The row over Mithali Raj’s exclusion from the ICC Women’s World T20 semifinal versus England refuses to die down with two senior players of the team openly backing Ramesh Powar to get an extension as head coach.
The former India off-spinner’s contract as caretaker coach expired last week after just a three month-long tenure, and the BCCI has invited applications from eligible candidates for the job on a permanent basis. Mithali had written to the Board of Control for Cricket in India alleging that Powar discriminated against her and left her “deflated, depressed and let down” culminating in her omission from the semifinal against England in St. Lucia.
Powar, in his report to the Board, alleged that the veteran indulged in “blackmailing and pressurising” coaches. The BCCI, had the option of extending his contract for a year but it didn’t go down that route.
However, T20 skipper Harmanpreet Kaur and her deputy Smriti Mandhana have openly come out in Powar’s support, arguing that another change at the helm was not in the team’s interest.
Claiming that Mithali’s omission from the semifinal was a decision taken jointly by the coach, captain, vice-captain and selector on tour and entirely for cricketing reasons, Harmanpreet commended Powar for taking the team forward in a short time.
“Sir Ramesh Powar not only improved us as players but did motivate us to set targets and challenge our own limits. He has changed the face of Indian women’s cricket team both technically and strategically. He has inculcated in us the sense of winning,” she wrote in a mail to the Board.
She added that the issues between Mithali and Powar were for them to sort out.
“They should solve it across the table like a family and call it truce. This will provide more sense and security to them and the entire team.”
Smriti was also effusive in her praise for Powar.
“He, along with the support staff, has boosted our confidence as a team which helped us win 14 consecutive T20 matches before semifinals. Ramesh sir has changed the intent of players and given everyone confidence to express their selves on the field to their fullest. His one-to-one connect with each player has led to clarity in roles for all players and made everyone believe that they are match winner in his short tenure with the team,” she wrote in her email.
Both players argued that with other major tournaments and tours coming up, it was not the right time for a new coach to take over.
“Since we are merely a month away from the New Zealand series and hardly 15 months from the next T20 World Cup in Australia, his guidance and inputs will be helpful for the team to perform well. It is important for Indian cricket’s growth that everybody is on the same page,” Smriti added.
Her T20 skipper also pushed for Powar’s continuation as coach.
“The way he has transformed us as a team, I feel no reason to replace him with any better at this point of time when the team is coordinating well with him and amongst each other. It takes a while to understand and select combinations and equate with a coach’s temperament. Another change of coach will affect our growth and we will have to start from scratch,” Harmanpreet reasoned.
Powar can apply afresh for the job, but in the light of recent controversies, the Board is unlikely to pitch for him again. But with the two senior players voicing their support for him, it remains to be seen how the BCCI goes about making its next appointment.