Chamari Atapattu
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Cricket

Meet the cricketing record-breaker who's batting for the next generation

Sri Lanka's talismanic captain, Chamari Atapattu, is a trailblazer in women's cricket and an inspiration to many aspiring young players. Find out more about the big hitting batter in this interview.
By Matt Majendie
Published on
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Chamari Atapattu

Sri LankaSri Lanka
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Athapaththu Mudiyanselage Chamari Jayangani Kumai Athapaththu – or as she's more often known, Chamari Atapattu, is used to hitting big runs and breaking records.
The Sri Lankan women's skipper and left-handed bat is currently the only Sri Lankan woman to have scored an ODI century (she’s done this five times so far) and she’s scored the most centuries and 50s in Sri Lankan ODI history.
She was recently voted Sports Personality of the Year in Sri Lanka and it's fair to say that she's an inspiration to a generation of aspiring cricketers, both at home and worldwide.
But who was Chamari's own inspiration as a youngster and what are her thoughts on the current state of women's cricket? Find out here...
When did you start playing the game?
I started when I was four years old because of my uncle, who’s a coach. But my mother and father helped me a lot.
Chamari Atapattu poses for a portrait at the Colombo Cricket Club in Colombo, Sri Lanka on January 10, 2021.
Chamari Atapattu
Back then, was it just boys you were playing against?
Yes, at the time I started it was just with boys – with my cousins and my relatives. At that time, I could play better than the boys. Some would say: 'her play is really good, don’t give her the bat,' otherwise I’d play one hour or two hours, as they couldn’t get me out! So they told me to not bat but bowl first and then have a bat. It’s a very funny story!
You’re something of a trailblazer for Sri Lankan and women’s cricket. How does it feel to potentially be inspiring a whole generation?
I know a lot of young girls are now interested in women’s cricket and some girls want to play like me, so that’s really good. I want to inspire young girls and show my way. I believe in Sri Lanka we have a good bunch of young girls, but you have to inspire that journey. I always try to inspire those girls.
I always try to inspire those girls
Growing up, is it fair to say you didn’t have those female role models to look up to?
Yeah, for me it was Sanath Jayasuriya. He’s my lifetime cricket hero – the 'Master Blaster'. He could change a game just like that. Every bowler and fielder didn’t know what to do with him next, so he’s definitely my cricketing hero.
He was such an influence that you bat with the wrong hand as it were?
I do everything in my life right-handed. I write with my right hand – everything with the right – but I bat in cricket left-handed because of him.
They say never meet your idols, but your experience has been very different hasn’t it? When did you first meet him?
It was my 21st birthday. I met him in the nets. He was playing in another net than me while I batted for maybe an hour. After I finished my session I explained to my coach that I wanted to meet him. My coach introduces me and says: “Sanath, this young girl is really like you and wants to play like you”. He said I was a really good cricketer and that he had seen what I can do. My coach said “you know it’s her 21st birthday today”. So, he asked if I had cake and I did – I gave him some of my birthday cake and he gave me his gloves, pad and bat – three golden things for me.
Chamari Atapattu seen during a training session in Colombo, Sri Lanka on January 10, 2021.
Chamari Atapattu training indoors in Colombo
The innings that stands out from your career is that unbeaten 178 in the 2017 World Cup. Have you ever batted better? It felt like you couldn’t miss.
That innings changed my career and I think Sri Lanka women’s cricket, so I’m very grateful. In that innings, I felt like most things I tried worked well. I started pretty slowly but, after I passed 100, I started scoring with big shots. The innings was really good against the best team in the world with such good bowlers.
That innings changed my career and I think Sri Lanka women’s cricket, so I’m very grateful
Every time you bat, there’s the expectation to score big. Do you feel that type of pressure or thrive on it?
In Sri Lanka, we don’t have many big names in world cricket so I know I have to score runs. As a captain, I lead from the front, I have pressure but I like it. I know my skills and trust my skills, I have belief and try to play positive cricket and play freely.
What do you think about when you're at the crease?
Before I have a game I focus on my mental strength because cricket is 20 percent skill and 80 percent mental, I think. I do spiritual things and motivational things and do all of this before the game. So, when I go to the crease I’m blank, I free my mind, focus on the cricket: see ball, hit ball, that’s it.
Women’s cricket globally feels massively on the rise. Is it in a good place in your opinion?
Yeah, now women’s cricket is increasing all around the world, especially in Australia, England and India; New Zealand too. There’s a great fanbase and in Sri Lanka I feel now that it will increase, so the next two or three years will be good for cricket globally.
Away from cricket, do you have time for anything else?
I’m a cricketer but, if I’m not playing cricket, I have to go to my work for an insurance company. So, I sometimes go to the office, but mostly it’s cricket training in Colombo or competing, or else going to see my mum at the weekends. I also have some free time to see my friends.
Part of this story

Chamari Atapattu

Sri LankaSri Lanka
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