North Sound (Antigua): The decision to drop Mithali Raj on the bench heavily backfired as India crashed out of the ICC Women’s World Twenty20 semi-finals on Friday, losing to England by eight wickets.
While the move has attracted a lot of criticism, Raj’s manager Annisha Gupta has slammed India skipper Harmanpreet Kaur calling her "manipulative, lying, immature, undeserving captain" along with saying the team believed in "politics not sport".
"Unfortunately @BCCIWomen believes in politics not sport. After witnessing what @M_Raj03 's experience could do in IndvIre it's shocking that they went with what pleases @ImHarmanpreet -a manipulative, lying, immature, undeserving captain," Gupta wrote on Twitter shortly India’s campaign came to and end.
Despite deleting her tweets and also her unverified account, Gupta confirmed that the statements were made by her and that the criticism for the Women in Blue came “from the right place”.
"I'd like to say that I don't know what is going on on the inside but, now that the matches are being telecast, we can see who is performing and who is not. And we can see the kind of treatment that Mithali has received despite her brilliant performance and despite showing stability and consistency. The kind of treatment she has received is completely uncalled for and there is something deeper than we need to look at than just the statements that have been coming out,” she was quoted as saying by ESPNCricinfo.
"There are statements coming out that they wanted to give younger cricketers a chance but you don't drop your senior-most, most experienced players in a semi-final against a country like England. It goes beyond giving the youngsters a chance."
"Maybe I was a little angry but I think it comes from the right place because I don't stand for unfair treatment. The kind of favouritism that has been shown is very apparent. I think everybody can see the kind of favouritism that is being shown to certain members of the team," she said, defending her comments.
Harmanpreet Kaur said that she has "no regrets" dropping Mithali Raj as it was a decision taken keeping the team's interests in mind.
Indian batting collapsed as they managed only 112 with eight wickets falling for 24 runs as the visibly upset veteran's blank stare sitting in the dugout said it all.
At the toss, Harmanpreet said:"It's not about not selecting Mithali, it's about keeping a winning combination."
The decision was questioned by former England captain Nasser Hussain and former Indian Test player Sanjay Manjrekar on air.
However, the Indian skipper defended her decision.
"Whatever we decided, we decided for the team. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't, no regrets. I'm proud of the way my girls played through the tournament," Harmanpreet said at the post-match presentation ceremony.
Mithali's strike-rate was always an issue but considering that Taniya Bhatia hasn't been able to accelerate and Veda Krishnamurthy in poor form, the decision to drop a seasoned campaigner boomeranged on India.
The skipper said that she wanted someone to bat in the middle-order as Mithali's preferred position is opening and she didn't want to tinker with the combination that won against Australia.
"We did really well against Australia, and that is the reason we just wanted to go with the same combination," she explained at the press conference.
"She (Mithali) opens. We need someone after Smriti (Mandhana) and me who can bat for us. Sometimes you click, sometimes it doesn't click."
Harmanpreet agreed that the team was at least 30 runs short of what could possibly have been a winning target.
"Definitely, it was not enough to tell you, but still I had enough faith that, if we could have bowled better, we could've won the game," said Kaur.
"But it's part of the game sometimes. I think if we had 140-150 then definitely we would have won the game."
The Indian captain termed it as a learning curve for her young team.
"This is a learning for us because we are a young team. Sometimes you have to change your game according to the wicket. England bowled really well, read the wicket really well. It was not an easy total to chase, and our bowlers bowled really well. We stretched the match till the 18th over," Harmanpreet explained.
She did admit that mental strength in big games is an issue and her young team needs to garner a bit more of it.
"I think we are a young team and we still need to work on our mental strength. If we can work on how to play under pressure, that will change how we play these games."