Former Sri Lanka captain joins Team UAE

Chamani Senevirathne has returned to international cricket four years after saying goodbye. In a new role. For a different team.

The former Sri Lanka captain has been named in the UAE’s 14-member squad to play in the ICC Women’s World Twenty20 Qualifier from July 3-14 in the Netherlands. Going by her career statistics, she could be picked for her experience alone.

A veteran of five 50-over World Cups, Senevirathne has also played in two World Twenty20s and an Indoor World Cup. She remains Sri Lanka’s only Test centurion more than two decades after scoring 105 not out against Pakistan.

Clearly though, current form has been the main reason for her selection.

Senevirathne led Abu Dhabi Cricket (ADC) to the UAE National Women’s T20 League title last week. Her feat was even more commendable given that she was captaining a newly-formed team. Opening the batting, she emerged the third-highest scorer in the tournament: 225 runs at an average of 45.00 and strike-rate of 123.63.

She was also player of the final last Friday, smashing 80 from 56 balls as ADC beat Desert Cubs by 13 runs at Zayed Cricket Stadium.

Clearly the cricket in her is still alive. So why did she have to leave Sri Lanka to come to the UAE?

Her short, three-word answer: “lack of opportunities”. Indeed, Senevirathne played just one Test for Sri Lanka since making her international debut in 1997, although she did feature in 80 one-day internationals and 32 T20 matches. But thereafter, there was little scope for her either as a coach or an administrator.

Even though she had been picked for Sri Lanka’s tour of India in 2014, she chose to retire from the game before moving to the Emirates, where she now works as a coach and fitness trainer at Zayed Cricket Academy.

Senevirathne is remarkably fit for someone who turns 40 this year, but that is hardly surprising given that she is a fitness fanatic. She has kept herself active by playing in tournaments such as the recent T20 league and training at the academy.

Her all-round abilities have hardly waned either, as was evident at some of these tournaments.

“I have been playing club cricket since I was 16 and have continued to play after arriving in Abu Dhabi; not as much as I used to do, but still good enough to be competitive,” Senevirathne said. (Courtesy The National)