Diana Edulji, one of the members of the Committee of Administrators (CoA) overseeing affairs at the Board of Control for Cricket in India, has confirmed that Mithali Raj, Jhulan Goswami and Harmanpreet Kaur had a meeting in Mumbai with the BCCI Women’s Committee recently, where they made the pitch for a male coach for the India Women team.
As a result, despite the Women’s World Cup in England and Wales being just over two months away, the CoA approved the removal of Purnima Rau, one of India’s most successful women’s team coaches, and replaced her with Tushar Arothe, the former Baroda batsman.
The COA also terminated the services of Sunita Sharma, the manager, but was happy to extend the contracts of the physiotherapist, trainer and other support staffers as the players were comfortable working with them.
“There was a meeting between BCCI’s women’s cricket committee and three senior players – Mithali, Jhulan, Harmanpreet. They met the concerned person and asked for a change because they were not happy. They asked for a male coach. That is the reason why the change took place,” Edulji told Wisden India over telephone on Friday (April 21). “Tushar has already been with the team in 2009 when we went to England for the Twenty20 World Cup. He was the assistant coach then, and he has done a good job with Baroda women’s team. The matter was put up in front of COA and we approved it.”
“The moment she (Edulji) became a part of the Committee of Administrators, I knew she will have a personal axe to grind. But I also thought she would have matured. Right from my playing days, I was the only one who used to stand up to what she used to do. She has ruined the career of many players in Railways. I could not take it. I left Railways because of that. I thought she has matured, sitting on the top post she will use her power. But not to destroy the country’s chances in the World Cup two months prior to it.” – Rau
Rau, under whose guidance India won eight series, including a bilateral Twenty20 International series in Australia, the T20 Asia Cup and the World Cup Qualifiers, has accused Edulji for “axing a personal grind”.
“The moment she (Edulji) became a part of the Committee of Administrators, I knew she will have a personal axe to grind. But I also thought she would have matured,” Rau told Wisden India. “Right from my playing days, I was the only one who used to stand up to what she used to do. She has ruined the career of many players in Railways. I could not take it. I left Railways because of that. People who said yes to her, people who matched up to her (got in her good books). I thought she has matured, sitting on the top post she will use her power. But not to destroy the country’s chances in the World Cup two months prior to it.”
Rau, who got to know about her axing from the media, said that Edulji hadn’t spoken to her since becoming a COA member, and she felt the end was on the cards. “I haven’t spoken to her. I just called her up and thanked her for the one-time benefit. She never interacted with me when I was a coach. I knew this was coming, this was on the cards,” said Rau. “They did not have the decency to find out what problems or what solutions I would have. When they are removing, they obviously did not have the face to contact me and tell me that. The least I expect is that from whoever has taken the decision.”
Edulji said that there was no question of any personal issues being settled with the decision.
“Why should I have a personal problem with her? I have nothing to do with the decision. This decision was taken by BCCI and put up to us for approval. We approved. We even changed the manager, but we have not changed the physiotherapist, the trainer because the girls were happy with them. We wanted the girls to be happy, and they wanted a little bit more freedom. They wanted new thoughts. Otherwise we could have done a lot of changes. It’s not that,” said Edulji.
“Why now? When I was appointed COA member, you read her (Rau’s) article. She said the best thing to happen for women’s cricket is Diana Edulji being an administrator. She will do wonders to women’s cricket. Now because she is dropped, Diana is this, Diana is that, Diana has gone personal. Where is the sense of (being) personal? It’s not there. All these girls getting one-time benefit and all that, it is because the COA is so broadminded. They want the girls to get the benefits. That’s the reason. There is nothing personal in this.”
Rau, a former India captain like Edulji, was first appointed as India’s coach for the home series against Sri Lanka in 2014. Sudha Shah replaced her after the loss in the World T20 in Bangladesh that year. But she was brought back after India lost to England Women (away) and South Africa Women (home) in the Women’s Championship. Even though India lost championship points against New Zealand Women at home, they won the ODI series and it heralded a new beginning for the team.
