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Are Sri Lanka over-reliant on Chamari Atapattu?

Sri Lanka were a joyful lot by the end of the game Getty Images/ICC

Squad list

Chamari Atapattu (capt), Yasoda Mendis, Shashikala Siriwardene, Eshani Lokusuriyage, Hasini Perera, Ama Kanchana, Rebeca Vandort, Dilani Manodara, Nilakshi De Silva, Sripali Weerakkody, Udeshika Prabodhani, Sugandika Kumari, Kavisha Dilhari, Oshadhi Ranasinghe, Inoshi Priyadharshani
Stand-by: Imalka Mendis, Anushka Sanjeewani, Nipuni Hansika, Harshitha Madavi, Inoka Ranaweera

World T20 pedigree

For the past year or so, women's cricket has gathered urgency on multiple levels. Batsmen are scoring at an unprecedented rate, and as a result teams are posting bigger totals. While Sri Lanka are yet to make the full transformation, their first concern at the 2018 World T20 in the Caribbean would be achieving consistency.

Only once have Sri Lanka won more than one match in a World T20 edition - they won two games in India in 2016, when they beat Ireland and South Africa. They are yet to appear in the knockouts of the tournament. Six wins from 20 matches across five editions is a record they would definitely like to improve. The key to that will be their captain Chamari Atapattu.

Although considered among the most destructive batsmen in the women's game, Atapattu has only one 50-plus score in 67 T20Is innings. In her last five innings in the format, she has crossed 20 four times but managed a highest score of only 31. For Sri Lanka to score big in the tournament, Atapattu needs to score big and score consistently.

In the bowling department, Sri Lanka will rely on left-arm medium-pacer Udeshika Prabodhani to keep it tight with the new ball. Former captain and offspinning allrounder Shashikala Siriwardene will lead the spin attack. The duo will be supported by Sugandika Kumari's left-arm spin.

Sri Lanka's T20I record in the West Indies is not very promising. In the 14 T20Is there, Sri Lanka have won two and lost 11, with one no-result. But they can take heart from their 50-overs record in the West Indies, which is the only country apart from Bangladesh where they have a positive win-loss record (eight wins, four losses) in ODI cricket.

Recent T20I form

So far, Sri Lanka have played 13 T20Is this year, out of which they have won three and lost nine, with one match washed out. Their win percentage of 23.08 is the worst among the ten teams competing at the World T20 this year.

Sri Lanka started the year with a 2-1 loss to Pakistan at home. In June, they went to the Asia Cup without their regular captain Atapattu, who was ruled out with dengue. Playing under Siriwardene, they won their first two games - against Bangladesh and Malaysia - before losing the next three, including a shock defeat to Thailand.

They had a chance to put all that behind when they hosted India for five T20Is in September. But they stumbled again and lost the series 4-0.

Captain and coach

No other team in the tournament relies as much on their captain as Sri Lanka do on Chamari Atapattu. Although a batting average of 17.60 at a strike rate of 92.73 might not invoke fear in opposition bowlers, Atapattu knows how to perform at the big stage. She scored 52 and took 1 for 12 in her four overs when Sri Lanka defeated South Africa in the 2016 World T20. Last year, at the 50-overs World Cup in England, she smashed an unbeaten 178 off 143 balls against Australia.

Atapattu is also the only player from the island to have participated in the Kia Super League in England (in 2017 and 2018) and the Women's Big Bash League in Australia (2017).

In June, after the Asia Cup, Hemantha Devapriya resigned from his position of head coach, giving his replacement Harsha de Silva only a few months to prepare for the big event.

De Silva, however, is no stranger to the role, having held the position between 2010 and 2013. A Level 3 accredited coach, he also has five years of coaching experience in club cricket in Australia. But whether all that experience, and a familiarity with the role, turns Sri Lanka's fortunes around remains to be seen.

Best players

Shashikala Siriwardene is the leading wicket-taker for Sri Lanka in T20Is, with 61 wickets in 65 games at an economy rate of 5.55. Earlier this year, she took 4 for 9 against Pakistan, the best figures for Sri Lanka in the format.

With the bat, Siriwardene is the sort of batsman others can play around. Her tally of 898 runs at 17.60 with a strike rate of 86.67 is second only to Atapattu for Sri Lanka. Along with Yasoda Mendis and Atapattu, she will form the core of the batting.

The five-match T20I series against India in September marked Eshani Lokusuriyage's return to international cricket after a gap of more than a year. Lokusuriyage, the only Sri Lanka player to have a T20I strike rate in excess of 100, will be featuring in her sixth straight World T20.

The 34-year-old first came to the limelight when her blazing half-centuries helped Sri Lanka slay England and India in the 2013 World Cup. Quick hands and the ability to clear the boundary - both against pace and spin - make Lokusuriyage a dangerous batsman at any stage of the innings.

Where will they finish?

Given their recent form, and the presence of England, South Africa and defending champions West Indies in Group A, it will be no less than a miracle if Sri Lanka manage to qualify for the semi-finals. The only team in the group against whom they have at least a 50% win record is Bangladesh, and it won't come as a surprise if they finish in the bottom two.