An increase in the hitting ability of the Sri Lanka women players should help them pose a greater threat in the upcoming Women's World Cup, said their coach Hemantha Devapriya.
"Since I took over six months ago, I've found out that our run-rate has not been that great and our batters' strike-rate was not so efficient," Devapriya said. "Other than Eshani Lokusuriyage and Chamari Atapattu who had strike-rates of a little over 60, others were below that, some under 40, which indicated that if Atapattu and Lokusuriyage scored we managed over 200 runs.
"What they were lacking was creative shots and use of the feet. They were averaging only 41 singles per match. We worked on it and they improved it to 100 singles. We increased their shot range also, like using the pace of the ball. They were very negative on back-of-the-length balls and not creating a shot off that delivery. We practised with hard plastic balls on granite surfaces to overcome that issue. We also played a lot of practice games with Under-17 boys and in the last two games we managed to get over 200 runs."
It was also identified that improving skills alone will not be enough to stay competitive in the world of modern-day cricket. "Fitness was a big problem I had, especially with ageing players," Devapriya said. "When you are not fit, it affects the fielding. Gradually, we increased their fitness workload coupled with fielding. At gym sessions, we introduced new exercises to develop the technique to generate power when batting. Overall, I had only six months and I never expected them to reach this standard. They developed very fast and their confidence has gone up."
Another thing in Sri Lanka's favour is former captain Shashikala Siriwardene coming back from injury. "Her return has strengthened the team a lot," Devapriya said. "She will make a big impact because she is an allrounder and she has the experience also. Her experience will be very useful in the middle.
"Our aim is to try and finish in the top four [and] we have a fair chance of doing that. When you compare us with other teams, they are well ahead of us, but you never know in a tournament of this nature."
That left Sri Lanka's traditional strength, their spin bowling. Devapriya was wary that conditions in England might not offer much turn, but given warm weather and a dry pitch, he backed his team to pull off a surprise or two.
"At the moment, its cold 17 degrees hopefully if the Sun comes out it will be helpful. Those are things we can't control. Our success will depend on getting a good score on the board and our key is spin. We select batters up to No. 6 and we have two spinners coming in Ama Kanchana and Shashikala," said Devapriya.
"You can swing the ball in the first 10 overs or so and once the swing goes our bowlers are not going to be that effective to get the batsmen out. We have two left-arm spinners as well and sometimes if the fast bowlers fail we may have to go with spin. We are going with a positive frame of mind to score runs and get wickets."
Sri Lanka will play three practice games against India, England and a county side before their first World Cup match against New Zealand on June 24.