Chess veteran warns players should use heads, not hearts – The Island

The Commonwealth Games are just over a month away, and Sri Lankan captain Chamari Athapaththu has no illusions about the importance of the upcoming limited series against India in terms of preparation, especially for a team with high potential, but rather light on experience.

“We have to play the Commonwealth Games in July, we start on the 25th. This series against India is very important for us in that sense because we haven’t played any games in the last two years,” said Athapaththu. on the eve of the first T20I in Dambulla.

“We have a lot of good young players, but the fact is that they don’t have a lot of experience. This is an opportunity for them to show off their skills. »

This was Athapaththu’s first media engagement following the Sri Lanka tour of Pakistan – the team’s first bilateral tour in over two years. It was a tough tour, with a naturally rusty Sri Lankan outfit stumbling most of it on spin-prone tracks, which their hitters struggled to come to terms with. However, they ended it on a high note, with a consolation win in the three ODI final, after being swept 3-0 in the T20I series.

While the losses were undoubtedly frustrating for such a fierce competitor as Athapaththu, she was more than happy to point out the positives her young team was able to take away from the tour.

“Those three games in Karachi – and it wasn’t even the main pitch we played on – I think they knew our hitters performed better on wickets that have good pace and bounce, especially me. So , the wickets they had prepared were quite slow and low. It took us too long to adapt to the conditions. That said, we learned a lot from the series. Especially how to adapt quickly to the conditions and how to s tackle spinners more effectively.

With India coming, Athapaththu knows things won’t get any easier. However, she hopes more familiar home conditions could see her team fight more.

“In our home conditions we know what to expect, what the ball is likely to do. There will also be quite a bit of wind in Dambulla, so knowing which direction it is blowing and so on, this knowledge will be important enough to take a side as good as India. Using the conditions to our advantage is going to be crucial.

This is an Indian team that, while undoubtedly formidable, is also going through its own transition – albeit to a much lesser extent. Former captain Mithali Raj is now retired, while veteran Jhulan Goswami has also been dropped from the series. the pair have 433 ODIs and 157 T20Is of experience. Indian spinners, meanwhile, haven’t had the most impact lately.

Athapaththu therefore believes that the main difference between the two teams in the coming games could come down to their respective hitters – of which the Indians are more experienced and more proven in their ability to score quickly.

“If you look at the Indian team, around six to seven players play in some of the top women’s leagues in the world such as WBBL, The Hundred and Women’s IPL. So they have a lot more experience at the top level than some of our players. But the last time India came to Sri Lanka, we beat them in an ODI.

“The most important thing is our hitter. If our hitters can score 250-260 in the ODIs and around 150-160 in the T20s, I think we can be competitive. If you look at the bowlers on both sides, I think it’s about the same level, but it’s at bat that they have an advantage. They have a lot of players who can score quickly and players who have a lot of experience. Our team, our experience in terms of players capable of scoring quickly, is quite weak. That’s probably where our weakness lies, but if our players play to their potential, they can beat any team in the world in their time.

Much of the responsibility will therefore fall on the shoulders of Athapaththu. In Pakistan, it was her winning turn in the ODI final, where she picked up two wickets to go along with her century, that gave Sri Lanka victory. Prior to this, Athapaththu’s tour had been disappointing by her high standards, her highest score being 37. She is confident that with further experience this burden will slowly be lifted.

“To be honest, the batting unit is pretty young now,” Athapaththu said. “So the longer I’m out there batting with them, the more valuable it is for them and for the team. In the Pakistan series, unfortunately I couldn’t give my best, especially to because of the difficult conditions.By the time I adapted to the wickets, it was a bit too late, that’s why I was only able to really make a noticeable contribution to the team in the last game.

“On the batting side in particular, I think my bat is very valuable to the side. There aren’t many experienced hitters on the team, but there are a few experienced bowlers in the bowling unit. So I’m looking forward to giving my best for the team in this series.

Sri Lanka’s batting struggles have largely centered on their inability to effectively pivot the shot, which has resulted in an undesirable tendency to rack up a large number of run balls – a trait the men’s team also shares, but which recently made its way. Athapaththu revealed that discussions around the issue have taken place and plans are in place to resolve the issue.

“If you look at our squad, each player’s potential and skills differ. Harshitha Madavi, more than hitting sixes, his talent lies in finding gaps for boundaries and scoring ones and twos. We need to identify which players can spin the scoreboard with singles and which are more adept at hitting limits and sixes.

“We have been working on that and we have set ourselves targets to reduce the number of point balls; for example, in ODIs, we want to score at least 100 singles. But it’s also important to raise the limit percentage, and that responsibility should be taken by players who are capable of doing so. I’m not saying you’ll see it overnight, but I think we’ll get there eventually.

Among those whom Athapaththu hopes to make a major contribution to the next tour, she makes a point of naming a couple: Kavisha Dilhari and Harshitha Madavi. Aged 21 and 23 respectively, the pair have been rightly identified as the future of the Sri Lanka women’s team.

Madavi, like Athapaththu, took some time to acclimate to Pakistani grounds, but ended the tour with scores of 41 and 75 – the latter part of a critical 152-run stand with his captain, who threw the basics of victory in the third ODI. Dilhari, meanwhile, with her excellent pitch, hard-hitting shifts and crucial boundary-finding ability, is an all-rounder with the potential to go all the way to the top of the game – and scores 28, 32 and 49* in all three ODIs, showed she could very well become that pivotal No.4 role left vacant by the retirement of former captain Shashikala Siriwardene.

“Kavisha Dilhari is a very talented cricketer, and I think he can have a big impact against India. loss to the team, but I can see that little by little Kavisha is starting to settle into this role, his maturity also belies his age.

“Harshitha is a good cricketer, she has represented Sri Lanka for the past few years. She is very talented. She will be our next captain. She is young but she plays cricket very well. This tour is important to her. India are a good team, a good experienced team, and we have to play our best cricket against the best teams.

“I hope they can bring their best to this series. If they perform, I’m sure we can win.

Among the others, Athapaththu also talked about youngster Vishmi Gunaratne, at 16, the youngest player in the squad, and the uncapped pair of Kaushani Nuthyangana and Rashmi de Silva.

“Vishmi is a very promising player for us in the future. We are confident that she will do very well for the team, especially based on her school, national and club background.

“Prasadani Weerakody is not in the side, and that opened the door for Kaushani. She is a very talented goalkeeper and she can also hit at the top of the order. Obviously not everyone can play at all games, but I hope she takes the opportunity when she comes.

“Rashmi is our new legs player, and she’s really good. For the past two years we have been looking for a good legpinner. Rashmi has played well domestically, and I hope she continues to do so in this series.

“Over the last two years we’ve tried to go with more experienced players, but that hasn’t really worked for us. So now we’re trying to bring a few new faces into the team, and I hope they play good cricket in the next two years.


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