr Vikas Pandit was there to supervise her session. I came back with physio to watch her bat again. After finishing batting in net physio and me asked how she is feeling as it was her first net session after a break. She responded with a nod as if our question does not matter to her.A day before semifinal as I walked towards breakfast area, team manager Mrs. Trupthy Bhattacharya wanted to speak with me, which I obliged. she looked very tense.As per team manager’s words, she received an abusive and threatening call from a person called Nusheen (former player) stating that what you were doing with Mithali as she cried whole night and her mother is worried Nusheen also threatened that you all will face consequences.Out of panic team manager took physio to her room to check on her .as described by team manager Mithali wanted to go back home as she was very upset that coach is not looking after a legend player like her.She threw la ot of tantrums and created chaos. Team manager and physio tried their best to calm her.Once hearing all this from Mithali, team manager came to me and described the whole episode, we immediately called Mr .Saba Karim (GM cricket operations, BCCI) and informed the matter. Saba sir told us to sort the matter out amicably. Saba sir also told us to concentrate on crucial and important world cup semi final match.Within some time Mithali Raj shot a message on team manager’s phone that she does not want to speak with the coach.Her irresponsible behaviour took my time away as i was suppose to speak with few players regarding preparations of all important semi final match, which could not happen.As I needed to prepare team meeting notes, I took a leave. Mr Biju George (fielding coach) gave feedback that Mithali Raj was not interested in fielding drills with intensity which is hampering intensity and rhythm of the fielding session. He tried to convince her every time but she did not improve.In matches, she could not field outside the circle or at any important positions due to poor agility and limited fielding skills.I hope Mithali Raj stops blackmailing, pressurising coaches & also stops putting her interest first than team’s .I hope she will look at the bigger picture & work towards the betterment of the Indian women’s cricket.Semifinal playing eleven – as a team management, we wanted to see how the pitch is playing in the first semi-final as it was a fresh pitch which delayed our selection meeting. On completion of first semi-final we all concerns people had selection meeting and decided to go with winning combination which had beaten a strong team like Australia. Pitch was helping spinners & Anuja Patil, a spinner played a big role in the match against Australia. Team was announced before the toss.Also read | Mithali Raj packed her bags and threatened to quit, reveals Ramesh PowarAlso read | Mithali Raj accuses coach Ramesh Powar of bias: He humiliated meAlso read | Mithali Raj has got good reasons to be peeved: Farokh EngineerAlso see:last_img read more