When Team India coach slapped the captain!

Purnima Rau, who was the former Indian Women’s cricket team captain, shares an incident on a successful India women tour of New Zealand in 1995.

Purnima Rau played 38 internationals for India (five Tests and thirty-three ODIs) between 1993 and 2000

The coach of a national team slapping the team’s captain to discipline the skipper is unimaginable today. But that's exactly what happened inside India's women’s cricket team dressing room. That too, on the foreign shores of New Zealand.

Long before India’s women cricketers became household names and came under the aegis of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), team captain Purnima Rau was slapped by her chief coach Sreerupa Bose Mukherjee. 

That was way back in 1995 and the Indian Eves went on to win the quadrangular series. But the cricketing fraternity was abuzz with the news of Bose Mukherjee slapping Rau before a one-off match against New Zealand in Christchurch. A large section of the fraternity called for the coach’s head.

It has been 22 years since, but Rau still remembers each and every moment of that tour. And on Thursday, as her former coach—Bose Mukherjee—passed away in Kolkata, Rau is all emotional. “It was in Christchurch, where I was given a separate room. But I wanted to stay with other team-mates and insisted that the single room be allotted to our senior Sandhya Agarwal. But Sreerupa would not listen, and she gave me one tight slap during argument,” a nostalgic Rau told Sportstar on Thursday afternoon.

Read: Sreerupa Bose Mukherjee dies aged 66

Rau, who too later became the coach of national women’s team, however, believes that she had a mother-daughter relationship with Bose Mukherjee. “In today’s time, she could have been jailed. I could have sued her, but trust me, back then, I did not think it was done on purpose. It was a more of a mother-daughter relationship. I must have been her daughter on that tour,” Rau said with a smile.

“I met her in Kolkata a few years back, and we laughed about the days bygone. She was a very generous person, very morally-strong, and she definitely loved me,” Rau stated.

She still remembers how Bose Mukherjee would behave strictly with the team members during practice sessions. “We fought over small things. In 1995, we were stretching before training, when Sreerupa shouted: “What is this? What are you people up to?”

"We said that this will help us relax the soft tissues, and she felt otherwise,” Rau said, adding that small experiences helped her become a better coach.

“I think spending so many moments with her actually benefitted me immensely. As a coach, I did not want to be a Sreerupa,” Rau laughed.

She also remembers an incident when Bose Mukherjee made Deepa Kulkarni undergo batting drills for hours. “She made Deepa pad up. Those days, usually Anjum (Chopra) and I batted first at the nets and Deepa would come at No. 8. That day she thought, she was being promoted up the order. But it turned out that the nets were over and Deepa was still drilling,” Rau laughed, adding: “But actually, Deepa got so many runs that season for one drilling session.”

She may have been strict in her approach, but Bose Mukherjee made it a point to catch Rau bat at the nets. “She was my biggest fan and gave me extra time at the nets, so that she could watch me bat. She would come running whenever I would hit the nets,” Rau recollected.

Having seen her from close quarters, Rau still finds it tough to accept that Bose Mukherjee is no more. “It is really sad. But she would be having happy memories. She has had a good life, and both of us were the game-changers. I am happy that she experienced those moments,” her former ward stated.

After all, some memories are everlasting!