Sri Lanka haven’t played international cricket since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic in March 2020
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
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.”
Track and field action from Diyagama
The Track and Field season commenced with some of the best athletes in the senior and Under 20 age categories producing notable performances during the two-day Junior and Senior Selection Trial concluded at Diyagama on Tuesday. Here are some action pictures from the day two of the event.
(Pix by Kamal Wanniarachchi)
Dharshana’s false start dampen an otherwise remarkable day
by Reemus Fernando
Sprinter Aruna Dharshana gave athletics fans both joy and heartache on an otherwise remarkable day as the Junior and Senior Track and Field trials concluded with a number of athletes achieving their personal bests at Diyagama yesterday.
Athletics analysts were waiting for Dharshana to reach his personal best in the men’s 400 metres final after the Army athlete produced the best performance in the heats where as many as five athletes clocked sub 47 seconds. When Dharshana followed up his 200 metres winning time of 21.12 seconds with a feat of 46.43 seconds in the 400 metres many expected him to produce a sub 46 seconds performance in the final.
But the shocking foul start meant that he will have to wait for more than a month to test his true potential. Incidentally, Kalinga Kumarage, who was off-colour in the heats (47.51 secs – second in heat 3) won the final with a feat of 46.27 seconds. However, 100 metres sprinter Medhani Jayamanne who was disqualified for a foul start in the women’s 100 metres heats was not so unlucky, as athletics officials gave her an opportunity to compete in the women’s 100 metres final, though her place was (2nd) not recognised. She clocked 12.16 seconds in the final.
In Dharshana’s absence four others, namely, Kumarage, R.N. Rajakaruna, Dinuka Deshan and Pabasara Niku clocked sub 47 seconds.
In the corresponding women’s 400 metres, schoolgirl Tharushi Karunaratne continued to shock her senior counterparts. Having won the women’s 800 metres on day one, the Ratnayake Central prodigy also bagged the 400 metres victory as she clocked 53.41 seconds to beat Asian Championship participant Nadeesha Ramanayake.
In the men’s 100 metres Chamod Yodasinghe reached his personal best as he clocked 10.37 seconds to win the final.
In the women’s 100 metres final, Rumeshika Ratnayake clocked 12.01 seconds to win running against the wind (-2.9). In the heats, she clocked sub 12 seconds.
In the morning, Gayanthika Abeyratne finished the women’s 1500 metres just three seconds shy of her national record mark as she clocked 4:12.53 seconds to win closely followed by steeplechase national record holder Nilani Ratnayake. Abeyratne’s national record established last year stands at 4:09.12 seconds.
In the Under 20 age category events Malith Yasiru produced the second-best performance of the Asian region in the Under 20 boys’ triple jump this year when he cleared a distance of 15.43 metres to win the event.
Sri Lankan sailing teams compete in Pakistan
The Sri Lankan national team of two sailors and one windsurfer, with the Navy team of a sailor and a windsurfer, were invited to participate at the first Chief of Navy Staff International Sailing Regatta 2023 held from March 14 to 20 in Karachi, Pakistan. Twelve countries including Australia, Bahrain, Croatia, Egypt, China, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, Oman, Singapore, Thailand and Turkey had sent their teams to Karachi. The Sri Lankan national team consisted of Laser Standard sailor (ILCA 7) NGMU Ghanawardene, Sri Lanka Navy, Priyantha Gunawardene, Sri Lanka Navy participating in the Windsurfing RSX Class and Laser 4.7 (ILCA 4) sailor Tharen Nanayakkara. The Navy team consisted of Laser Standard sailor (ILCA 7) JMPL Jayasuriya, Sri Lanka Navy and WAS Weeratunge, Sri Lanka Navy participating in the Windsurfing RSX Class.
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