February 1, 2013

ICC Women's World Cup 2013

How Sri Lanka turned its women's cricket around

Alison Mitchell
Sri Lankan players celebrate after their one-wicket victory, England v Sri Lanka, Women's World Cup 2013, Group A, Mumbai, February 1, 2013
Sri Lanka celebrate a historic achievement, beating the defending champions England off the final ball  © ICC/Solaris Images
Enlarge

RELATED LINKS

I can’t think of a bigger upset in 40 years of Women’s World Cup cricket than Sri Lanka's win over England. The defending champions lost to a side that had never beaten them before, and who didn't win a single game at the last World Cup in 2009. It was a match that defied expectations and Sri Lanka have improved beyond recognition from the side I watched in both the 2005 and 2009 tournaments. There was a strength and sense of fight in this team built on a trust of their instincts and ability.

After the game, Sri Lanka players and friends lingered long on the verandah of the dressing rooms at the Cricket Club of India, while small square tables and wicker chairs began to be set out on the edge of the outfield for club members to enjoy dining in the evening sun. It was a happy melee, with team captain Shashikala Siriwardene grinning from ear to ear as she was congratulated by passers-by doing their nightly exercise on the walking track around the boundary.

A chat with team manager and selector ARM Aroos helped to shed some light on just how Sri Lanka have transformed themselves in the last couple of years. He pointed firstly to Sri Lanka Cricket contracts and match fees, which are now awarded at a rate of US$100 for an ODI and US$50 for a T20. The fees aren’t much, but the contracts provide a monthly income.

They were only introduced in 2011 and the injection of spending by SLC appears only to have started in earnest since then, even though SLC had responsibility for the women’s cricket in the country from as early as 2005, when the International Women’s Cricket Council merged with the ICC. Prior to that, women’s cricket on the island was coordinated by Gwen Herath, a tireless former president of the country’s Women’s Cricket Association. She ensured Sri Lanka became a member of the IWCC following the men’s World Cup win of 1996, and in 1997 Sri Lanka’s women played their first international matches. Victory over England is by far their biggest moment since then.

Besides the contracts, the women’s game has a strong domestic structure, based around schools and provincial tournaments. The country’s military plays a huge part in nurturing the best players, as the Sports Clubs of the Sri Lanka Navy and Air Force run teams that feature most of the players in the side that beat England. Players are contracted for up to five years at a time, not to work in the military but to play cricket, and those contracts could be worth 35,000 rupees per month (US$277 or £175). It is enough to make a difference.

As for the team’s celebrations after beating the reigning World Champions, Mr Aroos, who sees himself as something of a proud father figure to the players, declared “tonight, dinner is hosted by me!”

RSS Feeds: Alison Mitchell

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by Kumar Athulathmudali on (February 6, 2013, 2:06 GMT)

What a turnaround! Congratulations to the amazing SL women's team. A small incentive- a massive outcome. I suppose the incentives should match with the outcomes.

Posted by Vivek Bhandari on (February 4, 2013, 12:55 GMT)

I, for one, definitely enjoyed the Sri Lankan win over the defending champions. The best part about the win was that it wasn't a typical minnows win where the team bats first, makes a respectable score, takes few early wickets, and then chokes up the middle order. It was a rather professional chase against a decent attack. The most astonishing fact was the power hitting and the confidence each batsmen exhibited. So much so the winning shot was a 6 by the number 11 facing her first ball.

All the best for the rest of the tournament.

Posted by Leonard on (February 2, 2013, 18:40 GMT)

do not under estimate any time any given team, because cricket is game cant predict until the last ball is balled, Pundits only saying that this team is weak and that is good.

Do not think of whatever happened past years and now talk about present.

Very good lesson given to England team by mighty Sri Lankan team.

Well done, keep the lion flying.......

Posted by TD_160 on (February 2, 2013, 12:45 GMT)

US$277 per month works out to US$3,324 anually. While it may not seem like much, you need to consider that per capita income in Sri Lanka is only about US$2,400. US$3,000+ is not merely enough to "make a difference", it's enough to live on. For these girls, its the difference between being semi-professionals with day jobs, and being professional cricketers.

Posted by prasanna on (February 2, 2013, 12:16 GMT)

I watched the match, it was the first time, I watched nearly 35 overs of Sri Lankan women batting. In the morning, I did not know that Sri Lanka is taking on England in a world cup match. Even-though I knew the world cup is played in India "these days".

When I went to the local bank at around 1.30, I saw the match going on TV and Sri lankan openers just completed a 100 run partnership. I saw they were taking on the Defending Champions England and the target was somewhere around 240. I knew our girls are on top. I went home and switched on the TV and watched it until the last ball. I felt Kaushalya'was batting like our Legendary Arjuna Ranatunge.

After this win, I got the interest to follow all Sri Lankan matches in this world cup. I am eagerly awaiting the SL _ west Indies game tomorrow. I think, we can turn-it-around this time, as our boys did in 1996. If we do it or at-least come closer, that will do lot of good for sl women's cricket.

Posted by Muzahir on (February 2, 2013, 9:35 GMT)

Well done and congrats to the team and also to Aroos and proud to be a Zahirian as well. I hope they could beat West Indies and secure place in the next round. India would be the toughest opponent so is New Zealand. Sri Lanka can fancy their chances if they play and believe in themselves. All the best to Aroos. Best Regards Muzahir ex Zahirian

Posted by mary brito on (February 2, 2013, 8:33 GMT)

Yes !! I am sure Gwen Herat is very proud of the Sri Lanka team. Her dedication to the formation of a women,s national team was outstanding. With little time for preparation they attended they attende

Yes I am sure Gwen Herat is very proud of the Sri Lanka team,s performance. Her dedication and detrmination to develop a national women's team was outstanding. Now she is seeing the resultof her fortitude.May their success continue.

Posted by desmond on (February 2, 2013, 6:36 GMT)

Nice article Alison.. well done Sri Lanka girls, Keep up the good work

Posted by Rewatha on (February 2, 2013, 5:04 GMT)

Congratulations Sri Lanka Women's Cricket team. This is a great team achievement beating champions. You can win more matches.

Posted by Charindra on (February 2, 2013, 4:41 GMT)

Great work ladies!!! This is already changing perceptions about women's cricket. Maybe someday women's cricket will be filled with women who have great strength in their forearms and legs, without being bulky or masculine. A good example from men's cricket would be Sanath Jayasuriya, as opposed to Chris Gayle.

Comments have now been closed for this article