A glance at the recent performances of the Indian women’s cricket team — beating the top teams in the world, winning the Asian T20 championship, emerging victorious in the World Cup qualifying tourney, and many more — will show how instrumental coach Purnima Rau has been in transforming the team into one of the best.
Purnima brought a new belief into the outfit, and was tipped as the coach. But, even as the team is prepping up for the World Cup (to be held in June in England), in a shocking decision, Purnima was unceremoniously removed as coach of the Indian women’s cricket team, a decision that raised several eyebrows.
Asked what her initial reaction was and Purnima says, “I was shocked, and couldn’t believe it. What was even more disappointing was that I wasn’t informed about the decision. It’s even more distressing to see a male coach replace me, despite a resolution of having only female coaches for the women’s team.” Purnima adds, “The whole episode is so heartbreaking, especially with the World Cup just around the corner. I wish the team luck and hope they are not affected by this chaos.”
For someone who has led the team to several victories, where does she think things went wrong? “I really don’t know and I am blank. I see it as a stroke of madness, but I have to thank Diana Fram Edulji (appointed in the BCCI administration panel by the Supreme Court) for retaining me till the recent ICC world cup qualifiers,” she says sarcastically, adding, “I guess since Diana was on board, naturally my ouster was on the cards. I took over from her as Indian Captain in 1994, and even though she labeled our team as the ‘weakest’, we went on to win the World Cup in 1997. But I have no issues with her, and even thanked her for extending the one-time benefit (a monetary benefit BCCI gives to the players) even to the women cricketers.” So, will she raise her voice in the matter?
“It’s an embarrassing situation. I have raised my voice against the CoA, and brought the matter to HCA’s notice as well, but can’t see any light. I don’t think HCA would take it up either because no one dares to contest BCCI or CoA,” she rues. But has she spoken to anyone about the issue?
Purnima replies, “I did not speak to any player and none of the administrators called me either. Moreover, I did not expect anyone from the players’ community to support me. I just hope the players focus on the game itself.” The former skipper says her sporting experience is helping her to come to terms with whatever has happened. “I am a sportsperson and have gone through enough ups and downs off the field as well, so my sporting experience is coming in handy now,” she says.
The 50-year-old feels her ouster has been a real eye-opener. “I received support from unexpected quarters while people who I thought were close did not call me. That’s the biggest life lesson learnt. I realised who my immediate support system were in this one week,” she says. Sadly, the former Indian cricket coach lost all her loved ones when she was on a tour.
She reveals, “I was playing in Australia when my dad passed away, I was playing against England when my husband (Narsing) died, I lost my grandparents and coach during the time of the World Cup, and recently my mom passed away when I was playing with the West Indies team. “I could not even attend her funeral. But through all of that my in-laws and sister have been a pillar of strength.”
The Hyderabad-based cricketer now says that she’s making the most of the break. “I am enjoying IPL, getting to do things which I never did, spending time with friends, family, going for long walks, etc. I wanted a break, but unfortunately it came in this form. But I will make the most of the moment,” she says. So what’s next? “I haven’t thought of anything, but I’m looking at other options as well,” says Purnima....