The drama surrounding the appointment of the India women's head coach came to a conclusion on Thursday after WV Raman was selected for the post by the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), ahead of the likes of Gary Kirsten and Venkatesh Prasad.
Former India opening batsman Raman had earlier been included in a shortlist by an ad-hoc committee panel comprising Kapil Dev, Anshuman Gaekwad and Shanta Rangaswamy, with the list also including Kirsten and Prasad. While former men's coach Kirsten, under whom India won the 2011 World Cup on home soil, was considered a front-runner for the role, he eventually decided not to let go of his job at the Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB), leading to Raman being appointed as Ramesh Powar's successor.
There has been a plenty of controversy surrounding the India women's cricket team after the conclusion of the World T20 earlier in November, in which they bowed out after an eight-wicket thrashing at the hands of England in the semi-final at Antigua. Veteran batswoman Mithali Raj blasted coach Powar after returning to India, accusing him of ill-treatment and discrimination. She also accused CoA member Diana Edulji of using her position to treat her badly.
More drama followed after Powar broke his silence, describing Mithali as someone who was prone to tantrums and accused her of selfish behaviour. Former India spinner Powar got the support of women's T20I captain Harmanpreet Kaur and senior batswoman Smriti Mandhana, while Mithali got the backing of some of the other members of the team such as Ekta Bisht and Mansi Joshi, leaving the Indian team split over the issue.
While Powar re-applied for the post after his contract wasn't automatically renewed by the BCCI, his name didn't make it to the shortlist that was then forwarded to the BCCI for the final call.
Here we take a look at the timeline of events starting from Powar's appointment earlier this year:
Ramesh Powar gets the job
Things weren't well in India women's cricket team after their defeat at the hands of Bangladesh twice in the Asia Cup, the second occasion being the final, and tensions between then-coach Tushar Arothe and a few senior players began to emerge. As was the case in Anil Kumble's ouster, it was the coach who had to bite the bullet, and Arothe was shown the door.
Powar was then appointed as Arothe's successor on 14 August, ahead of the likes of Sunil Joshi and Ajay Ratra, although his was a temporary contract that lasted only till the end of the World T20.
Semi-final finish in World T20
Powar's regime saw the Indian side become more attacking in approach. His tenure co-incided with the rise of Mumbai prodigy Jemimah Rodrigues, who got a longer rope during this period and managed to seal the No 3 spot in the T20I side. India won the three-match ODI series against Sri Lanka (part of the ICC Women’s Championship) 2-1, before romping to a 4-0 series victory in the T20Is in September.
The team landed in November in the Caribbean for the World T20, an event in which they had reached the semis only once. Harmanpreet and Co were undefeated throughout the tournament until their loss to England in the last four stage. They pulled off impressive victories over New Zealand, Pakistan, Ireland as well as eventual winners Australia along the way.
Mithali's fiery letter to BCCI
Mithali had suffered an injury while fielding during the league stage match against Ireland, and had to sit out during the team’s victory over Australia. However, Harmanpreet raised many eyebrows when she announced an unchanged team for the semi-final against England, a decision that created a buzz among fans and pundits alike.
Mithali later revealed that she had been informed of being left out of the semi-final just moments before the toss, despite being declared match-fit. She made the revelation in a fiery letter to the BCCI on 27 November that would spark off a war between her and Powar.
Mithali went on to add that she was humiliated by Powar throughout the World T20 campaign, and discriminated against her. She also accused of Edulji using her position against her. However, the ODI captain added that she had no qualms against her T20I counterpart Harmanpreet.
"I was saddened by her attitude and it gave me an impression that Mithali Raj comes first and then India. She threw a lot of tantrums and created a lot of chaos," is what Powar wrote to the BCCI in response, two days after Mithali's letter, with the coach deciding to break his silence on the matter.
Powar added that Mithali had threatened to announce her retirement midway if her demand for opening the innings was not fulfilled, and described her as someone who put her interests above those of the team's.
Mithali further responded to Powar's claims, expressing disappointment at her "patriotism being doubted", and described the incident as the "darkest day of her life".
Powar out, Raman in
Amidst the raging controversy that left a bad taste in the mouth for the followers of Indian cricket, the BCCI decided to invite applications on 30 November for the position of the head coach of the women's team, effectively ruling out the possibility of renewing Powar's contract despite Harmanpreet and Mandhana's support.
The appointment of the women's coach also saw the divide between Edulji and COA chief Vinod Rai. While Edulji was reported to have requested the extension of Powar's tenure as coach, her request was overruled by Rai.
While the entry of former men's coach Kirsten in the race for the post certainly made headlines, and made him the instant favourite for the job, he was termed 'ineligible' due to his position as the head coach of the Royal Challengers Bangalore in the Indian Premier League. His refusal to let go of that plush job resulted in Raman eventually getting the job.