The Indian women team's decision to drop their senior-most player Mithali Raj for their semi-final against England on Thursday - a match they lost - has sparked a controversy with Raj's manager publicly criticising captain Harmanpreet Kaur on various fronts on Twitter. Raj's manager, Annisha Gupta, called Harmanpreet a "manipulative, lying, immature, undeserving captain" and also said the women's team believed in "politics not sport".
"Unfortunately @BCCIWomen believes in politics not sport. After witnessing what @M_Raj03 's experience could do in IndvIre it's shocking that they went with what pleases @ImHarmanpreet -a manipulative, lying, immature, undeserving captain," Gupta's tweet read, soon after India were knocked out of the Women's World T20.
In another tweet, she called Harmanpreet a "manipulative, lying, cheat".
On Friday evening, Gupta confirmed to ESPNcricinfo that the unverified Twitter account belonged to her and defended her statements, saying that the harsh criticism came "from the right place". However, her account was deleted a couple of hours after she confirmed that the tweets were by her.*
"I'd like to say that I don't know what is going on on the inside but, now that the matches are being telecast, we can see who is performing and who is not," Gupta told ESPNcricinfo. "And we can see the kind of treatment that Mithali has received despite her brilliant performance and despite showing stability and consistency. The kind of treatment she has received is completely uncalled for and there is something deeper than we need to look at than just the statements that have been coming out.
"There are statements coming out that they wanted to give younger cricketers a chance but you don't drop your senior-most, most experienced players in a semi-final against a country like England. It goes beyond giving the youngsters a chance."
When asked if she regretted what she wrote earlier on Twitter, Gupta said: "Maybe I was a little angry but I think it comes from the right place because I don't stand for unfair treatment. The kind of favouritism that has been shown is very apparent. I think everybody can see the kind of favouritism that is being shown to certain members of the team."
India decided to not include Raj in the semi-final of the World T20 even though she had recovered after missing their last league game against Australia because of a knee injury. Before that, Raj had scored back-to-back half-centuries against Ireland and Pakistan in India's then unbeaten run in the tournament. But against England, India collapsed from 89 for 2 to 112 all out, without their leading T20I scorer and most experienced player.
"We were going with a winning combination," Harmanpreet said after the loss. "We did really well against Australia. And that is the reason we just wanted to go with the same combination."
Raj has been an integral part of the Indian set-up for several years and even scored an unbeaten century - 105 off 61 balls - in a T20 against Australia A at home just before departing for the World T20. Overall, she also has the best average among Indians in women's T20Is, and has scored 17 half-centuries in 80 innings. The next best is Harmanpreet with six half-centuries and a century in 82 innings. However, Raj is often criticised for her slow batting in the T20 format. Having played 22 of India's 25 T20Is this year, Raj's strike rate stands at 105.89, behind seven of her team-mates.
Harmanpreet had been appointed captain of the India T20 team two years ago and there have been reports of a tiff between her and Raj, the oldest player in the team, in the Indian dressing room. During a T20I tri-series in Mumbai earlier this year involving England and Australia, Harmanpreet had even urged the team management to find more players who could run around the field the whole day and not just stand in the 30-yard circle.
*1645GMT: The story was updated after her account was deleted