After topping the group with four wins out of four in 2018 Women’s World T20, India’s women were knocked out in the semi-finals against England’s women. Although the Women in Blue did fairly well to top the group, their loss against England in the semis has come under much criticism. They were bowled out for 112 after being 89/2 at one stage in the 14th over. But more than that, it’s the exclusion of the experienced Mithali Raj from the playing XI in the semis that has critics come out with all guns blazing against Harmanpreet Kaur and her women.
Mithali Raj highest run-getter in T20Is
As on November 24, 2018, Mithali Raj is the highest run-getter in T20Is across men and women’s cricket. And even then, the team management did not found it good enough to include her in the playing XI in the semis. It’s not that her form was a concern. She cracked two fifties in two innings in the tournament. But even then she was benched in the all-important clash against England in World T20.
Mithali’s experience would have added depth to the Indian batting attack and propped up the middle-order which flopped miserably in the semis against England. Losing 8 wickets for 23 runs exposed the middle-order frailty in the absence of Mithali Raj. Her absence hurt India the most in the semis as a total of 140 would have been extremely competitive.
So, what led to Mithali Raj’s exclusion from the semis?
The team management defended Mithali’s exclusion, stating the team went with the winning combination that won the clash against Australia. But to leave out an experienced batswoman in Mithai, who had been Indian skipper before and led India to cricketing glories, defies logic. And hence, critics have torn apart India’s women and the team management for their poor judgment and team selection.
Nothing but politics?
However, certain section has attributed Mithali’s exclusion to nothing but politics in India’s women cricket. It’s reported that current Indian T20I captain Harmanpreet Kaur does not gel well with former skipper Mithali Raj and desperately kept her out of the playing XI. Post the loss in the semis, Harmanpreet went on to say that she has no regret in benching Mithali from the semis.
However, Mithali’s former manager Annisha Gupta called Harmanpreet a “manipulative, lying, immature, undeserving captain”. She went on to add that women’s team believed in “politics not sport”.
MS Dhoni benched?
Imagine a situation when Virat Kohli benches MS Dhoni in the 2019 World Cup semis. Not in their wildest dream, Kohli or coach Ravi Shastri would lose the vast experience of the former Indian skipper in a crucial encounter such as World Cup knockouts.
Exclusion defies logic
Irrespective of whether India’s women had won the semis against England or not, the exclusion of Mithali from the playing XI in World T20 knockouts when she is good form, goes more than cricketing strategy and signify a deep root problem in India’s women cricket.
The way ahead
Women’s cricket in India had made much progress in the past couple of seasons, but it has to rise against petty politics to draw fans’ support and give a competition to the popular men’s cricket in the cricket-crazy nation.