For Indian women’s cricket, the year 2018 was overshadowed by a massive controversy involving Mithali Raj, Harmanpreet Kaur and Ramesh Powar. Following India’s exit in the semi-final of the World T20 against England in the West Indies, questions were raised over the exclusion of Mithali from a crunch game. Following the game, there were reports of a showdown between Mithali and the coach Ramesh Powar. What followed put women’s cricket in a poor light. Mithali’s manager blasted Harmanpreet Kaur’s captaincy while Powar accused Mithali of being ‘too difficult’ to work with. The CoA jumped in and Mithali accused Diana Edulji of bias. Following the outrage, Powar’s tenure was not renewed and WV Raman was appointed as the new coach.
The year 2019 will see India touring New Zealand for three ODIs and three Twenty20 Internationals. Speaking in the pre-tour press conference, Mithali said all the events of the last year are in the past and this is a fresh beginning for the side. “Whatever has happened is off the field and I believe whenever I take that decision it probably will be because of my own reasoning and about my own game,” Mithali said. On Harmanpreet, she said the duo have moved on. “We (She and Harmanpreet) did meet up after what happened and I think both of us have moved on. I guess too much emphasis is given to that controversy, it was last year and all of us should look forward to 2019. I do not know how controversies help the profile of the sport. I believe when a lot is being spoken about non-cricketing things it is not so good,” Mithali said about the controversy which hurt the growth of women’s cricket.
When Mithali was rested for the semi-final game against England, many felt it was the last opportunity for her to win an ICC tournament for the country. However, the veteran is not looking too much ahead into the future and has not thought about any form of retirement. “I do not know where I would be 2-3 months from now; I cannot really predict whether I will be part of the T20 World Cup. For me at this juncture this New Zealand tour is as important, very important in fact (as to) how it goes for the team and for me,” Mithali said.
2017 World Cup key
The performances of the Indian women’s team in the 2017 50-over World Cup increased the popularity of the sport in the country. Despite losing the final to England by nine runs, Mithali and her side had made the country proud. It was the performances in this tournament that prompted new coach Raman to take up the position.
“They almost won the World Cup in England, which is one of the reasons I put my hat into the ring. That to me was an indication that there is great talent. They are capable of going places and that is what I am going to be looking at as to how to guide them to play as well as they did in the last 18 (months), hopefully better than what did they in the last 18 months. They have set a high standard it augurs well and everybody should be looking towards doing much better. This is a stage where they can really sky-rocket or if things do not go well, things can really go down south. At this point I thought they would require somebody with experience and also somebody who has seen a gamut of teams and performed various roles. They needed somebody like that to guide them. I fancy myself and that's the reason here I am,” Raman said.
India will be touring New Zealand for the first time in more than a decade and Mithali admitted that it will be a very tough tour. “Individual brilliance can win you matches but if you have to win the series, you need every member, every core member of your team to perform and that performance has to compliment the team's goal. I believe I will be able to get the team together again and that is what we are going to work on,” Mithali said.