Chamari Athapaththu believes the postponement of global Qualifier to decide the last three spots at the 2022 Women’s World Cup from it’s June-July window to December is a “good object”. Just for context, Sri Lanka haven’t had any form of international cricket for over a year now because of the pandemic.
“Things have been uncertain on account of the Covid-19 pandemic and I used to be a bit worried that whether the event went ahead as scheduled, we would have been under-prepared,” Athapaththu told ESPNcricinfo. “I’m hoping that leading up to December we get some a couple of more series with the exception of the one at against Pakistan that our board is attempting to organise.”
ESPNcricinfo understands that talks between SLC and PCB approximately Pakistan potentially touring Sri Lanka for limited-overs matches before the Qualifiers are only at a preliminary stage currently. Will have to they come to fruition, the series might be held only after May.
Both teams, together with West Indies, are a few of the sides a part of the 2017/18-2021 Women’s ODI Championship that will vie for the three qualifying berths for the World Cup to be held in New Zealand from March 4 to April 3.
“Getting some match practice regularly is going to be very important for us before the Qualifiers,” Athapaththu said. “Thailand’s debut in T20 World Cup final year used to be proof of the type of challenge teams out of doors of the top-ranked nations can present on the world stage. We cannot find the money for to take anyone lightly because it’s qualification to a World Cup that’s at stake.
“Whether there are longs gaps [for teams] without any cricket for say a year or a year-and-a half, even the most productive look extraordinary. I followed the recent series between India and South Africa. India are a top side, but they hadn’t played for a year, so they couldn’t play polite. Then again, because South Africa had played some games before coming to India, they looked far better even in the absence of a few of their senior players.”
Among a raft of world tournaments that the ICC has postponed because of the pandemic is the inaugural Under-19 Women’s World Cup. Originally scheduled for this year in Bangladesh, the tournament has been pushed back until January 2023. In Athapaththu’s assessment, the postponement will rob several deserving young players of the possibility to play on the earth tournament.
“We have a good bunch of Under-19 girls,” Athapaththu said. “The school cricket tournaments were on during the last few weeks and I think a couple of girls were on the radar so far as making the potential squad for U-19 World Cup used to be concerned. But, unfortunately, most of them will no longer be capable to take part in it because a hole of two years is a sizeable one.
“Age-group tournaments come with age-related restrictions, so not having the tournament this year is a very disappointing object for those young Sri Lankan girls and for me as an international cricketer. I feel poor for them because our qualifiers have also been postponed, but we will be able to still get a chance [to compete in that tournament], but such a lot of of these girls would possibly not. We can now have to look for pretty much a fresh bunch of girls to field in the 2023 edition.”
Athapaththu used to be the leading run-getter at the Women’s T20 Challenge in UAE BCCI
Athapaththu hits form in domestic competition
Since the T20 World Cup final year, where Sri Lanka won only one of their four league games, Athapaththu’s only form of top-flight cricket has been BCCI’s Women’s T20 Challenge in November in UAE, where she used to be the leading run-scorer.
On the domestic front, she used to be a part of the recently concluded Women’s Division One Tournament, the 50-over eight-team competition. Athapaththu, who plays for Chilaw Marians Cricket Club, finished atop the tournament’s run-chart with a 429 tally in innings at an average of 61.29, striking at 120.51. The next-best strike rate, 69.49, belonged to Nilakshi de Silva, who took the second one place on this list, with 246 runs at an average of 49.2.
For the record, The Navy Sports Club, who were undefeated in the league stage, emerged champions after clinching a two-wicket victory over the Army A team in the last in Welisara on April 2.
Inoka Ranaweers, representing Navy, used to be the leading wicket-taker in the competition, with 25 wickets in seven innings, at an economy of just 2.27. Kavisha Dilhari, the 20-year-old offspin-bowling allrounder with 14 international caps to her name, finished in the top 10 of both charts.
“I am glad we were ready to host the women’s inter-club tournament because several of our national team players, seniors and youngsters alike, got a chance to shake off a bit of the rust,” Athapaththu said. “It also allowed many people to evaluate how we are doing individually because we have been mostly training individually in our hometowns on account of the pandemic, though we have had a few national camps since September final year. The Covid situation has been an apparent a hindrance to hosting games in Sri Lanka but it is advisable to have got some competitive cricket this year.”
Even if there are substantial Covid-19 restrictions still imposed by the government, with over active 90000 cases, Sri Lanka has in large part have shyed away from the worst of the pandemic, and plenty of aspects of life have returned to normal. The island’s Covid-19 death toll is just under 600.
In the recent past, SLC hosted the Lanka Premier League and a men’s Test tour, and has a schedule lined up for the men’s national team over the next three months. Athapaththu, is currently training under her personal coach in Kurunegala, has used to be hopeful that the Division One tournament would the pave the way for more playing opportunities for Sri Lanka’s women’s cricketers, too.
“The inter-club tournament went polite and Kavisha and most of the other national team players expectedly did better than the others. Whether youngsters like her get more game time – on the domestic in addition to international level – that will be good for the health of women’s cricket in Sri Lanka. The SLC is attempting to organise practice matches against Under-17 boys, in order that, too, could also help us.”
Annesha Ghosh is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo. @ghosh_annesha