Rumesh Ratnayake bails out Sri Lanka ahead of ‘gigantic World Cup’ | Page 2 | Sunday Observer

Rumesh Ratnayake bails out Sri Lanka ahead of ‘gigantic World Cup’

5 February, 2023
Rumesh Ratnayake
Rumesh Ratnayake

One of the island’s finest ambassadors of sport, Rumesh Ratnayake, came to the rescue of a troubled Sri Lanka Cricket administration to bail them out just in time ahead of the women’s T20 World Cup commencing on February 8 in South Africa.

Ratnayake will be the coach of the team in the 10-nation championship that will showcase modern women whose technique and style of play is no different from their male counterparts.

Models Senuri Rupasinghe and Dunya Rajasekera showcase the new playing kit of the Sri Lanka women’s cricket team at the World Cup starting on Tuesday (Pix by Sulochana Gamage)

“When someone comes up to you and tells you that we want you to do this for us, it means they have placed their faith in you and I took up the challenge,” said Ratnayake who played senior First Eleven cricket for St. Peter’s College at the age of 13, made his mark as an international player for Sri Lanka when standards were extremely demanding in the 1980s and then held on to a historic catch off his own bowling to signal the country’s first Test win in 1985 at the Oval in Colombo that happened to be against India.

He takes a relatively young women’s team onto the big stage not promising the sun, moon and stars but giving them the confidence to look ahead to a future after incumbent coach Hashan Tillekaratne quit to take up a job in Bangladesh.

“I knew it was little time and we will be up against some gigantic teams. But we can take one team at a time and then break it down to one ball at a time,” said Ratnayake looking ahead of playing the first match against South Africa before taking on Bangladesh, Australia and New Zealand in the rest of the qualifying round games.

Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) contends that Ratnayake, who has a personally unblemished record as one-time head coach and current fast bowling coach of the men’s team, will be able to bring about change.

“Rumesh is a very experienced coach who has come in on an interim basis for the women’s team. But hopefully we will be able to look ahead with him,” said the CEO of SLC Ashley de Silva.

But Ratnayake will not be able to take a closer look at one of the most promising players in schoolgirl all-rounder Dewmi Vihanga Wijeratne who the International Cricket Council (ICC) picked into its Dream Team at the conclusion of the Women’s T20 Under-19 World Cup last month in South Africa and who is not part of the tour party.

Vihanga, a slow spin bowler picked up nine wickets in five matches including best figures of 3 for 34 against the ultimate winners India while making a half century against Bangladesh in another match.

“Yes I am aware of what she (Vihanga) did and it is unfortunate that we will not be able to see her and that is something for the Selectors. But hopefully we will be able to see more of her in the future.

“There is a lot of growth in women’s cricket happening almost overnight. Ten years ago women’s cricket (in the world) was not what it is today. It’s grown in leaps and bounds,” said Ratnayake.

Vihanga’s captain Vishmi Gunaratne, a hard-hitting batter, made it to the squad and incidentally both Vishmi and Vihanga hail from Ratnaweli Girls School in a village in Gampaha.

Sri Lanka women’s World Cup squad:

Chamari Atapattu (captain), Oshadi Ranasinghe, Harshitha Samarawickrema, Nilakshi de Silva, Kavisha Dilhari, Anushka Sanjeewani, Kaushini Nuthyangana, Malsha Shehani, Inoka Ranaweera, Sugandhika Kumari, Achini Kulasuriya, Vishmi Gunaratne, Tharika Sewwandi, Ama Kanchana, Sathya Sandeepani