The India women’s cricket team was experiencing an upswing in the last couple of years. The team made the final of the ICC World Cup in 2017 where they lost to England by nine runs. The result and the performances of the side resulted in an increase in popularity of the women’s game. In the recently concluded ICC World T20 in West Indies in 2018, India had registered magnificent wins over New Zealand and eventual champions Australia. However, in the semi-final, Harmanpreet Kaur the skipper decided to bench Mithali Raj, the leading run-getter for India in ODIs and T20s and the team went on to lose the match by eight wickets to crash out of the tournament.
Following the conclusion of the match, things took an ugly turn. Mithali’s manager called Harmanpreet a "manipulative, lying, immature, undeserving captain" in a series of tweets. Following the incident, Ramesh Powar, the coach of the side admitted that his professional relationship with Mithali was strained as he always found her ‘aloof’ and ‘difficult to handle’. This prompted Mithali to slam Powar and accuse Committee of Administrators head Diana Edulji of bias. “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 wrote on her Twitter handle.
Shantha Rangaswamy, who was the first captain of the India women’s team and who led them to their first Test series, said the Mithali-Powar face-off has not helped women’s cricket. “This face-off is a massive blow. Before the game (vs England), India women’s cricket was in the news for the right reasons. The after-effects following the loss have not helped the growth of women’s cricket. The game is now remembered for all the wrong reasons,” Rangaswamy said in an exclusive chat to News Nation.
Following the uproar, Powar did not get an extension in his coaching tenure. However, the former India cricketer applied for the post by saying that he could not let Smriti [Mandhana] and Harmanpreet [Kaur] down. When asked whether players had the right to choose their coach, Rangaswamy was dismissive. “No way. Whether it is me, Sunil Gavaskar, Kapil Dev, Virat Kohli, Mithali or Harmanpreet, no player should have the right. This is an administrative policy and decision. If players get the chance, it sets a very dangerous precedent,” Rangaswamy said.
Coach should be total package
Following the non-renewal of Powar’s tenure, the BCCI invited fresh invitations for the post of India women’s cricket coach. There have been several notable names who have applied, including Gary Kirsten, who helped India win the World Cup after 28 years in 2011. Along with Kirsten, the other names in the list are Atul Bedade, David Johnson, Rakesh Sharma, Manoj Prabhakar, Owais Shah, Herschelle Gibbs, Dimitri Mascarenhas, Dominic Thornely, Gargi Banerjee, Vidyuth Jaisimha, Ramesh Powar, Colin Siller and Dav Whatmore. The interview will be conducted by a three-member panel, which includes former India skipper Kapil Dev, former manager Anshuman Gaekwad and Rangaswamy.
However, the names of Manoj Prabhakar and Herschelle Gibbs, who have been accused of match-fixing, have generated controversy. Rangaswamy was cautious when asked about the application of these candidates. “I am not aware of this situation. All three of us, me, Kapil and Anshuman should sit down and discuss. There have been no discussions so far. We have to think of all aspects. Nothing is easy when it comes to selection. There is a lot of experience in the panel about close to 150 years to be precise. There are no favorites,” Rangaswamy said.
However, India’s first woman cricket captain was clear on what the new coach has to do. “The new coach can’t do any kind of hair-splitting. Results will come only if the dressing room atmosphere is good,” Rangaswamy stated.
The interviews will be conducted in Mumbai on December 20 and the decision will be made before the India women’s team travel to New Zealand for three ODIs and three Twenty20 Internationals in January 2019.