India women’s cricket team’s exit in the semi-finals of the ICC World T20 continues to be shrouded with controversy over the non-selection of Mithali Raj. On a tricky surface and in a big game, the most experienced player that India had at their disposal wasn’t picked. After choosing to bat, India dramatically collapsed from 89/2 to 112 all out in 19.3 overs, a total England reached with 17 balls to spare and 8-wickets in hand to book a place in the final alongside Australia. This was India’s first semifinal appearance in WWT20 since 2010, and third overall.
In the aftermath, it has emerged that the decision to not select Mithali was a collective one and taken after being discussed between captain Harmanpreet Kaur, vice-captain Smriti Mandhana, coach Ramesh Powar and selector Sudha Shah. The detail has come to light after the manager’s report into the selection was accessed by Times of India.
The team management took the decision to finalise the India playing XI only “after watching how the wicket behaved in the first semifinal”, especially because the selectors would be in attendance for the game and could help pick the right team. In the first semi-final, Australia beat Windies by 71 runs.
In the two games that Mithali batted in during the tournament – against Ireland and Pakistan – she scored half-centuries before being rested for the final group game against Australia due to a niggle. “I, as manager, convened the meeting. They (captain, coach and selector) discussed the wicket and the coach expressed that the same winning combination against Australia should play. Harman and Smriti shared the same view and also told the selector, Sudha Shah, that an extra bowler would help the team,” wrote the team manager Trupti Bhattacharya in her report about the decisions taken ahead of the game. The note further said, “Sudha Shah agreed to the XI and did not express anything”.
Skipper Harmanpreet insisted that the decision was a collective one and defended it after the game. “Whatever we decided, we decided for the team. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t, no regrets,” she had said in the post-match interaction.
Felt bad to see Mithali sitting out: Jhulan Goswami
Jhulan Goswami who retired from T20Is in August this year, admitted she was surprised to see India play without Mithali. “The decision was taken by the team management. I am sure they have their reasons, but as an Indian cricket fan I felt bad to see Mithali sitting in the dugout,” the 36-year-old said.
Speaking on the defeat itself, India’s highest ODI wicket-taker said, “We won the toss and decided to bat but could not make it count. Despite the good start (43 in 6 overs) by Smriti (Mandhana) and Taniya (Bhatia) we crumbled from 89/2 to be bowled out for 112. The girls batted well in the warm-up matches as well as group league stage of the WT20 meet, but our batting display against England was shoddy.”
“Our players failed to adapt to the conditions and lacked application,” she opined, also adding that she felt that India struggled under the lights. India entered the semifinals having gone unbeaten in the group stages with all four games day fixtures and played in Guyana.