They were once a set of rag-tag drifters feeding on the scraps until a concerned Board of Control for Cricket in Sri Lanka picked them for recognition and refinement. But almost two decades down the line they have very little to brag about other than make up the numbers on most occasions that culminated in a 5-0 thrashing at the hands of Australia’s blockbuster women’s team.
In a nutshell that’s the tip of the iceberg of the story of women’s cricket in Sri Lanka where somewhere down the line lies a tale which very few experts have spoken about behind closed doors and know the answers and yet none until now have opened out.
To most observers, women’s cricket in Sri Lanka, unlike in Australia, England and New Zealand will never be able to rub shoulders or hobnob with the men’s game unless a set of robust damsels with no distractions other than the bat and ball come together to raise standards on the playing field under the direction of a responsible authority.
“We have to change the entire system in women’s cricket. There is no direction in women’s cricket, and I don’t know how and why certain player selections are made. Sri Lanka had some good players but there was no management, no motivation and the potential match-winners just dropped out,” said Asoka Pathirana, a pioneer women’s cricket promoter in Kurunegala.
Pathirana warned that no amount of investment would be of any use if women’s cricket is not placed in the hands of a foreign coach to ensure the predators are kept away or don’t return.
Sri Lanka women’s cricket has been rigged with reports of in-fighting and squabbling among players with discipline taking a back seat while administrators take matters for granted in the run-up to a series or tour. To add to it was a sex scandal that broke out two years ago when an official was accused of abusing his position.
But women’s cricket in the island has been struggling for a passionate following and many handling misdeeds are swept aside although a few schools have shown interest to push ahead with limited backing unlike the patronage the boys’ game has been enjoying collectively for many decades.
Some experts will, however, argue that most Sri Lankan women cricketers of the past and present have been too flowery or dainty, the typical girl of traditionally over-protective parents while some of them make it to the team at a time motherly tasks get in the way.
Overall, in Sri Lanka very little women’s cricket is on show and the players themselves are compelled to chase after limited opportunities as opposed to many of their overseas counterparts.
Over a period of 18 years, Sri Lanka’s women’s cricketers have lost 73 matches as against 48 wins most of it against lowly-rated opponents and early this week came the five eye-opening defeats when they crashed under the Australians whose captain Meg Lanning expected a closely fought series. In the end it was an unimaginable cake walk.
Come November and some of the players in the Sri Lanka women’s team will be dressed in their fashionable best picking up awards at an annual event where the country’s adored men’s stars will be the cynosure of all eyes at the glittering ceremony.
It will be yet another indication of the hopes Sri Lanka Cricket has by way of investment when it comes to pumping the bucks out into women’s cricket for very little in return.
But many of the players will also not be able to hide the fact that they are far from celebrity status and their keeper Sri Lanka Cricket hard pressed to erase a festering problem that was left to simmer over the years.
“We have been having some discussions with the players”, said SLC’s Chief Executive Officer Ashley de Silva. “Plans have been drawn up for a revamp (of women’s cricket) and reconstruction with more people involved.”
Experts will argue for too long has Sri Lanka lived on borrowed time.