Sri Lanka may have won only one match out of seven at the ICC Women’s World Cup in England, but coach Hemantha Devapriya believes the experience of playing against the top seven countries in the world was certainly a learning curve for the future.
Sri Lanka defeated Pakistan in their final league match to return home with a win, but according to Devapriya they came quite close to winning against West Indies and India if not for the middle order batting and fielding.
Sri Lanka lost to India by 16 runs after chasing 233 and to West Indies by 47 runs chasing 230.
“Overall I am happy with their performance but we could have done a little better if our middle order batting and fielding came up to their capabilities,” said Devapriya. Citing the positives that Sri Lanka took from the tournament Devapriya said, “We were struggling to put 200 plus runs on the board and only two players had strike rates of over 50 – Chamari Atapattu and Eshani Lokusuriyage. However if you see during the tournament we crossed the 200-run mark on four occasions and the girls have shown improvement in their strike rates. Some batters strike rates have gone up to 85-90 and that is a good indication. “We did practice a lot of variation range of shots and I can see that they are now capable of using those shots. We are concentrating now on taking more singles because the confidence is not there. We have given them a lot of singles targets which quietly they are improving but still we are not upto international standards like other teams. Placing the ball and working with soft hands those are the areas we are working on,” he said.
“The tournament enabled our players to really see the standards of the other teams. It’s a big demand for them to work hard and get into that level within a very short time. They have been talking to players from other teams and they know the areas they have to work on and they are ready to learn. It’s a matter of working hard, creating motivation and setting up goals and achieving them.”
Devapriya said that the fear of facing fast bowling was no more there as the tournament proved.
Chamari Atapattu was Sri Lanka’s stand out player with a stupendous knock of 178 against defending champions Australia. She had an aggregate of 311 runs and a strike rate of 89 and in the bowling new ball bowlers Sripali Weerakkody (8 wickets) and Ama Kanchana (7 wickets) stood out. “We worked a lot on playing off the back foot and how to use the pace of the ball especially the flat bat shot and the sweep shot and inside out shots. The players are now taking calculated risks and playing those shots little by little. They have to gain confidence to play these shots,” said Devapriya. “We noticed that against sides like Australia, England, India and New Zealand very hardly do you get a loose ball. They are accurate and they are well ahead in the practical and mental game. Technically we don’t have powerful bodies we have to put the players through special exercises to get more power into their shots and bowling. Fielding is coupled with fitness. The players now have a better understanding of what is required of them to become better cricketers.” Devapriya, a former Sri Lanka batsman/wicket-keeper of the pre-Test era said what Sri Lanka Women’s cricket needed at this stage is to strengthen their second string and provide a feeder to the first team.
“If you notice our present side has aging players. India has several players who played in the last World Cup because they introduced them as youngsters. Now they are with a lot of experience behind them and their mental and tactical game is streets ahead of us. India has developed fast they were a little ahead of us when we played them in the last World Cup. But now for us to get there it’s going to take some time,” said Devapriya.
“Sri Lanka Cricket in the recent past has introduced an under 23 tournament. There was no tournament like that before. The selectors picked 60 players from the tournament called the development squad and after further trials pruned it down to 30. Of that we are hoping to get at least another 5-6 players and from the emerging squad a further 4-5 players. We’ll have to work closely with them and see how they can fit into the national squad.
“What is encouraging is that leading girls’ schools have now taken upto cricket. At the moment we have about 2500 girls playing and Sri Lanka Cricket is working hard to promote the game. If all goes well we might see some good players coming through the schools,” he said. Sri Lanka Women are next scheduled to tour the Caribbean for a series of five ODIs in October. The tour has yet to be finalized among the two cricket boards