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Sri Lanka haven’t played international cricket since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic in March 2020

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Chamari Athapaththu: ‘Want more match time ahead of Women’s World Cup Qualifier’

Sri Lanka Women captain Chamari Athapaththu believes the postponement of the global Qualifier to determine the final three spots at the 2022 Women’s ODI World Cup from its June-July window to December is a “good thing”. Just for context, Sri Lanka, hosts of the qualifying event, haven’t had any form of international cricket for over a year now.

“To get an additional four-five months for our preparation is a good thing because we haven’t played any international cricket in over 13 months,” Athapaththu told ESPNcricinfo. “Things have been uncertain because of the Covid-19 pandemic and I was a bit worried that if the event went ahead as scheduled, we would have been underprepared. I hope that leading up to December we get a few more series apart from the one against Pakistan that our board is trying to organise.”

ESPNcricinfo understands that talks between SLC and the PCB about Pakistan potentially touring Sri Lanka for limited-overs matches before the Qualifier are only at a preliminary stage. Should they come to fruition, the series might be held only after May.

Both teams, along with West Indies, are among the sides part of the 2017/18-2021 Women’s ODI Championship who 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 on a regular basis is going to be very important for us before the Qualifiers,” Athapaththu said. “Thailand’s debut in the T20 World Cup last year was proof of the kind of challenge teams outside of the top-ranked nations can present on the world stage. We cannot afford to take anyone lightly because it’s qualification to a World Cup that’s at stake.

“If there are long gaps [for teams] without any cricket for say a year or a year-and-a half, even the best look ordinary. 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 well. On the other hand, because South Africa had played some games before coming to India, they looked far better even in the absence of some of their senior players.”

Among a raft of world tournaments that the ICC has postponed due to the pandemic is the inaugural Under-19 Women’s World Cup. Originally scheduled for this year in Bangladesh, the tournament has been pushed back to January 2023. In Athapaththu’s assessment, the postponement will rob several deserving young players of the opportunity to play in the world tournament.

“We have a good bunch of Under-19 girls,” Athapaththu said. “The school cricket tournaments were on over the past few weeks and I think a few girls were on the radar as far as making the potential squad for the Under-19 World Cup was concerned. But, unfortunately, most of them will no longer be able to take part in it because a gap 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 thing for those young Sri Lankan girls and for me as an international cricketer. I feel bad for them because our qualifiers have also been postponed, but we will still get a chance [to compete in that tournament], but so many of these girls won’t. We will now have to look for pretty much a fresh bunch of girls to field in the 2023 edition.”

 

Athapaththu hits form in domestic

competition

Since the T20 World Cup last year, where Sri Lanka won only one of their four league games, the only opportunity Athapaththu has had to play any form of top-flight cricket was in the BCCI’s Women’s T20 Challenge in November in the UAE, where she was the leading run-scorer.

On the domestic front, she was part of the recently concluded Women’s Division One Tournament, the eight-team 50-over competition. Athapaththu, who plays for the Chilaw Marians Cricket Club, finished atop the tournament’s run charts with a 429-run tally in seven 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 place on this list with 246 runs at an average of 49.20.

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 final in Welisara on April 2.

Inoka Ranaweera, representing Navy, was 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 on both charts.

“I am glad we were able 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 of us to assess how we are doing individually because we have been mostly training individually in our hometowns because of the pandemic, though we have had a couple of national camps since September last year. The Covid situation has been an obvious a hindrance to hosting games in Sri Lanka but it’s good to have got some competitive cricket this year.”

Although there are substantial Covid-19 restrictions still imposed by the government, with over 90,000 active cases, Sri Lanka has largely avoided the worst of the pandemic, and many 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, who is currently training under her personal coach in Kurunegala, was hopeful that the Division One tournament would pave the way for more playing opportunities for Sri Lanka’s women’s cricketers, too.

“The inter-club tournament went well and Kavisha and many of the other national-team players expectedly did better than the others. If youngsters like her get more game time – on the domestic as well as international level – that will be good for the health of women’s cricket in Sri Lanka. SLC is trying to organise practice matches against Under-17 boys, so that, too, could help us.”



