Women's World T20 controversy: Mithali Raj's manager slams skipper Harmanpreet Kaur
What's the story?
At a time when they are still reeling from their semi-final exit in the 2018 World T20, a major controversy has hit the Indian women's team. Former captain Mithali Raj's manager has lashed out at skipper Harmanpreet Kaur for her role in leaving the veteran batter from India's playing eleven for the semi-final clash against England.
Mithali's manager, Annisha Gupta, labelled Harmanpreet as a 'manipulative, lying, immature, undeserving captain' on Twitter. Although her unverified Twitter account was deleted subsequently, she had confirmed to ESPNcricinfo that the tweets slamming Harmanpreet were indeed hers.
Mithali led India women in 32 T20Is between 2006 and 2016 before Harmanpreet replaced her as Indian skipper. The 35-year old's T20I strike-rate has been perceived as relatively low when compared to the rest of her teammates.
During India's tournament opener against New Zealand, Mithali was pushed down the order and did not get a chance to bat. Returning to her customary opening slot, she scored successive half-centuries to shape India's victories against Pakistan and Ireland.
The heart of the matter
Mithali was forced to miss India's last group match against Australia due to a knee injury. Despite recovering sufficiently from the injury, the veteran batter found herself left out of the playing eleven for the semi-final clash against England.
On a sluggish surface at Antigua, India's batters collapsed badly while trying to take the attack to the England bowlers. Bowled out for 112, they went down tamely and crashed out of the 2018 Women's World T20.
Harmanpreet defended the omission of Mithali by insinuating that they had opted to enter the semi-final with their winning combination from the previous match against Australia.
Needless to say, India's decision to leave out Mithali has drawn sharp criticism from various quarters. The right-handed batter's manager Annisha Gupta made her feelings quite clear when she tweeted - "Unfortunately @BCCIWomen believes in politics not sport. After witnessing what @M_Raj03 's experience could do in IndvIre it's shocking that they went with what pleases @ImHarmanpreet -a manipulative, lying, immature, undeserving captain." [sic]
Although Gupta's Twitter account was deleted a few hours after her tweets went viral, the damage had already been done. Neither Harmanpreet nor head coach Ramesh Powar have responded to Annisha's claims yet.
Having been a regular presence in the Indian women's team across all formats since her debut, it remains to be seen how Mithali reacts in the aftermath of her exclusion from such an important match. It's worth noting that she is still Indian women's captain in the ODI format.