Why Harmanpreet Kaur should not be pilloried for dropping Mithali Raj
In the aftermath of India’s loss to England in the second semi-final of Women’s T20 World Cup, Captain Harmanpreet Kaur is being singled out for her tactical flaws in the match, most notably for dropping of Mithali Raj from the playing eleven.
In fact, it came as a huge shock to most fans and cricket experts when Harmanpreet announced at the toss that there will be no Mithali Raj in the team. However, it came as more of a shock when she announced that it was not due to any fitness concern, but because they did not want to tamper with a winning combination that had defeated Australia in the previous match.
It’s possible that Indian think tank had devised an aggressive approach to the game and wanted to take it to the England team. However, they discounted some crucial factors. Firstly, they were going to deal with a very canny English bowling line up on a pitch that was difficult to bat on. On such a pitch, they needed their most dependable batswoman, Mithali Raj, who could negotiate both the difficult bowling and the pitch.
Secondly, on a difficult pitch and against a batting line up that had not exactly set the tournament on fire, they did not need to attempt at posting too high a target. A target of about 140 should have been the goal from the beginning itself. Again, who better than Mithali Raj for such a role?
Thirdly, playing Mithali Raj did not mean that she had to open the innings. She could have been pushed down the order and India could have continued to have an aggressive approach at the top. If there was a collapse, she could be trusted to rescue the team. As it turned out, India did suffer a collapse, and they did not have their most experienced batter to come to their rescue.
Dropping Mithali Raj was a blunder. There are no two ways about it. However, it will not serve any purpose to pillory the Indian captain who had done so well in guiding the team through the group stage, without losing a single match.
The decision to drop Mithali may not have been solely by her. The way she has openly praised the coach Ramesh Powar in bringing an attitudinal change in the team, it’s certainly in the realm of possibility that the coaching staff had a lot to do with the exclusion of Mithali Raj from the playing eleven.
At a time when not just the fans of Indian cricket, but also the team itself, and especially the captain are devastated with this loss, it will serve no purpose to blame the captain for the exclusion of Mithali Raj or for the loss. The introspection should happen, but venting one’s frustration by pillorying the captain will not help Indian cricket.