India won the T20I series in Australia – their first-ever bilateral series win down under, and whitewashed Sri Lanka at home across ODIs and T20Is. It made them one of the favourites for the 2016 Women’s World T20 at home. But lack of match awareness and the pressure of expectation meant that India lost close games to England, Pakistan Women and West Indies Women and failed to qualify for the semifinals.
It was before the World T20 that Kaur had first voiced the need for a male coach in order to match up to other teams. Not long after that Raj, the captain across formats then, had told Wisden India why the team needs a male coach.
Rau, however, regained her credentials with a series win over West Indies at home. It put India in a strong position to make it to the World Cup without having to play the Qualifiers. But India had to forfeit three games against Pakistan Women because of political reasons. In the qualifiers, India were the only unbeaten team as Harmanpreet hit eight off the last two balls in the final against South Africa Women to take the team to a one-wicket win.
India now have an unbeaten ODI winning streak of 13, joint-second along with England and behind Australia’s 17. In other words, no other team has been this consistent in the last 17 years.
Rau, who said that she had decided to quit anyway after the World Cup, which starts on June 24, said that she had been aware of the three seniors in the team asking for a male coach. She, however, questioned the timing of her sacking as India’s tour South Africa for a quadrangular series – also involving Zimbabwe and Ireland – starts on May 7 before the World Cup.
“When the players themselves don’t want someone, isn’t it important to go into a World Cup with a free mind? Three of them came to Mumbai and said they want a change in coach. They are not happy with the coaching, and they wanted a male coach. If the players are happy then they will perform better.” – Edulji
“Forget Purnima, you should not remove a winning combination so close to the World Cup. My juniors have performed, my spinners have performed, my pacers have performed, my senior players have done well. You have got eight series victories in two years,” said Rau. “This is the second time they have done this to me. Last time after Bangladesh they replaced me with Sudha Shah. When the team loses they bring me back, and when the team wins they throw me out. I don’t understand this.
“Even if the three senior players have asked for male coach – they have always wanted since 2013 – but this is not the time to do it when the team has shaped up so well. Obviously, they would want a male coach because they want to have their own way, their idiosyncrasy going in the team. A male coach will be quiet for a lot of things. The senior players will always play up to this, but for her (Edulji) to take it from there and take a decision like this, I don’t think it’s right. It’s quite immature.
“I was unaware (of any dressing room politics),” she went on. “I was more focussed on my game and strategy. I was blissfully unaware of what politics was going on, and I am still blissfully unaware. I knew Diana will be after me, that part I knew.”
Edulji, however, felt that timing of the change was perfect, as it would free up the players. “When the players themselves don’t want someone, isn’t it important to go into a World Cup with a free mind? As I told you, the three senior most players of the team – one is a 50-over captain and the other is a T20 captain and the other is senior most Jhulan Goswami. Three of them came to Mumbai and said they want a change in coach. They are not happy with the coaching, and they wanted a male coach. If the players are happy then they will perform better,” she said.
Meanwhile, Arothe, who had been associated with India Women between 2008 to 2012 as fielding coach, trainer and head coach for a while, will join the team at the training camp in Mumbai on Saturday.
“Few days back I got a call from BCCI, and they asked me if I was interested or not,” said Arothe, who played 114 first-class games till 2002-03. “Obviously to such an offer no one is going to say no. It is obviously (a big thing in my career). Representing India is always great, and especially to be a part of the ICC World Cup is challenging as well as exciting. Contract is for the two series, then let’s see how it goes from there. I have worked with Harman, Jhulan, Mithali in the past as well. I have no problem at all. I enjoy working with them, and they enjoy working with me too.”
Arothe said that his priority would be to help the team improve their game in the death overs. “South African wickets are bouncier. We people are not used to playing horizontal shots. Our players are used to more front foot play. So, we need to develop those kind of shots,” he said. “Fielding needs to improve. Death over bowling and batting needs to improve. Lets see how it goes.”