Message from mates not an ideal birthday gift for Mithali

India women's T20 captain, Harmanpreet Kaur, and her deputy, Smriti Mandhana, wrote separate letters to the BCCI, showing overwhelming support to Ramesh Powar, whose contract as coach ended on November 30.

Mithali Raj has already served the country for 20 years and will have expected her team-mates to back her in her spat with Ramesh Powar.   -  PTI

Mithali Raj has had to deal with a lot over the last few weeks. Being shunted down the order, then dropped from the team during what would almost certainly have been her last World T20, and then being accused by the India Women head coach Ramesh Powar of adopting blackmailing tactics during the last month’s World T20 in the Caribbean.

In an attempt to keep it all behind, moments after she thanked all her fans for “the constant, unflinching support” to her, Mithali would have received one of the rudest shocks of her career on Monday night. That too on her 36th birthday.

The veteran who has been the poster girl of India Women’s cricket for two decades would have expected her team-mates, especially the seniors in the side, to back her in her spat with coach Ramesh Powar. Instead, T20 captain Harmanpreet Kaur and her deputy Smriti Mandhana showed overwhelming support to Powar in letters written to the BCCI hierarchy.

If one reads between the lines of Harmanpreet and Mandhana’s near-identical letters, the duo has not only sided with Powar but also indirectly indicated that the veteran cricketer isn’t welcome at least in India’s T20 change room.

Elaborating on how “Powar sir” has helped the India Women take its game a notch higher, Harmanpreet, the ODI captain-in-waiting, and Mandhana have demanded that Powar should be persisted with till the next year’s World Cup. On the other hand, Mithali has been mentioned only when the duo has explained how dropping her was a collective and unanimous decision.

“Whatever 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,” Harmanpreet wrote towards the end of her email.

The controversy which has evolved into an ugly spat, just like the high-profile captain-coach ego clashes in Indian men’s cricket over the last decade. Be it the Sourav Ganguly-Greg Chappell saga in 2005 or the last year’s showdown between Virat Kohli and Anil Kumble, the BCCI either tried to downplay the differences or sweep the issues under the carpet.

In the women’s controversy, however, the BCCI has been instrumental in keeping the issue alive. The BCCI in disarray - members with no say, court-appointed Committee of Administrators a divided lot and the executives trying to settles scores with CoA through the women’s cricket controversy - has so far ensured the Mithali issue is far from being resolved.

It will be interesting to see if the veteran star or the coach and younger stars combine will have the last laugh.