Women’s World T20: India dropping Mithali Raj – a bold move or bad decision?
Mithali Raj scored fifties in back-to-back league games of the Women's World T20. (Image: ICC)

India Women left out Mithali Raj, their all-time leading run-getter in T20Is, for their ICC Women’s World Twenty20 semi-final against England Women in Antigua on Friday – a decision that has raised eyebrows as the team was beaten by eight wickets  to crash out of the tournament following five unbeaten matches in a row before today.

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Mithali, the veteran of 85 ODIs which fetched her 2283 runs at 37.42 with 17 fifties, scored 56 and 51 in India’s wins over Pakistan Women and Ireland Women before she was rested for the last league match against Australia Women, which India won by 48 runs to top their group. Those were her only two innings in the three games she got, so it was widely surmised that the team management, under coach Ramesh Powar, had taken the decision to rest the 35-year-old for the semi-final.

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However, at the toss on Friday, when India captain Harmanpreet Kaur read out the team sheet, Mithali’s name was missing. India had decided to retain the same XI which defeated Australia in Guyana five days earlier.

“It’s not about not selecting Mithali, it’s about keeping a winning combination,” said Harmanpreet at the toss.

On the day, India were bowled out for 112 in 19.3 overs to exit the World T20 with an eight-wicket loss to England. The top four got into double-figures but the best score was Smriti Mandhana’s 34 before India surrendered their last eight wickets for 23 runs in a stunning collapse. Taniya Bhatia (11), Mandhana (34), Jemimah Rodrigues (26) and Harmanpreet (16) got starts but could not capitalise, and then the innings gave way in a series of single-digit scores.

Sanjay Manjrekar identified the decision to keep out Mithali as a big factor in India’s defeat.

Former India Women’s pace bowler turned media expert Snehal Pradhan believed it was the right call to drop Mithali was a “bold” move by Powar.

 

Here’s what Twitter was buzzing about regarding Mithali’s absence from India’s XI:

If India can go in without Mithali Raj, this must be twice as good a batting side as any in the world!!! What is the story there?

— Harsha Bhogle (@bhogleharsha) November 23, 2018