The mooting of the Sri Lanka Women’s Under-23 Development Squad’s recent tour of Thailand recently is viewed as a window to boosting the island nation’s women’s cricket. A 16 member squad drawn from the cream of the domestic structure in that age group played three T20 matches against a comparatively experienced Thailand national team that got the better of the exchanges. But the bottom line from a Sri Lankan perspective was that at long last the structure had been put in place by Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) for lower rung youth teams to gain international exposure to feed the national team like in the men’s cricket.
As the Head of Operations of Domestic Cricket, Chinthaka Edirimanne, and the Convener of Women’s Cricket, Apsari Thillekeratne summed it up Sri Lanka Cricket has formulated a very good structure within this year. It was essentially the way forward for the country’s women’s game to turn the bigger curve to evolving a compatible international team based on new blood to matching stronger opposition. Accordingly, playing in Thailand would become an annual feature in the future for the U23’s so that younger players could gain overseas experience. Hitherto, only the women’s Emerging Squad that benefitted from overseas exposure besides the national team.
The inaugural tour was initiated on the recommendations of the SLC cricket committee with the blessings of the President of Sri Lanka Cricket, Thilanga Sumathipala. The players accompanied by five officials were given every possible encouragement with all their needs met. These included a daily allowance, cricket equipment, clothing, shoes, travelling kit etc. like the national team. The squad included four school girls and the rest from the clubs. For most of the players, it was their maiden shy in international terrain.
Both the Head of Operations of Domestic Cricket and the Convener of Women’s Cricket were of the strong view that good results could be expected from the U23’s going by their performances in their maiden overseas tour. As Edirimanne put it the Thailand national team was strong opposition given the fact that it won the gold medal at the 2017 South East Asian Games held in Kuala Lumpur.
Thailand Women won the opening match played on November 13 by 5 wickets. Sri Lanka U23 batting first made 50 in 16.4 overs with Harshita Madavi top scoring with 20. Thailand Women replied with 51 for 5 in 15.1 overs. However, Sri Lanka U23 bowler Sandani Thiwanka took the spotlight claiming 4 wickets for 11 runs which earned her the ‘Player of the Match’ award. The second match played on November 14 was won by Thailand Women by 6 wickets scoring 60 for 4 in 11.2 overs in reply to Sri Lanka U23 total of 59 for 9 in 20 overs. Thailand went on to clinch the final match by 28 runs after batting first and scoring 89 for 5 in 20 overs to which Sri Lanka U23 replied with 61 in 17.1 overs.
By Srian Obeyesekere
-The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Sri Lanka Cricket-