Women's World Cup 2013 February 6, 2013

Kaushalya at the heart of Sri Lanka's campaign

Eshani Kaushalya, an allrounder who evokes memories of Arjuna Ranatunga, played important innings in both of Sri Lanka's wins in Group A

Sri Lanka have been the most exciting team of the Women's World Cup so far, having surprised defending champions England and knocked hosts India out of the tournament. Eshani Kaushalya has been the face of this feisty bunch of little-known cricketers.

The sight of the stocky, broad-shouldered allrounder smashing sixes is one of the enduring images of the group stage. Kaushalya's on-field aggression has matched the robustness of her frame. One half expects to meet a stern, no-nonsense woman but it is a shy, smiling Kaushalya who walks into the team manager Mr Aroos' room at the team hotel.

Her smile gets wider when she's told that she's reminded some of a young Arjuna Ranatunga. Familiar build, defiance, resemblance. "Off the field she is very soft spoken, she is not a tough character at all," says Aroos, who is a father figure to the side, having been selector for about a decade. Aroos says Kaushalya is one of the four players in the squad who keeps everyone in good spirits with their constant banter.

Kaushalya left India dispirited a day ago with a 31-ball 56, using a bat from the same supplier the Indian team get their bats from. "She was very anxious to get that bat," Aroos said. "I said I will sponsor you, you just whack India. I removed the stickers and gave it to her. She is very happy now."

Kaushalya comes from Waduwwa outside Colombo, on the way to Galle. Her father is retired from the army. Her brother, who has a similar broad frame, is serving in the army and is currently posted near Jaffna. She has a job with the navy. The family never had too much money, but always backed her.

Kaushalya was into athletics at school. A neighbourhood girl, who used to attend cricket coaching in Colombo, once asked Kaushalya to accompany her. Kaushalya was 16 then. She now stays in a rented apartment in Colombo that she shares with three of her team-mates. Rent and other costs such as transportation were a burden earlier; matters have eased to an extent with the services offering jobs to the players, and the board stepping in with contracts.

Aroos says she has been a hitter from the beginning but if required, can hang around. "According to the situations she can manage. We have never expected her to stay at the wicket, though. I have given a free hand to her to do it in her own style. Against England, her thinking was there is no point in just going out there. The heart had to come out in it. She had to fight."

Kaushalya's parents cried over the phone after seeing their daughter's heroics for the first time on television. People in her hometown thronged her house, burst crackers after the two victories and now want her to win the World Cup.

She may have played her part in ending the hosts' campaign but Kaushalya points out Sri Lanka's muted celebrations after they had crushed India. "Because of India being an Asian and neighbouring country we did not celebrate with much shouting," Aroos translates from Sinhala. "Against England we were shouting and dancing. She wants to tell you that." With Sri Lanka the only Asian side left in the tournament now, expect Kaushalya's on-field aggression to seep into the celebrations too.

Abhishek Purohit is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • ian on February 7, 2013, 22:31 GMT

    I'm a devoted fan! She is worth the entrance money on her own (or in my case, the Sky Sports sub!). A few more like Eshani & women's cricket would get more attention... And if she were Indian.. well, the ad marketing men would be queueing up. Perhaps India (i.e.the BCCI) might just have a look around & see what they can do for women's cricket in their great country. 7th position out of 8 doesn't say much for their investment, does it? (Oh sorry, I didn't hear you. Did you say, 'What investment?')

  • Dummy4 on February 7, 2013, 12:32 GMT

    Wish u girls good luck for remaining matches. Bring the cup home.

  • Dummy4 on February 7, 2013, 11:18 GMT

    First of all I wish to whole team & individual for their performances so far. and wishing them to face the coming games with same spirits & attitudes. BCCSL & SLC should help them with more financial assist to improve their game & personal career. Jayawewa Sisters.....

  • Jayamanne on February 7, 2013, 10:44 GMT

    I am used to watch all format of mens cricket As a cricket lover and srilankan cricket supporter. But Really I hadnt watched any womens cricket match at all till i watched that greatest action packed SL vs IND match.That was my 1 st watch of womens cricket match and I really happy about I had a time to watch it completely and to watch that little arjunas innings too. Great team work and great personal performence By SL team. good luck all in the tournement and future cricket.According to your talents i feel you have 100% chance to lift the WC here. dont neglect it. show us it and give us the memory of 1996..

  • varuna on February 7, 2013, 7:17 GMT

    As the manager Mr.Aroos our team did not celebrated the first ever win against India as they did after the England win.That is "Because of India being an Asian and neighbouring country we did not celebrate with much shouting," the reason given by the team manager.It is a shame not celebrating the countries win.victory is a victory Mr.Aroos.I don't think Indians will follow the same if they have won.You cant play world cup with this kind of attitudes. Come on Ladies don't care who the others are when they are your opponents.

  • Dummy4 on February 7, 2013, 7:15 GMT

    Earlier I was not much interested in SL women cricket team. From this world cup, I will never miss to follow their matches. Wish them all the very best in coming games too.

  • Theshara on February 7, 2013, 5:52 GMT

    After Arjuna's Era we are seeing a talented and committed bunch of cricketers of this country coming out and plying their hearts- out. Its so inspiring to see the commitment, back of my head as a spectator and a patriot I have the confidence these girls jump and dive at everything without any second thoughts like Arjuna's team ( or the contemporary Australian and S.A teams). As a spectator I have the confidence in the Team I Support , Not about wining but I'm convinced they are totally committed and honest on their efforts. There is a great feeling after the match as if I too payed with them to the last ball and a clear contrast to matches payed by Businessman , at the expense of my precious time.

  • Dummy4 on February 7, 2013, 4:54 GMT

    Well done srilanka, u girls have made our expectionis high on this world cup. we srilankan wish you all the vry best for upcoming super six matches.