Sri Lanka captain Chamari Atapattu will play for Loughborough Lightning at the 2019 Kia Super League (KSL). She replaces the injured New Zealand allrounder Sophie Devine, who was earlier retained by the side.
Atapattu joins West Indies' Hayley Matthews and South Africa's Mignon du Preez as part of the overseas contingent. Atapattu, the 29-year-old batting allrounder, will be the fourth Asian representative at the KSL this season, alongside the Indian trio of Smriti Mandhana, Deepti Sharma (both Western Storm) and Jemimah Rodrigues (Yorkshire Diamonds).
Atapattu had been part of the Diamonds for the last two seasons, scoring 135 runs in five innings and 85 runs in seven innings in 2017 and 2018 respectively.
"After the Women's T20 Challenge, Hayley Matthews introduced me to Lightning captain Georgia Elwiss, who suggested I join the side," Atapattu told ESPNcricinfo about how she got the contract with Lightning. "In the meantime, Yorkshire intimated they may be looking at signing a new set of overseas players.
"Elwiss and I had discussions on Facebook Messenger and Lightning offered me a contract. But it was only for half the duration of the tournament, as a replacement for another overseas player who was due to leave midway for national duties. However, a fortnight ago, Loughborough got in touch and wanted me to come on board for the entire tournament given Sophie picked an injury."
Her initiation into the league came on the back of her sensational 178* against Australia - the third-highest individual score in women's ODIs - at the 2017 World Cup.
Atapattu is set to depart for the UK on July 28 and stay on till the final.
"I want this edition to be the best in my KSL career so far," she said. "I had a reasonably good debut season, where I was also the Player of the Match in one game. But my 2018 season was poor, partly because of being grounded by dengue two months prior to the start of KSL. I had to miss out on the Asia Cup (in Malaysia in June 2018) for the same reason. My preparations took a beating ahead of my departure to the UK, and it reflected in my performance.
"For the past few weeks, I have been working on strength training especially, and playing mostly alongside boys, to ensure the pace I'm facing is quicker, the bounce steeper. Playing at the Women's T20 Challenge was one thing - relatively slower wickets than England or Australia, where we'll be playing our next big tournament - so I have been making specific adjustments to prepare myself as suitably as I can."
When asked about the Asian players at the KSL she has already played with, she said: "It's a great endorsement for us players from subcontinental teams. There are several match-winners in Asian teams, I strongly believe. [What] we bring to the table is perhaps similar to what West Indians bring to the men's franchise league - their skills, their culture, and their joviality. I think women's players from the subcontinent are unique that way, as leagues like KSL and WBBL go. If we do well, I'd expect the number of Asian representatives to increase from five to eight in the next edition - whatever tournament replaces the KSL."
The upcoming edition of the six-team tournament begins on August 6, with all teams in action. Lightning will kick-start their campaign against last edition's semi-finalists Western Storm, at the Haslegrave Cricket Ground.