Chamari Atapattu: More than just runs and money, WBBL is a cricket university for South Asian talent

By Our Reporter
Chamari Atapattu (right) // Pic supplied

Franchise cricket has often been critiqued as a money-spinning exercise, a domain where financial gains overshadow the sportsmanship and spirit of the game. But Sri Lankan cricket star Chamari Atapattu sees it differently. In a recent press conference, Atapattu discussed the virtues of playing in franchise leagues like the Women’s Big Bash League (WBBL), her camaraderie with England’s Heather Knight, and her vision for the future of women’s cricket in Sri Lanka.

According to Atapattu, the WBBL isn’t solely about lucrative contracts and filling stadium seats. It’s also a platform where budding talent can interact with experienced players from around the globe, learning new skills and absorbing different cultural aspects of the game. She believes that the standard and pace of cricket in the WBBL are elements that attract aspiring women cricketers, especially from South Asian countries like India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and her homeland, Sri Lanka.

“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,” said Atapattu. This is a call to arms—or perhaps, a call to wickets—for WBBL franchises to open their doors to emerging talent from South Asia. Names like Kavish Dilhari, Vishmi, and Harshita from Sri Lanka were specifically mentioned as deserving of a spot in the world’s franchise leagues.

This isn’t just about opportunity but also about the exchange of expertise. Atapattu plans to transfer the skills and knowledge she gains from the WBBL to young players in Sri Lanka, thereby nurturing the next generation of cricketers. This cross-pollination of cricketing knowledge could benefit not only the individuals involved but also the sport in general, fostering a more inclusive and global game.

Chamari Atapattu in the nets // Pic supplied

It’s not just the skills on the field that matter, though. Atapattu praised her Sydney Thunders teammate, England’s Heather Knight, for her exceptional leadership skills. “I have a good relationship with England’s Heather Knight and not getting any banter from Heather Knight. She is controlling the squad very well here in Sydney Thunders,” Atapattu added. This interplay between players from different countries and cultures can only enrich the tapestry of women’s cricket, lending a more cosmopolitan feel to the game.

There’s also exciting news for cricket in Sri Lanka, as plans are afoot to organise a T10 Women’s league in the country this December. Expected to be a four-franchise based tournament, this league could serve as another platform for budding female cricketers to showcase their skills, and perhaps follow in Atapattu’s footsteps.

In the end, the Sri Lankan cricketer had an encouraging message for young girls aspiring to make a mark in the sport: “Always try to lead from the front when I wear the blue jersey from Sri Lanka. A message to all the young girls is to just focus on the present and play fearless. Don’t think about the future.”

While many might look at franchise cricket as a cash cow, Atapattu’s perspective highlights its educational potential, as a sort of “cricket university” where talents from diverse backgrounds can learn, grow, and potentially change the game for the better. So, the next time you tune into a WBBL match, remember that what’s unfolding on your screen is not just entertainment; it’s also a lesson in global sportsmanship, a showcase of emerging talent, and perhaps most importantly, a celebration of the spirit of cricket.

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