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Mithali issue getting curiouser and curiouser

Telangana Today 2019-02-10 00:00:00
Mithali Raj during a practice session.

Hyderabad: The Mithali Raj issue in T20 is getting curiouser and curiouser. The controversy over Mithali’s omission from the playing eleven in India’s T20 matches refuses to die down ever since it snowballed into a major crisis during the World Cup in West Indies in November.

The immediate repercussion was the removal of Ramesh Powar as coach of the team and former Test left-hander WV Raman was named as replacement. It looked like that all was well when Mithali continued to remain as the captain of the ODI team and was even included in the Harmanpreet Kaur-led T20 team for the New Zealand series.

The Mithali-led Indian team made history by winning the first-ever ODI series in New Zealand. But when the T20 series began, Mithali was not part of the playing eleven raising few eyebrows. The team lost the three-match series in T20 as New Zealand won the first two matches.

Skipper Harmanpreet reasoned that they are building a team. “Today, we may be facing difficulties but in future we will do well as the young players gain experience. I think the future is good for the team and results will follow,” said after the Auckland match when the hosts clinched a last-ball win.

But the question is that if they looking for the future why then a senior batsman like Mithali be picked in the T20 team first of all. It is no point by making the 36-year-old, who became the first women cricketer to play in 200 ODIs, cool her heels in the pavilion. It is a question that needs to be answered.

Form wise, Mithali has been in good touch in both formats of the game. Even in her last T20 matches in the World Cup were match-winning ones on the slow wicket of West Indies. In this tour, she was involved in a crucial partnership with Smriti Mandhana in the second ODI. The question is if MS Dhoni at the age of 37 years continues to enjoy the backing of the team management then why not Mithali? Both are legends of the game.

The other reasons that given Mithali had expressed that England series at home will be swansong for her in T20 and hence the youngsters are given a chance.

Former Test Sanjay Manjrekar has rightly tweeted that Mithali deserves a place in the T20 team given the two batting collapses in the first two matches.

“Seeing how India are slipping in the middle, there is definitely a place for Mithali in the middle in T20s. After the tempo is set by Smriti, Jemimah & Harman, Mithali can ensure there is no disintegration after that.”

The inexperienced and inconsistent Indian batting has been a big problem. It happened in World Cup and continued in New Zealand. With out-of-form Harmanpreet, too, not among runs, the team has to rely too much on Mandhana and Jemimah Rodrigues. That is hurting India.

Mithali as an opener would definitely give solidity to the Indian team at the start of the innings as debutant Priya Punia has come cropper at the top. This sordid drama will indeed haunt the Indian team.