“I would urge franchises to give more South Asian girls an opportunity,” says Chamari Athapaththu

In the realm of world cricket, Chamari Athapaththu stands as one of the most accomplished all-rounders. Her performance over the past year has been nothing short of remarkable, marked by personal milestones and her influential role in leading the Sri Lanka women’s cricket team to historic achievements. Yet amid the brilliance, there were moments of adversity and Chamari has addressed one of those – the lack of opportunities for Asian players in overseas franchise tournaments.

Chamari Athapaththu donning Sydney Thunders' jersey. PC: Getty
Chamari Athapaththu donning Sydney Thunders’ jersey. PC: Getty

 

In the year 2023, Chamari Athapaththu in 8 One-Day International (ODI) has accumulated 415 runs, maintaining an outstanding average of 69.16, with the best of an unbeaten 140*. Her remarkable consistency in this format propelled her to claim the coveted top spot in the International Cricket Council (ICC) Women’s ODI Player Rankings, earlier this year. Notably, she became the first Sri Lankan to achieve this remarkable feat.

Chamari Athapaththu’s exceptional performances extend beyond One-Day Internationals (ODIs). In 2023, across 16 Twenty20 Internationals (T20I) matches, she showcased her prowess by amassing a total of 470 runs, impressively maintaining a strike rate of 130.91, and registering the highest score of 80*.

Adding to the brilliance of Chamari Athapaththu’s 2023 achievements are her remarkable leadership skills. Under her captaincy, Sri Lanka has achieved unprecedented success, securing their first-ever series wins against cricket powerhouses New Zealand and England. In addition, they achieved their maiden Final finish at the Asian Games, all within just four months.

Time and again, despite her extraordinary feats, Chamari Athapaththu has been left disappointed. Most recently, she missed out on selection in the Women’s Big Bash League (W-BBL) inaugural overseas player draft, following being overlooked previously in The Hundred draft and the Women’s Premier League (WPL) auction.

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This hat-trick of snubs left many cricketers, both past and present, in disbelief and fans alike. However, the tide turned in Chamari Athapaththu’s favor when she was signed by the Sydney Thunder for the ongoing 9th edition of the Women’s Big Bash League. In the Thunder’s season opener, Chamari announced her arrival delivering an all-round brilliant performance, scoring a 39-ball 52 and producing impressive figures of 3/20 from 4 overs against the Sydney Sixers.

In a recent media interaction, Chamari addressed the issue of inadequate Asian representation in franchise cricket. Quoting Chamari, “Franchise cricket is not all about money, it’s about learning new skills, culture and getting experience. I know many women players from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka who are keen to feature in WBBL due to the standard and pace of cricket over here.

“I would urge franchises to give more South Asian girls an opportunity to shine in WBBL. WBBL is one of the best franchise leagues and I will take this knowledge to the young players of Sri Lanka. Kavish Dilhari, Vishmi and Harshita from Sri Lanka should be in world’s franchise leagues.”

Although the emergence of franchise tournaments in England and India has presented challenges to the Women’s Big Bash League (W-BBL), it remains a benchmark of excellence in women’s cricket, for its high-quality cricket.

However, it’s notable that W-BBL has faced a notable absence of Asian representation. Top-tier English players are the preferred choices for clubs with several Asian stars repeatedly being overlooked. In the current 9th edition of the W-BBL, only India’s Harmanpreet Kaur and Sri Lanka’s Chamari Athapaththu have had the opportunity to feature.

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Another great of the game, Ellyse Perry, too shed light on the same ahead of the season, starting, “Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Pakistan women’s cricket teams have won some important series which has led to the development of women’s cricket. A number of South Asian cricketers are featuring in the upcoming edition of men’s Big Bash this year. The participation of South Asian players in the Women’s Big Bash should also continue.”

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