It is a rare thing in sport that the bitter fallout from a disappointing major tournament performance becomes so public, so soon.
But less than a week after India’s dismal defeat by England in the Women’s World T20 semi-final, a massive row erupted between coach Ramesh Powar and veteran star Mithali Raj, who was dropped for the game, played out in a series of leaked emails in the Indian media.
But those answers have been explosive – Powar sending a 10-page report claiming Raj had not played for the team but rather chased her “own milestones” and Raj saying the coach had refused to talk to her and alienated her from the squad.
Here, we break down the claim and counter-claim.
9 November – India v New Zealand
India begin their tournament in phenomenal style – setting the highest score by any team at an ICC Women’s World T20 of 194-5.
Captain Harmanpreet Kaur scores a century.
But Raj does not get a chance to bat.
Rather than open, she has been put down the order at eight.
In his email review, which has been seen by AFP, coach Ramesh Powar says he took this decision after observing Raj’s “lack of intent to score quickly” in practice games before the tournament.
Raj’s spot was taken by Taniya Bhatia, “who always showed intent every time she batted. It’s not always about individual milestones, it’s always about team strategies and executions”.
For her part, Raj said she accepted a place in the middle order without question, despite not having played there for a long time.
“I agreed for the greater cause of the team. For me team comes ahead of anything,” she wrote.
10 November – Blackmail threat?
With a fine win under their belt, India’s women now face their bitter rivals Pakistan.
Win this and things would look very good indeed in their group.
According to Powar, however, this is when Raj issues an ultimatum – play her as opener, or she quits Cricket altogether.
“Mithali is upset about not changing the batting order,” he would later write.
“She has packed her bags to leave with announcement of retirement in the morning.”
He added that hearing the news left him “shellshocked.”
“The team had just beaten one of the top teams (New Zealand) and Mithali Raj, a legend, is still complaining about her batting position (which she agreed upon) and threatening to leave.”
Raj has described Powar’s attitude towards her from the beginning of the tournament as “unfair and discriminatory.”
She adds that she feels ignored at the team meetings.
“To him I didn’t exist in the team. If I was around he would immediately move away from the scene,” she added.
11 November – India v Pakistan
Whatever the reason for it, when the team is named for the Pakistan game, Raj is now the opener.
Powar says it is because he had to concede to her demands, “due to pressure from a travelling selector and Mithali’s threatening behaviour (retirement) to go back home if not given a chance to open the innings”.
Pakistan bat first and set India a target of 134.
Raj leads the reply, scoring 56 in 47 balls – with 17 dots balls.
It is a score that plays a strong part in getting India over the line, and Raj is named player of the match.
Her strike rate of 119 is higher than any of her team-mates barring Veda Krishnamurthy, who only faced five balls.
Nevertheless, Powar feels the dot balls back up his contention that Raj scores too slowly as an opener and is fearful that it led to a slow run rate – something that could cost India later on – a “lack of keeping the momentum going which was putting extra pressure on other batters”.
And Raj’s run rate is well below the 202 that Kaur scored her century at in the opening game.
After the match, Raj retweets a number of messages praising her individual performance, including one calling for her to open the batting.
15 November – India v Ireland
Still concerned about the potential problems posed by a slow run-rate, Powar tells Raj the game against Ireland is “one more opportunity” to prove she can execute the team strategies as an opener.
Powar wants India to “bat with intent (dominance).”
But history very much repeats itself.
Again India win; again Raj scores a 50; again she is named player of the match – and again her run-rate is slow.
This time her strike-rate dips below 100, while all her team-mates (aside from Dayalan Hemalatha, who only faces five balls) have much higher.
Her 50 includes 25 dot balls.
After the game, Powar blames Raj’s batting for adding extra pressure and costing the wickets of two of her team-mates who were forced to add more runs.
However, Raj has injured her knee in the game and will not be fit to play the final group game against Australia anyway.
The crunch, top-of-the-group clash against the team who will go on to win the tournament is won by India.
Taniya Bhatia replaces Raj at the top of the order, but has a poor game, only scoring 2.
It means India will play England – the team who beat them in the 50-over World Cup final last year – in the semis.
The result also means India top their group with four wins from four.
In his report, Powar claims Raj had “not a single word of appreciation” for the team after this feat.
21 November – The big call
Raj’s knee is healed in time for the semi-final and she seeks to take her place back at the top of the order.
Instead, she is not even back in the side.
On the eve of the match, Powar discusses his decision with her.
He claims that Raj questioned his strategy to dominate the game.
Instead, Bhatia will keep her place as opening bat.
Raj is upset – but Powar is backed by T20 team captain Harmanpreet Kaur.
Raj – who is Kaur’s captain in the 50-over format – said that she found Kaur’s decision to support Powar “baffling and hurtful.”
22 November – India v England
India’s semi-final at the Sir Viv Richards stadium in Antigua does not go well.
Their plan to dominate falls apart spectacularly.
Bhatia scores just 11 off 19 balls. Her partner Smriti Mandhana makes 34, but from 89-2 India fall to 112 all out.
England win the match with three overs to spare and for the loss of only two wickets.
Speaking immediately after the game, Kaur says she has “no regrets” over dropping Raj.
“Whatever we had decided, we decided for the team. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.”
But the reaction in India is scathing. Although the team was not necessarily expected to win handsomely, the total collapse leads to much analysis of what went wrong.
“She was injured for one game but fit for the next game. Just convert this situation into the men’s game. If you had a Virat Kohli who was injured for one game and is then fit for the knockout, will you leave him out?”
Raj says she “wanted to win the World Cup for my country and it hurts me because we lost a golden opportunity”.
26 November – Report
They ask those involved to email them their thoughts.
27 November – Raj has her say
After nearly a week of recriminations – nearly all centred on Raj’s surprise omission – the batter has her say in an email to Johri and Karim.
“A few people in power are out to destroy me,” she says.
She particularly identifies former player Diana Edulji – a member of the BCCI’s Committee of Administrators – as having undermined her, by supporting her exclusion in the media.
“Her brazen support in the press with regard to the decision of my benching in the semi-final of the T20 World Cup has left me deeply distressed, more because she knows the real facts having spoken to me.”
It is in this email that Raj outlines how she felt undermined by Powar: “It was embarrassing and very evident to everyone that I was being humiliated. Yet I never lost my cool.”
Raj adds she felt “deflated, depressed and let down. I am forced to think if my services to my country are of any value”.
28 November – Powar hits back
Powar sends in his version of events in the form of a 10-page report.
This is where he talks about Raj “blackmailing and pressurising” him over her place and claims she had attitude problems towards practice sessions.
He also says her threat to leave after being dropped proved an unnecessary distraction on the eve of the semi-final against England.
29 November – Raj returns
On Twitter, Raj describes reading Powar’s verdict as “the darkest day of my life”.
The BCCI will now await the final report from Johri and Karim.
Powar’s contract with the women’s Cricket team ends on 30 November.
Raj, for now, will be a Test and one-day batter.
The final report promises vindication for someone – but who?