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Bangladesh ODI series crucial for Sri Lanka

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By Rex Clementine

Sri Lanka have arrived in Dhaka for a short three match ODI series that will get underway next week after the players complete mandatory quarantine. The series is important for both sides as the winners will gain significant progress in the ICC World Cup Super League, the event that will select the seven automatic qualifiers for the sport’s showpiece event in 2023.

Sri Lanka would be keen on a series win no doubt but more importantly, they would be looking to build the nucleus of their limited overs team after abject failures over the last three years. National selectors have made some tough calls lead up to the series axing as many as six senior players, including five former captains.

Top order batsman Kusal Perera has been named as captain and he spoke of the need to play without fear of losing. “We should not be afraid to lose and always look to win. I would tell the boys to be positive. This is a young team no doubt but at the same time, these guys have played lot of domestic cricket and I am sure they will be up to the task,” KJP told journalists.

Kusal Mendis has been named his deputy and he is the man tipped to take over the side in the long run across all three formats of the game. “I am very happy to being appointed vice-captain. I have played under KJP for the Kandy team in the LPL. He is a good leader. After being dropped from the side, I worked hard on my game and fitness. I think it was a good break that I got and I am looking forward for the series,” Mendis said before the team’s departure to Dhaka.

While Sri Lanka’s batting still has the fire power and experience, it is the bowling that has had little exposure in the international circuit. Particularly the focus will be on the seam bowling that is raw and Fast Bowling Coach Chaminda Vaas has a tough job at his hand.

Bangladesh will be at full strength with Shakib Al Hasan and Mustafizur Rahman expected to return. Both players missed the two match Test series at Pallekele due to their IPL commitments.

The series is vital for both sides. Sri Lanka are currently ranked 12th in ICC World Cup Super League with minus two points after being whitewashed 3-0 in the Caribbean. A 3-0 rout of Bangladesh will help them to move three places to number nine.

Bangladesh meanwhile are at number six in the table and a  series win will see them securing the top spot of the table above World Champions England.

The first ODI will be played on the 23rd of May in Dhaka.

Sri Lanka also have lot of white ball cricket over the next three months with the team set to tour UK in June followed by a series against India at home. Sri Lanka Cricket is negotiating with Cricket South Africa to play a postponed series soon after the Indian tour.

 

Fixtures 

 1st ODI: 23 May in Dhaka 

2nd ODI: 25 May in Dhaka 

3rd ODI: 28 May in Dhaka

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Scoops, ramps, paddle and reverse sweeps no good for ODIs  

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by Rex Clementine  

Anybody who attempts to scoop Kagiso Rabada’s first ball – a thunderbolt clocked at 150 kmph – over the wicketkeeper’s head must be out of his mind; unless he is Niroshan Dickwella. This was not on the slow surfaces of Dambulla or Suriyawewa, but at The Wanderers, a fast bowler’s paradise. Dickwella with his fearless approach and cheeky batting should be a must in the ODI team but in Sri Lanka he is a Test match specialist. His last ODI was more than two years ago – in March 2019.  

It was confirmed that Dickwella will be snubbed during the Bangladesh ODIs as well after captain Kusal Janith Perera admitted that he will keep wickets. But here’s are a few points for the selectors and Head Coach Mickey Arthur to ponder.  

Dickwella has cemented his place in the Test team and more recently has shown maturity as well. He’s been so good with the bat that in 2021, he’s the sixth highest run getter in the world in Tests. 

Not that Dickwella has suddenly transformed himself as a Test batsman. He has cut down a few high risk shots but still provides entertainment. Sri Lanka from a few shaky positions have gone onto consolidate thanks to Dickwella whose biggest strength is not being afraid to play shots. He is someone who is quickly able to put pressure back on the bowlers.  

When he is able to pull off such tricks in a format where there are few fielding restrictions, imagine what he is capable of doing when restrictions are on. To be fair, Dickwella’s best returns have come in ODI cricket as he has scored two hundreds and nine fifties in 49 innings at an average of 32 and strike rate of 93. Well, true, it’s nowhere near M.S. Dhoni class who averaged 50 in ODIs.  

