Compounding the threat to women’s cricket is the ongoing (and unending) powerplay between the BCCI and Committee of Administrators being played out in the backdrop.
Consider the extraordinary manner in which the story has unraveled over the past few days. The manager’s report and Mithali’s email were leaked to the media almost simultaneously, after a reaction from COA member Diana Edulji earlier had stoked the fire further. This was followed by a leaked letter from BCCI’s acting secretary Amitabh Chowdhury questioning the earlier leaks!
Wheels churning within wheels would you say? Oh yeah! It doesn’t take the IQ of an Einstein to gauge how what happened in the Caribbean and later in India have got interconnected, making it a royal rigmarole.
On the face of it, Mithali’s long, emotion-charged, breathless mail (second in length only to Greg Chappell’s 2000-plus words tirade against Sourav Ganguly in 2005, which must surely be the record for an official complaint in the history of sport) seems to suggest a fight between two prima donnas.
This is hardly unusual. While team spirit and camaraderie are highly desired (to the extent of being mythified) among a group of people chasing a common objective, this discounts the tugs and pulls of human nature.
In sport particularly, top level athletes are anxiety prone for ambition, livelihood, status, power et al. This can create all kinds of ego problems unless sublimated either by good personal sense or timely and proper management by those in authority around. Indian cricket history (men’s) is replete with such instances.
Mithali’s miff is two-fold: that she was dropped from the semi-final despite scoring two half centuries in previous matches, and worse, the manner in which her ouster was handled by the team management.
From the outside, the decision to drop her was baffling. True, Mithali is getting on in years. But if this was going to be a key factor in selection, why was she in the squad in the first place? And what of her current form?
That said, picking the playing XI must remain the prerogative of the captain (essentially) and the coach. There could be any number of reasons – retaining a winning combination is a prime one – why even a senior, in-form player is omitted.
Nevertheless, this should be handled sensitively, not cavalierly, as Mithali has alleged happened with her. It must be emphasised here, however, that we have not heard from either Harmanpreet or Ramesh Powar, so it’s possible there is a different side to the story.
This is where Edulji’s response to the episode, as given to a news agency, was tactless. As the final authority, she should have held her counsel till she had heard all parties involved instead of being so quick on the draw,
What Edulji said – that picking a player is the captain’s right – is a home truth no doubt, but in the circumstances, without ascertaining all facts, this was being injudicious and seen by Mithali as grossly unfair to her.
Edulji’s reaction, seen in consonance with the sequence of leaks, suggests that the happenings in the West Indies had got entangled in the fight for control between the COA and the BCCI.
This frankly is hardly any help to women’s cricket, which unlike men’s cricket, is still struggling to take firm root in India. Indeed, the COA-BCCI power-struggle is becoming a drain on Indian cricket overall.
The COA was formed by the Supreme Court to implement the Justice Lodha panel recommendations for improving the sport and was expected to take six-eight months at most to do the job. But almost two years down the road, it battles on fruitlessly.
The BCCI is obviously recalcitrant. But the COA itself is mired in problems. From the original four members, it has whittled down to two -- Eduljee and Vinod Rai – who also seem to be pulling in different directions on several issues. How these two see the Mithali Raj controversy is unknown. ,
If there is still silver lining to the unhappy turn of events, it is that women’s cricket has finally come of age in India. The story has made the front pages all over the country and profuse and strong reactions that ensued suggest that people are finally invested in women’s cricket.
Yet this awareness also comes with so many red flags attached to leave nobody in any doubt that women’s cricket in India is in a bloody mess right now.