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Women's Premier League 2024

Chamari Athapaththu’s Women’s Premier League auction snub is her most baffling yet

Chamari Athapaththu
Abhishek Mukherjee by Abhishek Mukherjee
@ovshake42 15 minute read

None of the five franchises opted for Chamari Athapaththu at the WPL 2024 auction. Of all her snubs, this was perhaps the most baffling of them all, writes Abhishek Mukherjee.

Browse through the myriad previews of the WPL 2024 auction, and you will find Chamari Athapaththu faring among the favourites. She was one of the three options when Jio Cinema, the official broadcasters, ran a poll, asking the viewers to predict the most expensive buy.

One can see why. In 2023, Athapaththu has scored 470 runs in T20Is at 131: of batters with more runs this year, only Hayley Mathews (132) has scored at a quicker rate. She also has eight wickets while going at under a run a ball.


That, however, tells only part of the story. Athapaththu plays for Sri Lanka, not among the top five sides in the world. And yet, on her back, they have started to earn some significant scalps. This July, she slammed a 47-ball unbeaten 80 when they beat New Zealand for the first time in T20Is, in 13 attempts.

It came after a historic series, albeit in another format. Having lost 10 ODIs to New Zealand without a win, Sri Lanka won an ODI series against them. She scored an unbeaten hundred in each of Sri Lanka’s two wins in the series, both at breakneck pace: 108 in 83 balls, followed by 140 in 80.

Athapaththu’s contributions to the ODI side are well-documented. She has scored each of Sri Lanka’s eight hundreds in the format, and has hit almost half their sixes till date.

One can, of course, choose to ignore her ODI records. After all, it is another format. However, even in T20Is, her most famous performance came in England, after the New Zealand series, when Sri Lanka won their first ever series in the country.

Athapaththu’s runs (114) and strike rate (165) were the highest from either side. She also hit the most sixes (five), while her 15 fours were more than anyone else’s tally. Her five wickets were also the joint-most, while she conceded 5.18 an over. It was an astonishing effort.

She had not been picked at the auction for the WPL 2023 or the drafts for The Hundred 2023, but after the England tour, a WBBL offer seemed inevitable. Yet, at the draft, no team was keen. She was as upset as anyone would have been in her place.

Yet, a door opened when Marizanne Kapp was injured. Signed up as replacement by Sydney Thunder, Athapaththu made 511 runs at 130 with five fifties to win the Player of the Tournament award.

It was not about the one tournament alone. With a 1,000-run cut-off across all T20s in 2023, Athapaththu’s strike rate of 129 is the fourth-best in the world. She has also conceded only 6.40 an over for her 17 wickets.

The expectations around franchises having a frantic bidding over Athapaththu were, thus, logical. Having spent INR 2 crore on Annabel Sutherland, Delhi Capitals had only INR 25 lakh to spare, but the other teams could afford Athapaththu’s base price of INR 30 lakh.

Yet, none of the teams were keen. Perhaps one can understand the logic of UP Warriorz or Mumbai Indians, both of whom were allowed only one overseas cricketer each. UP had already got Danni Wyatt at the auction: had Athapaththu’s name come up before Wyatt’s, she might have got the nod. Mumbai, on the other hand, were set out to acquire a fast bowler to spearhead their attack: they got Shabnim Ismail.

When the list for the accelerated auctions was announced, thus, Gujarat Giants and Royal Challengers Bangalore were the only franchises who could have asked for Athapaththu. Neither was interested in her or, for that matter, Deandra Dottin.

Athapaththu’s snub predictably drew reactions. “It is unfair because people in that auction room would have watched her performance in the WBBL. They would have seen what happened in England … I am really surprised that a player with all-round abilities like hers is going unsold,” said Anjum Chopra in the post-auction analysis. “Here is a player who can do two jobs for you and is still going unsold. How is it that these teams are not seeing the quality that this player possesses?”

“She wasn’t necessarily in our radar, but I thought she was going to be one of the top three picks,” agreed Charlotte Edwards, who had coached Mumbai Indians to title success in the inaugural edition, in 2023, and was bidding for the franchise at the 2024 auction. “She’s a high-quality player who has performed brilliantly in the last 12 months.”

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