Dickwella is pretty good with his glove work too. Is he the finish product yet? Of course not! Someone needs to sit down with Dickwella and have a long chat on a few things. Let’s start with reviews. The wicketkeeper’s input is so valuable in reviews and Dickwella misleads his captain. The expert opinion of Dickwella during reviews should be taken with a pinch of salt, very much like input of the nation’s intelligence chief during the Yahapalana regime. Both are flawed, highly.  

When England whitewashed Sri Lanka 3-0 in 2018, Dickwella’s reviews were outrageous. At occasions he had exhausted all reviews before the team’s best bowler – Rangana Herath had come onto the attack. Impulsive and immature, Dickwella has never learned and it has reached a point where the captain doesn’t trust him anymore. 

Still, he’s got to be part of the ODI side. He is fearless to the extent that he does some crazy stuff. Fools rush in where angels fear to tread they say. Dickwella is like the fool who is willing to go any distance just for the sake of winning.  

His infamous fight with Virat Kohli in Calcutta in 2017 surprisingly earned the Indian captain’s applause.  “I like to see that character. I liked that competitiveness on the field. He is a very feisty character and that works for his game. Credit for him for maintaining that and I am sure he will do many good things in Sri Lankan cricket,” Kohli said.  

In that same series, in Delhi, Sri Lanka were battling to save the Test match. Entering into the last hour, they had an outside chance to win – requiring 110 runs in 15 overs. Dickwella urged his partner Roshen Silva to have a crack but the senior opted to play it safe. 

Sri Lanka were 1-0 down in the series. Dickwella’s attitude was to square the series and in the process if the team ended up losing 2-0 tough luck. Here’s a guy who plays to win. You need chaps like that moving forward.   

KJP has already got too much on his plate. This is a young side. He has to lead from front and why take up the additional burden of keeping wickets too. Let him give it to the nation’s best wicketkeeper – Dickwella.  

We are yet to see Dickwella’s best – both cricket skills and madness. Sometimes madness is required to get under the skin of someone like Virat Kohli. Not often does the Indian captain get into an ugly altercation with an opponent and then praises him.  

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Dimuth, Mathews, Lakmal and others get pay cuts

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Several Sri Lankan cricketers have refused to sign central contracts after significant pay cuts.

Dickwella and DDS secure US$ 100,000 contracts  

by Rex Clementine

Former captains Angelo Mathews, Suranga Lakmal and Dinesh Chandimal along with current Test skipper Dimuth Karunaratne and a few regulars will not sign contracts offered by Sri Lanka Cricket after they were forced to undergo significant pay cuts, The Island learns.

The biggest gainers in the new contracts that will be announced shortly will be wicketkeeper Niroshan Dickwella and Dhananjaya de Silva, who will each earn US$ 100,000. In fact, they are the only two players in the top category.

Mathews will lose as much as US$ 50,000 after his retainer was cut from US$ 130,000 to US$ 80,000. He will turn 34 next month and with the selectors indicating that they intend to move on with a younger crop of players for limited over games, there will be little motivation for him to accept the contract especially with Sri Lanka set to play just two more Tests for this year.

Dimuth Karunarante, who has made rapid strides in Test match cricket this year, will also receive a pay cut of US$ 30,000. Following his stunning hundred at the Wanderers in January and after finishing the Bangladesh series with 427 runs in three innings, Karunaratne, would have at least expected to stay on par with his previous contract of US$ 100,000, but his pay has been brought down to 70,000.

Suranga Lakmal will also get a pay cut of US$ 45,000 having been demoted to the second category from the first tier where he earned US$ 100,000 the previous year.

Everything about the contracts are not gloomy though with someone like Pathum Nissanka, who made a stunning debut in the Caribbean two months ago receiving a retainer worth US$ 55,000.

Kasun Rajitha would consider himself that he has won a lottery with him finishing with US$ 50,000. The quick from Matara, who recently shifted clubs, represented Sri Lanka in just two games last year across all three formats but he ends up with a lucrative pay package. Dinesh Chandimal is in a lower category than Rajitha earning just 45,000 US$.

Danushka Gunatilleke probably gets the unkindest cut of all having been lowered to the last category where he will earn a mere US$ 30,000. The left-hander has emerged as the most consistent batsman in white ball cricket in recent times having had a good tour of West Indies.

 

 

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