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Chamari Athapaththu – ‘Rejection is a kind of motivation for me’

Sri Lanka captain Chamari Athapaththu said she was “not shocked but surprised” after finding no takers at the 2024 Women’s Premier League auction and added that rejections are “some kind of motivation” for her.
Athapaththu had a stellar 2023 in T20Is, scoring 470 runs – the fourth-most among players from Full Members -at an average of 31.33 and a strike rate of 130.91. With the ball, she picked up eight wickets at an economy of 5.97. She also led Sri Lanka to an ODI series win over New Zealand at home and a T20I series win against England away. And yet she was overlooked initially at both WPL and WBBL.

“I am not shocked, I am surprised because they didn’t pick me,” Athapaththu said in a media interaction on Tuesday. “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 spirit and do my best.”

In the overseas draft ahead of the WBBL, Athapaththu was left out before being drafted in as a replacement player. She lit up the tournament with 552 runs – only five behind the top run-getter Beth Mooney – at 42.46 and a strike rate of 127.18. She also returned nine wickets at an economy of 6.83.

But even those numbers did not land her a gig at the WPL, and it was only after Lauren Bell withdrew – to be available for England’s tour of New Zealand – that UP Warriorz signed her.

“Rejection is some kind of motivation for me,” she said. “It is good for me because sometimes I can learn and I want to show what I can do. If someone says it can’t be done, be the first one to do it – that is my philosophy. I just want to prove what I can do.”

At Warriorz, Athapaththu will face stiff competition from captain Alyssa Healy, Danni Wyatt, Tahlia McGrath, Grace Harris and Sophie Ecclestone for a spot in the playing XI. Such was the problem of plenty last year that even South Africa fast bowler Shabnim Ismail had to mostly sit out.

Athapaththu, who opens the batting for Sri Lanka, will have to jostle with Healy and Wyatt. But she is prepared to bide her time and is ready to bat in the middle order if need be. The last time Athapaththu played as a non-opener for Sri Lanka in T20Is was in February 2019.

“I know Alyssa Healy is an opener, my favourite Danni Wyatt is also an opener, even Tahlia McGrath can open, Grace Harris opens for Brisbane Heat [in the WBBL]. We have to adjust, and the important thing is the [requirements of the] team. If the coaches and team need me to, I am happy to bat everywhere between Nos. 1-6. I can do anything for my team, I am always a team player.”

Athapaththu also hoped Sri Lanka would organise a franchise competition for the women and said that such tournaments are not all about the money.

“These leagues are important for all cricketers around the world. Some people think these leagues are about the money. It is not like that. We can share our knowledge and culture with other players. I can share the dressing room with the world’s best cricketers, learn a lot from them and share my knowledge – with them as well as with our young players in Sri Lanka.”

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