Sri Lanka star Chamari Athapaththu is set for her maiden appearance in the Women’s Premier League (WPL) after being roped in by UP Warriorz as a replacement for Lauren Bell. The batting powerhouse will be sharing the dressing with the likes of Alyssa Healy, Deepti Sharma, Danielle Wyatt among others.
In 2023, Athapaththu was in top form in white-ball cricket for Sri Lanka that saw her win ICC ODI Cricketer of the Year award.
In T20Is, she was a force to reckon with having scored 470 runs in 16 matches, with a strike-rate of 130.91 while averaging 31.22. And with the ball, she scalped eight wickets at an economy of 5.97.
However, these numbers proved insufficient, at least in the eyes of the WPL franchises, to warrant a bid at the players auction held in December last year.
And for the second time in the history of WPL auction, Athapaththu, surprisingly, went unsold. However, that didn’t dent her confidence.
Replying to a CricketNext query at a select media interaction, the 33-year-old said she focuses on bettering her skillset rather than over-scrutinising what she cannot control.
“I wasn’t shocked, I was surprised because they (WPL franchises) didn’t pick me. But these things are not in my control. I think of what I can control because these decisions are taken by someone else – some coaches or some (team) management. I can’t control these things, but what I can control is my batting, my bowling. I just want to do what I can do. I take these decisions in good spirits and do my best,” Athapaththu said.
2024 turned her fortunes around
In January this year, nearly a month before the start of WPL 2024, England pacer Bell withdrew from the second season, prioritising national duty.
UP Warriorz wasted no time roping in Athapaththu as replacement.
Better late than never. Such has been the story of the ace Lankan batter who was waiting to showcase her prowess in WPL.
Athapaththu, the only Sri Lankan player in WPL, feels her participation will garner plenty of viewership from the island nation.
“A lot of Sri Lankans, especially spectators will definitely watch WPL because of me. Everyone’s waiting for my performance in WPL so I just want to play my natural game freely, I don’t want to take any pressure. I just want to do my best for the team, just one game at a time. I want to keep it simple every time in the middle,” stated Athapaththu.
‘Motivation in Rejection’
Athapaththu finds motivation in rejection and a pathway to showcase what she has got.
Going unsold in the WPL auction wasn’t the first instance that she was snubbed despite a stellar record.
Athapaththu was also overlooked ahead of the Australia’s Women’s Big Bash League last year only to be called as a replacement player later. She made quite a statement, hitting 552 runs at a strike-rate of 127.18 and also picking nine wickets at an economy of 6.83.
“Actually, rejection is some kind of motivation for me. It’s good for me because sometimes I can learn and I want to show what I can do,” Athapaththu said.
“If someone says it can’t be done, be the first to do it—that’s my philosophy. I just want to prove what I can do. I got the opportunity in the WBBL (at the) last minute as a replacement player. I grabbed that opportunity with both hands,” she added.
‘Super Excited to Play with Healy’
While Athapaththu will be teammates with the likes of Deepti, Healy (captain), Wyatt, Ecclestone, Tahila McGrath among others, as a top-order overseas batter, she will face tough competition to find a spot in the playing XI.
However, the Lankan captain is ready to bat in the middle order too if needed and regardless of her role in the team, is excited to play with Healy.
“I never shared a dressing room with quite a few, especially Alyssa Healy. I have never played with her. This will be the first time that I will play with her and under her captaincy, so super excited to play with her,” said Athapaththu.
‘Surprised’ to be in ICC Teams of the Year
She has made a mark in international cricket with magnificent performances across formats. In 2023, she was named captain in the ICC teams of the year – both T20I and ODIs.
“Surprised and excited. I got the opportunity so that’s good. I saw all these things on social media so it’s really good. They picked me as a T20 captain and a 50-over captain as well. The first time they nominated me in the World XI so that was really good,” Athapaththu said of the honour.