Shashikala Siriwardene is fit and raring to go in the Women’s T20 Challenge

© ICC

There was an air of melancholy as Shashikala Siriwardene played the final game of her international career in the Women’s T20 World Cup earlier this year. The performance was as notable as most of hers have been – four wickets for 16 runs against Bangladesh, paving the way for an easy win for Sri Lanka. However, when it came to light that the veteran would be one of the two Sri Lankans – Chamari Atapattu being the other – to play in the Women’s T20 Challenge, it didn’t take much for that dismay to turn into delight.

Siriwardene was clear, though, about playing the Women’s T20 Challenge as she’d heard about it back in January. However, when the pandemic struck, those plans had to be shelved, though she had faith the competition would ahead at some point. And that turned out to be the end goal she trained hard for during the lockdown, in her ‘post-retirement’ period.

“I kept practicing and training at home because I heard about the T20 Challenge and we had the domestic tournament,” Siriwardene reveals to Women’s CricZone.

“We had the faith that this would happen sometime. We kept believing that and kept ourselves ready for this. (I’m) really excited and hoping to give my best.”

T20 cricket has become synonymous with high fitness levels and that, understandably, was the Sri Lankan veteran’s focus during the lockdown.

“I really looked after my physical fitness,” Siriwardene says, “which is very important in this format. (I did) batting and bowling drills and went back to basics. With the resources I had in my house, I had to manage with skill training.”

“Since the last month, we were able to go back to our working places. I work in Sri Lanka Navy. I could take that advantage being there because there are a lot of players who aren’t in the national squad in the navy team. So I was able to practise with them. We have a good trainer there.”

ALSO READ: Shashikala Siriwardene: Sri Lanka’s original superstar

All the matches of the Women’s T20 Challenge are expected to be played in Sharjah – the ground dimensions of which have meant that the men’s IPL matches have been high scoring ones. In what’s termed to be a bowlers’ graveyard, Siriwardene and co. will be expected to hold their own, something she’s acutely aware of.

“I was watching closely how the spin behaves and what do off-spinners do,” admits the 35-year-old, who will turn out for Harmanpreet Kaur’s Supernovas.

“I’ve been practicing those things but we have to go there and see if the wickets have changed. [I’m] getting ready for everything, hopefully all goes to plan.”

The Indian and overseas players are set to reach Dubai on October 21 where they will undergo a six-day quarantine in what will be a bio-bubble. Despite how the setup and life in the bio-secure bubble will be, Siriwardene is optimistic looking at the opportunity the women will be getting to play.

“We have to get used to the situation. It’s a huge privilege that we are back in action – we can play cricket, we can watch cricket. We have to [make] sacrifices in this situation. I’m ready for that and am hoping to continue to be physically fit and be in touch with cricket. First thing is to play my best; that is why we’ve been selected for this tournament,” she concludes.

For someone who had to be content watching highlights of previous matches and spending time on social media realising how most players couldn’t be away from cricket, expect Siriwardene to put on a show when the tournament kicks off on November 4.