WPL 2024: ‘Rejection has been some sort of a motivation for me,’ says Chamari Athapaththu

The Sri Lanka women’s team captain and one of the seasoned campaigners did not find any takers during the WPL auction, before UP Warriorz signed her as a replacement for England’s Lauren Bell.

Published : Feb 20, 2024 08:11 IST , Mumbai - 7 MINS READ

As the Women’s Premier League (WPL) auction was underway at a plush hotel in the suburbs of Mumbai in December last year, it was heartbreak for Chamari Athapaththu. The Sri Lanka women’s team captain and one of the seasoned campaigners did not find any takers, despite being a standout performer in 2023.

She finished the year with 470 runs at an impressive strike rate of 130.91. Her 15 sixes in the year was also a personal high in Women’s T20Is. She also finished as the second-highest run-getter in the Women’s Big Bash League 2023, with 552 runs to her name in 14 innings, averaging 42.46 in the tournament. The right-arm off-break bowler also bagged nine wickets for the Sydney Thunder.

And a few weeks ago, the doors to WPL finally opened for her as UP Warriorz signed her as a replacement for England’s Lauren Bell.

RELATED: Gujarat Giants’ Kashvee Gautam ruled out due to injury

Ahead of the new assignment, the Sri Lankan - considered one of the most powerful hitters - is confident of showing the world what she is capable of doing on the field.

In an interview with  Sportstar, Athapaththu spoke on a range of issues.

From being unsold in the WPL auction to being part of the UP Warriorz - how has been the journey so far?

I am super excited to be part of this amazing team. I know no one picked me in the auction, and at the last minute, UP Warriorz brought me in as a replacement player and I grabbed that opportunity. Auctions are not in my hands, and I can control what is in my hands, so now that I have been given an opportunity, I want to play in the tournament and show what I can do.

When you went unsold in the auction in December last year, how did you handle the disappointment ?

Look, it depends on the coaches and the respective team management on which players to pick. I can control my batting and fielding, but these things are not in my hands and that’s what I told myself. I did not want to take too much pressure, and just focus on training. Rejection has been some sort of a motivation for me and I want to show again what I can do on the field. I hope I can play my best cricket in this WPL.

Last year was phenomenal for you. If you could take us through your journey…

It was a good year as a team, as a captain and as a player. We beat England on their home soil and secured our first-ever white-ball series win against them. Then, we went on to defeat New Zealand in Sri Lanka for the first time, so we had some really good achievements. To cap it all, I won the player of the tournament in the Women’s Big Bash League and a few ICC awards. I was also nominated as the ODI captain of the year by the ICC. These are massive achievements, but then, everyday begins from scratch. Every tournament is new and I want to start all over again.

You have played a fair bit of franchise cricket, and what does WPL mean for the development of the game in particular?

As a cricketer, I know these leagues are really important for women’s cricket. Especially, now with a lot of countries having their leagues - like Australia’s WBBL, England’s The Hundred and India’s WPL - some people think that these franchise leagues are all about money, but I believe that these leagues are important for the cricketers around the world as we can share our knowledge, experience and share the dressing rooms from players across the world. In terms of culture, these leagues are very important.

What have you personally learned from the overseas leagues that you have featured in so far?

I learned a lot of things while playing in the franchise leagues and I could share those knowledge with the youngsters. Sometimes we learn a lot of things - how to handle pressure, how to behave as a team-member and also how to manage yourself and maintain your routine. Different players have different routines, and every time I learn those things from the leagues, I make it a point to share those experiences with my youngsters (in Sri Lanka).

Chamari Athapaththu during a training session with the UP Warriorz ahead of the Women’s Premier League 2024 season.
Chamari Athapaththu during a training session with the UP Warriorz ahead of the Women’s Premier League 2024 season. | Photo Credit: SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

Chamari Athapaththu during a training session with the UP Warriorz ahead of the Women’s Premier League 2024 season. | Photo Credit: SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

The first edition of the WPL, most teams were stacked up with players from Australia and England. But now as the tournament progresses, do you think that it will open a window of opportunity for more players from the subcontinent?

The WPL has five teams, and only 30 players can feature in this tournament. Obviously, the Australian and England get good opportunities and because of their standard, all franchises prefer picking those players. I think currently I am the only player from the sub-continent (sic) playing in this WPL, so maybe in the next couple of years, if WPL teams increase, I hope to see a lot of players from the sub-continent getting opportunities. Currently, with just 30 slots available, it is difficult to pick all players. The team owners, the management need good players for their teams, so if the number of sides increase, there will be more opportunities.

Given that you have been a late entrant to the Warriorz, have you been given a role clarity ahead of the season?

The first day I trained with the girls, I had a good chat with the coach and the management. I want to be a good team player. I can adjust according to the needs of the team. I know we have a few openers in the team, especially Danielle Wyatt, Alyssa Healy. Even Tahlia McGrath and Grace Harris can open, so there are a lot of big names in my team and the best eleven will play. If the team management and the coach picks me, I will definitely give my 100 per cent for the team. That’s what I will do.

When you come to a tournament like the WPL, which is characteristically different from a WBBL or The Hundred, what are the adjustments that you need to do to your game?

The Hundred and WBBL are different in terms of rules. WBBL has only four powerplay overs and there are a couple more in the middle overs. So, situations and conditions are different. The WPL is totally different and the atmosphere is familiar to me being a Sri Lankan player, these Indian conditions are quite known to me. The Sri Lankan and Indian conditions are a bit similar. So, when I feature in the WPL, I need to do very little adjustments to my game. I know the M. Chinnaswamy Stadium, I played a lot of matches there and I know the conditions are. So, that will be of immense help.

Last year, the WPL was held in just one city, but this time around, it will be played in a caravan format. Is that the way to go, or should there be a different approach?

The men’s IPL is also played in different venues and different grounds, so it’s really good for the players as they get to experience different conditions. As a player, I am happy to play the tournament in two cities. Maybe, next year, they would organise the tournament across three or four venues and that will be good. Change is important and now as the women’s game is progressing, things are also changing immensely in terms of good facilities and other aspects.

How do you want this year to pan out for you? What are the targets that you have set for yourself?

Last year, I set a lot of goals and I achieved them. It was an immense pleasure to be the ICC Women’s Cricketer of the Year and to be named as the captain of the ICC Women’s team of the Year. 2024 is a new year and obviously, I will start from scratch again. I learned a lot last year and gained a lot of experience. But then, everyday is a fresh day and I want to start from zero.

Sign in to unlock all user benefits
  • Get notified on top games and events
  • Save stories to read later
  • Access to comment on every story
  • Sign up / manage to our newsletters with a single click
  • Get notified by email for early bird access to discounts & offers to our products
Sign in


Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide to our community guidelines for posting your comment