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How Chamari Atapattu escaped the trail of terror

Chamari Atapattu trains ahead of the big game BCCI

A week-long vacation in April could have turned "highly dangerous" for Sri Lanka women's captain Chamari Atapattu had it not been for a last-minute change to her holiday plan she made for her visa arrangements to fly to India for the Women's T20 Challenge.

The only Sri Lankan in a pool of 12 overseas players in the competition, Atapattu had set out on her holiday on April 16, a day after receiving an invite for participation from the BCCI. She had planned to round it out with a return to Colombo on Easter Sunday (April 21), the same day multiple bombings killed more than 250 people and left several hundreds injured in Colombo, Negombo and Batticaloa.

"My plan was to the visit the visa centre [in Colombo] on April 22," Atapattu tells ESPNcricinfo of her original itinerary. She originally wanted to complete the road-trip leg of the vacation, "from Colombo to potentially Batticaloa, before returning to Colombo on Easter Sunday". However, as they approached Trincomalee on Saturday, she decided to leave out Batticaloa from the itinerary as she was "fussed about getting the visa sorted on Monday," which meant they avoided coming into the vicinity of areas affected.

"We checked into a hotel at Trincomalee late in the night, and next morning, when we turned on the TV at breakfast, we couldn't believe the attacks in Batticaloa took place roughly around the same time we would have reached there had we stuck to the [original] plan.

"It takes nearly seven hours to drive from Trinco to Colombo by car, but that Sunday I hit speeds north of 80kmph - something I've never done before, nor do I imagine myself doing again under any circumstances - and covered that [260-odd-kilometre] stretch in under five hours.

"I was just so scared. Nobody knew who was doing this, why they were doing this, whether there were suicide bombers all across the country... all we knew was the death toll had been going up every 10 minutes. It was a harrowing drive." As she recounts the day, she points to goosebumps on her right forearm. All through, cricket has kept her going.

Here in India with the Supernovas, Atapattu has been a key member of Harmanpreet Kaur's playing XI in both round-robin matches. Beyond the joy of opening the batting and showcasing her skills in a foreign country, Atapattu has been overwhelmed with affection and the comforting words of her mates.

"Jhulan [Goswami] was narrating the other day how they [the Indian team] loved their stay in Galle and Dambulla last September (when they toured Sri Lanka for eight limited-overs matches)."

As she looks around her own dressing room, Atapattu points to the feeling of unity in the team. She considers herself and Lasith Malinga, the only other Sri Lankan in the mix at the IPL, as ambassadors of their country here in India.

"In this competition, I'm playing with Hindu girls, Catholic girls, Muslim girls, Tamil girls," Atapattu said. "And, some time ago, the Sri Lankan men's team had Murali [Muttiah Muralitharan], Russel Arnold, and [Tilakratane] Dilshan, all from different faiths. Why can't we live like that in Sri Lanka then?

"It breaks your heart when something that horrendous happens to a peaceful country like ours. With Malinga and me playing here, many Sri Lankans may be watching the IPL and Women's T20 Challenge only because of us. If we are able to bring a smile on their face with our cricket, I think our coming here to India will gain more meaning."