Harmanpreet Kaur, Smriti Mandhana back Ramesh Powar

The Mithali Raj exclusion saga took a new twist on Monday with India captain Harmanpreet Kaur and vice-captain Smriti Mandhana firmly backing head coach Ramesh Powar.

India T20 skipper Harmanpreet Kaur along with head coach Ramesh Powar during a practice session.   -  Vivek Bendre

The Mithali Raj exclusion saga took a new twist on Monday with India captain Harmanpreet Kaur and vice-captain Smriti Mandhana firmly backing head coach Ramesh Powar. The controversy erupted following India’s semifinal exit at the last month’s Women’s World T20 in the Caribbean.

While Mithali, who did not feature in India’s last two games including the semi-final loss to England, had alleged Powar wanting to ‘destroy’ the veteran's career, Powar had hit back claiming that Raj had threatened to abandon the team mid-way if she was not allowed to open the innings in internal communication, accessed by various media outlets, including Sportstar.

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Monday saw Harmanpreet and Mandhana shooting near-identical letters to the BCCI executives and office-bearers. “Having kept in mind the confidence of each player that has build in the past three months, I tried to avoid and exceed the controversies blemishing our reputation. 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,” Kaur wrote.

The spat between Mithali Raj and Ramesh Powar emerged when she dropped from the playing XI in the semifinals of the Women’s T20 World Cup.   -  PTI

 

“With regard to the exclusion of Mithali Raj, Sir Ramesh Powar was not single handedly responsible. The decision was entirely based on the cricketing logics and observations from the past. Keeping in mind the need of the hour where me, Smriti , the selector (Sudha Shah) and the coach together in the presence of our manager felt that we  should go ahead with the winning combination. And I believe it should have come to your understanding that the intent was not personal but entirely based for the welfare of the team.”

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Stressing that Mithali's exclusion was a joint decision, Mandhana highlighted how Powar had been instrumental in India winning “14 consecutive T20 matches before semi-final.”

"Ramesh sir has changed the intent of players and given everyone confidence to express their selves on the field to their fullest," Mandhana wrote. “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.”

The BCCI has already invited applications for the coach's post, with Powar's term expiring on November 30. Kaur and Mandhana appealed for Powar's continuation at the helm.

Read Harmanpreet Kaur's letter to BCCI in full

Read Smriti Mandhana's letter to BCCI in full

“I, as the T20 captain and One day Vice caption is appealing before you to allow Mr Ramesh Powar to further continue as our team coach . There are hardly 15 months for the next T20 World Cup and a month to go for the New Zealand tour. 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,” Kaur stated.

“Another change of coach will effect our growth and we will have to start from the scratch. And whatever may be the reason for Ramesh Sir’s and Mithali Raj’s conflicts, 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.”