Chamari Atapattu has become the first Sri Lankan woman to sign a contract with a franchise-based T20 league. She will represent Yorkshire Diamonds in the second edition of the Kia Super League that kicks off from August 10. Atapattu has been picked as a replacement for Beth Mooney, the Australia opener, who pulled out citing injury concerns.
"I was on holiday with my family in Anuradhapura when I got a call, asking if I'm available. I said yes immediately. it was a pleasant surprise," Atapattu told ESPNcricinfo. "I didn't expect to play in the T20 league because most of the teams had already announced their squads.
"Playing in the Women's Big Bash League was my original target, but this is a great opportunity. I wasn't expecting it, but now I'm looking forward to learning a lot. This is a great step, not just for my career but also for women's cricket in Sri Lanka."
Atapattu left her imprint in a disappointing World Cup campaign - Sri Lanka won just won one game in seven attempts - when she smashed an unbeaten 178, the third-highest score in the tournament's history, against Australia in Bristol. That knock, she says, transformed her outlook towards batting.
"I used to always fear playing big shots and getting out, but that knock changed my approach," she said. "To do it against a champion team gave me and the team so much belief. We used to think we have to fight and compete, but after that performance, we slowly started talking about looking to win. When I went out to bat in the next game, I felt a different batsman."
In England, Atapattu hopes to put to practice words of advice from her idol Sanath Jayasuriya and Kumar Sangakkara. "Just hearing them speak highly about your game is a big boost," she said. "I felt great when I heard of their appreciation. I've learnt a lot from them. Sanath has taught me how to not lose my style of play, Kumar has often spoken about trying to build an innings. I want to have Kumar's consistency."
Atapattu also hopes to learn from her 'friend' Stafanie Taylor. "We both bat alike," she laughed. "When I see her play, I think 'I should also play those kinds of shots.' I've asked her about it and she has been very kind. We also spoke during the World Cup. I've also spoken a bit to Mithali Raj. Hopefully whatever I have learnt I can put to practice in England."
After her knock against Australia, Meg Lanning, the Australia captain said that she hadalready earned a potential bid from Melbourne Stars, even if it was only in jest. "If she's going to bat like that every time, I'd be happy to have her," Lanning said. Her exploits in England could well be a pathway to Australia, but Atapattu doesn't want to put herself under pressure.
"It was nice of hear that comment," she said. "I don't want to think about that at the moment. I'm excited to leave on Saturday. Mingling with some of the best players will help me train and prepare better. If I do well in England, I will definitely get many more chances. My family is more excited than I am. I hope to make them even happier."