Chamari Athapaththu not retiring yet, will play T20 World Cup qualifiers from late April

“I’m still not decided [on retirement],” she said in East London, where Sri Lanka will play South Africa in the first of three ODIs tomorrow. “We can talk about it later. At the moment, I’m focused on the [South Africa] ODIs and World Cup qualifiers. Let’s see in the future.”

Athapaththu, who is 34 and is due to play her 100th ODI for Sri Lanka in the upcoming series, raised concerns over her playing future with a couple of cryptic Facebook posts over the last week. On Thursday, after Sri Lanka secured a historic, first T20I series win over South Africa, Athapaththu put up pictures of herself and the trophy and included the words “last duty for my country” in the caption. She has since removed that phrase from the post.

On Sunday, she posted another picture and wrote: “Review DRS,” with a winking emoji. “Some decisions are very difficult. But at some point in life we have to make such decisions.” She included a heart, the Sri Lankan flag and a trophy.

Athapaththu has since confirmed that she will remain in charge of Sri Lanka at least until the completion of their T20 World Cup Qualifier campaign, which starts on April 25 in Abu Dhabi. Sri Lanka are grouped with Thailand, Scotland, Uganda and the USA and must top the group to qualify for the World Cup in Bangladesh later this year.

Athapaththu said she is “definitely” available for the qualifier and is hopeful for Sri Lanka’s chances of securing a spot at the main event. “I’m pretty confident about my group. We’ve played really good cricket so far. But the UAE has different conditions and is really good for the batters. Every team goes to qualifiers to win so we have to play our best cricket in World Cup qualifiers as well. I’m pretty confident about my bowling unit and batting unit.”

Under Athapaththu’s leadership, Sri Lanka have beaten England and South Africa in T20 series in the last 10 months, as well as reached the final of the Asian Games, which they lost to India. Their 50-over form has not been quite as impressive and they are in eighth place on the Women’s Championship Points table, well outside of automatic qualification for the 2025 ODI World Cup. They have nine more matches in the Championship – three each against South Africa, West Indies and Ireland – between now and August.

Whether or not Athapaththu will feature in those matches remains to be seen but whatever she decides, she is content that Sri Lankan cricket is in good hands. “I’m really happy with our youngsters and how they handle the pressure in the middle, especially Vishmi [Gunaratne], Kavisha [Dilhari] and Harshita [Samarawickrama]. They’re playing really, really good cricket over the last couple of months,” she said. “And I think we have good depth.

“We’ve worked hard as a country and as players. We’ve restructured our domestic cricket and we are playing a lot of cricket in Sri Lanka. We started an Under-19 tournament, Under-17 tournaments, provincial tournaments, and club tournaments. So better results are coming now. There are a lot of youngsters playing cricket in Sri Lanka and schoolgirls starting playing cricket.

“These are the positive things on my side, and I hope we can be a good team in future.”

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