Mithali Raj Controversy: An open letter to Ramesh Powar
Dear Mr Powar,
I have been following your game ever since you made your debut back in 2004 for Team India. While it will be an exaggeration to state that I had been a fan of your bowling, I would admit that I liked the fast-dying old-school art of loopy spin bowling, with lots of flight, that you brought to the Indian team in the first decade of the new millennium.
Quiet contrary to what people conceived of you, I felt you had done remarkably well in terms of fitness, to reach the top level of the game, despite having a non-athletic physique. The fact that you played international cricket for nearly half a decade only speaks volumes about the amount of hard work that you put in to your game.
However, as you understand, this letter I am writing to you, is not about your stint in international cricket as a cricket player, but it's more about your present stint as the head coach of the Indian women's cricket team.
In recent past, we cricket fans, have been witnessing a lot of captain-coach/star player-coach feuds be it Kevin Pietersen-Andy Flower or Gayle-Ottis Gibson or Warne-John Buchanan or, our very own Kohli-Kumble. Unfortunately, the latest addition to the above mentioned list, is the Mithali Raj-Ramesh Powar stand off.
I feel that the respective cricket board should always back the player in such issues and not the coach. Of course, Mr. Powar, you can argue that such an action will only make the players more reckless and less disciplined and selfish in their approach, but, this is exactly where the entire cricket administration needs to understand that they are not handling a teenage group of rookie cricketers out here.
The job of the coach and the support staff in international cricket is to create a team environment such that every player in the team is able to give his/her best possible performance, at the end of the day.
The coaches shouldn't be imposing a pre-decided plan of action on the players of the team rather understand the human side of them. If you want an example of what can happen if the cricket board supports the coaching staff and not players, it's the Windies cricket team.
The West Indies have their leading players in the form of Sunil Narine, Andre Russell, Dwayne Bravo, Kieron Pollard, Carlos Brathwaite earning millions across the world, playing domestic leagues, but none of them are available to play for the Windies international team, because of their ongoing issues with the Windies cricket administration and coaching staff.
In the Powar-Mithali episode, I feel the coach cannot ask a legend like Mithali, who has played 85 T20s, opening the innings to come down the order. You can argue that it was for the team and that the team was unable to exploit the powerplay overs because of Raj's low strike rate.
But this is where as an effective team manager you needed to understand the other side of things. Mithali is already at the fag end of her career and for the last almost 100 T20s, her game is built like being an opener.
It is almost impossible for her to come out and remodel her game in the form of a middle order batsman, at this stage of her career. Hence, it is extremely unfair, on behalf of a coach to ask her to do so. I believe there could have been alternate strategies built around the idea, without replacing Mithali as an opener.
In this regard, Mr Powar, let me draw your attention to the 2014 edition of IPL. Kolkata Knight Riders emerged as champions in that particular edition. Their openers were Gautam Gambhir and Robin Uthappa, neither of whom were explosive pinch hitters. KKR was content scoring 40-42 runs in the powerplay overs without losing a wicket. Their game was to keep wickets in hand and launch pinch hitters like Yusuf Pathan and Andre Russell in the end overs. With the present Indian team boasting of players like Taniya, Veda, and even the captain herself, similar strategy could have been applied in WWT20 as well.
Instead, Mr. Powar, you went on to drop Mithali for the all-important semi-final match. You felt that such a move would improve the team's performance but you never considered the dressing room atmosphere. Mithali could have been the anchor of the team who could have played the full 20 overs, while others played risk-free spontaneous cricket around her.
However, unfortunately, a mismanagement from your end according to me, led to one of the most embarrassing off the field moments that Indian women's cricket has ever seen in recent times.
An ardent follower of Indian cricketPublished 29 Nov 2018, 16:58 IST