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Is Mithali Raj being subjected to the same kind of injustice that Sourav Ganguly once was?

Satyam Jha
ANALYST
Feature
Modified 20 Dec 2019, 20:04 IST

If Mithali Raj's exclusion from the playing XI in the semifinal of the ICC women's World T20 against England turned out to be a shocker to the cricketing world, her reported letter to BCCI stating the circumstances in which she was dropped, if true, is a disgrace for Indian cricket.

Mithali Raj was surprisingly left out of the semi-final clash against England.
Mithali Raj was surprisingly left out of the semi-final clash against England.

In her letter to BCCI, Mithali states that head coach Ramesh Powar humiliated her through the course of the tournament, and that she felt insulted by the unsavoury behaviour from the coach. Mithali slammed the India coach, saying that a few people in power are out there to destroy her.

She said, "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."

Mithali's run in the tournament had been the best among the Indian girls; she had scored two vital half centuries in as many games. She was also awarded the player of the match in both games she was chosen to be a part of, with her valuable knocks against Pakistan and Ireland single-handedly helping the team sail through to the semis.

Mithali's calmness at the crease helped the other Indian players to play around her and attack, something that they sorely missed in the semifinals.

On coach Powar's role, Mithali has spoken of a sequence of incidents wherein she felt humiliated and discriminated upon.

Humiliating a legend: Going the Sourav Ganguly way

The Ganuly-Chappell controversy marred Indian cricket during Chappell
The Ganuly-Chappell controversy marred Indian cricket during Chappell's tenure as India coach.

On India's tour to Zimbabwe in 2005, Indian captain Sourav Ganguly (after scoring a century) was being interviewed by Harsha Bhogle after the end of the day's play. During the course of the interview, Bhogle asked the Indian captain about the rumored tensions between the captain and the coach, which Ganguly confirmed.

Thus began a series of controversial standoffs between the two men in power, ultimately leading to an ugly ouster of the Indian captain from the team.

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Ganguly was not merely removed from his job, but also humiliated by the coach, as some of Chappell's leaked letters to the BCCI evidently showed. The captain was labelled as arrogant and lazy, and as someone who failed to take part in the practice sessions and was scared to face the bowlers in the nets, in the unsavoury and baffling remarks from the coach.

This in-fighting within the team ultimately led to India's downfall. They were eliminated from the first round of the 2007 World Cup, one of their worst performances in the tournament's history.

What India got from the in-fighting

The public humiliations not only led to self-doubts creeping in among the individuals, but also caused severe damage to the team's overall performance.

India have now possibly lost a second World Cup, the women's World T20, due to in-fighting. In both the 2007 men's World Cup and the 2018 women's World T20, India had one of the strongest teams in the competition, and were pipped by many to go the distance.

But that never happened, because there was discord within the team.

Learning from the past

The fans would seriously hope that the BCCI has taken its learnings from last decade's ugly Chappell-Ganguly saga, and this time takes all the actions necessary. A legend of Mithali Raj's calibre, who has most of the batting records to her name, doesn't deserve to be meted with any humiliation or bias that is uncalled for.

Someone who has done the country proud on numerous occasions and served women's cricket admirably for over a decade, should not go the Ganguly way.

Published 28 Nov 2018, 14:44 IST
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