Difference in culture plays a big role in player participation - head coach Harsha de Silva | Daily News
‘Next 6 to 12 months crucial for SL women cricket’s growth and stability’:

Difference in culture plays a big role in player participation - head coach Harsha de Silva

‘Other teams have already started to take note of Sri Lanka and are fearful of our capabilities’.
‘Other teams have already started to take note of Sri Lanka and are fearful of our capabilities’.

It is more than two decades since Sri Lanka Women cricketers made their mark in international cricket hosting the Netherlands for a three-match one-day series in 1997, but although there has been some significant improvements made in their standard of play overall over the years, Sri Lanka still find themselves lagging behind to bridge the gap with other top nations.

The national team’s head coach Harsha de Silva who has handled the team twice from 2010-13 and currently from August 2018 put it down to the differences in cultures that has made Sri Lanka Women taking such a long time to reach the levels of countries like Australia, England, New Zealand etc.

“Having experienced working in Sri Lanka and Australia in female programs for the past 10 years, I can see how the differences in the two cultures play a big role in player participation,” De Silva told the ‘Daily News’.

“Sri Lanka has a negative impact in attracting players to the game early which leads to delays in talent identification and development. We need to create an early, clearer and shorter pathway for players to reach National level.

“Credit must be given to Sri Lanka Cricket for the processes that they have in place to identify and nurture talent with the limited participation levels we have,” he said.

The recently concluded ICC Women’s T20 World Cup in Australia showed that Sri Lanka were gradually becoming competitive. Although they had only one win to show in the group competition they came pretty close to upsetting New Zealand and eventual champs Australia and also beat England in a warm-up fixture.

“We managed to win only one game in the tournament against Bangladesh by nine wickets apart from the historic maiden win over England in the warm-up game. We lost to New Zealand, Australia and India in the group stages,” said De Silva.

“We could have turned tables against New Zealand and Australia as we were in strong positions in both games to push for wins, but lost both with mistakes at crucial stages of the game. Disappointed with the results but a few positives to cherish and enjoy.

“I believe we are competitive. What we require to improve is our consistency to perform under pressure and control momentum. For this the players need to be stretched in domestic tournaments and need to play more games against strong opposition internationally,” he said.


“I see every weak point as an opportunity for us to improve. After each game/series we evaluate/assess our performances in all departments and prepare plans to put processes in place to improve areas of concern before the next one. So, it’s an ongoing thing. As a team we require to improve in all areas, but as an individual on specific areas.

“Chamari (Atapattu) with the bat and Udeshika Probadhani with the ball were exceptional throughout the tournament. Udeshika had the best bowling economy rate of the tournament at 3.68 runs per over. Shasikala (Siriwardana) came up with a stellar performance with the ball in her last international appearance to be adjudged player of match against Bangladesh. Her 4/16 was the best bowling figures in an inning of the tournament,” De Silva added.

The retirement of former captain and all-rounder Shashikala Siriwardana from the game at the end of the Women’s T20 World Cup has certainly left a big void to be filled in the team.

“We will miss her and it will be hard to replace 17 years of experience in a young team. She has been a wonderful servant and an ambassador of Sri Lanka cricket,” said De Silva. “We knew this day would come and have been preparing for it. I don’t want to drop names, but, we have a few candidates who would grow into the big shoes she has left.”

If there was one stand-out player in the side it is the captain and opening bat Chamari Atapattu who has turned herself into a world class women cricketer with her recent exploits with the bat against strong opposition.

“Chamari would be in a class of her own any team she plays. She is super talented and we are very fortunate to have a player of her calibre and work ethics for our younger generation to follow,” said De Silva.

“There are other players in the squad whom with proper guidance and the right attitude could become stars of their own in their field of expertise in the near future.

“Every good player in a team realizes that the team relies on him or her. Chamari seems to be handling it well with the added responsibilities of captaincy. Her record speaks for itself.”


Having coached the boys at St Joseph’s College in the calibre of Angelo Mathews, Thisara Perera and Dimuth Karunaratne to name a few, De Silva said that it was a challenging task handling the women cricketers.

“Initially it was challenging. It took me some time to adjust to a few changes. Dynamics of the game was at a different pace, sensitivity in the group was high, I had to be more careful with the language, nicer with the words,” said De Silva. “I didn’t have to repeat much as the girls were better listeners, responses were much simpler and noise levels in the group were different. But, the biggest challenge was to be training or playing in a venue where they didn’t have toilets outside the change rooms!”

Sri Lanka were to play a home series against New Zealand starting later this month but has been cancelled due to the ongoing Covid-19 epidemic.

“This is a big loss for us to gain experience/exposure playing much needed international cricket. Sri Lanka are due to host the World Cup qualifiers in July this year for qualification for the ICC World Cup 2021 in New Zealand. So, the qualifiers will be our next international series at this stage,” said De Silva.

How are the women cricketers tackling the Covid-19 lockdown?

“Our trainer has sent the players fitness programs to follow and he’s closely monitoring their progress remotely similar to the men’s,” explained De Silva. “The two physios who are working with the squads have been updating and monitoring players’ rehab programs. We have been in constant touch with the players on their welfare and wellbeing during this lockdown.

“We felt it was important that we keep them active and engaged during this time period for their physical and mental health. Sending them specific skills drills to do at home, sharing motivational, educational and skills development video clips/reading material, getting players to do self appraisals, posting scenarios for group discussions, discuss things to do when we return, setting goals and even playing silly quizzes are some of the activities we’ve been doing as a group.

“We want to ensure that we come out on the other side of this pandemic as better as we could with minimal damage,” he said.


De Silva is optimistic that the Sri Lanka Women cricketers would become a real force in international cricket.

“We will get there soon if we are already not there. Other teams have already started to take note of us and are fearful of our capabilities. We are considered a top team in women’s cricket. We are ranked in the top 8 in ICC Global Rankings. The next 6 to 12 months are crucial for our growth and stability,” De Silva said.

“Our future is very promising and extremely good in my opinion. When I took over in 2018, we all agreed on the importance of introducing young talented players into the national squad. We understood we may have to go through some hardships in the short term, but, will benefit greatly in the long run.

“We drew up a 3-year plan and I am happy to say we are heading in the right direction. Our U23 Development team were the finalists in the Asia Cup at home and in the South Asian Games in Nepal last year (2019). We picked as many as five players under the age of 23 for the ICC T20 World Cup in Australia early this year. This selection raised many eyebrows. But, they held their own and performed creditably.”

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