Seven former Sri Lanka cricket captains, who had enjoyed exemplary careers at school level, have commended the exemplary role played by the Observer-Mobitel Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year contest during the past 40 years. They shared the common view that the Mega Show has made a priceless contribution to promote school cricket and recognize milestone achievements of schoolboy cricketers, even at a time there had not been any official inter-school tournaments.
While paying a glowing tribute to the Observer-Mobitel Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year ceremony and the Sunday Observer, they said that the first award they had won as schoolboy cricketers had been a great source of encouragement.
Former Sri Lanka captain turned Chief ICC Match Referee, Ranjan Madugalle rated his early days as a schoolboy cricketer at Royal as the best moments in his career as a cricketer. Madugalle in a recent interview, said that he was honoured and privileged to become the first-ever recipient of the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year Award some four decades ago, although he had “never thought of individual glory”.
He complemented the Sunday Observer and Lake House for understanding the need to recognize the outstanding performances of schoolboy cricketers during an era which did not have any inter-school tournament structure or an award show to inspire schoolboy cricketers.
“We even didn’t know that there was such an award on offer. We played our traditional friendly matches to enjoy the game and not for competition or personal glory. But it was great to feel that your hard work as a schoolboy cricketer is appreciated at the end of the season. It was a great
inspiration and a satisfaction to feel that your performances are recognized. It is not merely for individual glory but your performances as a team. It was great for the Sunday Observer to recognize the achievements of school teams and their players”, said the first-ever recipient of the prestigious award.
Sri Lanka’s World Cup-winning captain Arjuna Ranatunga, who had won the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year award twice in 1980 and 1982 when he was playing for Ananda College, still considers that as the most memorable moments in his early cricketing career.
Despite going places and winning many other awards at higher levels subsequently, Ranatunga strongly feels that an award won at Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year event remains the most memorable moment in any cricketer’s life. “Winning the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year Award twice remains the most cherished moment in my life. Those titles had given me tremendous inspiration and confidence when I made my Test debut in 1982 as a schoolboy cricketer at Ananda”, he said. Former Sri Lanka captain and ex-ICC Match Referee Roshan Mahanama, the winner of the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer award on successive years 1983 and 1984 feels that it was a great feeling to be rewarded with the prestigious title.
“Becoming the best schoolboy cricketer is an honor for the hard work during the season was a great encouragement. I was privileged to fulfill one of my dreams. Winning the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year twice was indeed a memorable one. It was my stepping stone as an emerging cricketer. Becoming the best schoolboy cricketer made me more focused and determined, to work harder to reach greater heights as a national player” says Mahanama.
Sanath Jayasuriya, who was adjudged the Most Valuable Player of the series when Sri Lanka won the ICC World Cup in 1996, is another Sri Lanka captain to emerge though the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year contest. As his school St. Servatious’ College, Matara was rated as an outstation team, he was not considered under the all-island category for the top award. Nevertheless, Jayasuriya’s dashing form in the 1987/88 season won him the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year (Outstation) in 1988. “Winning that prestigious title was the best thing that had happened in my early cricketing career. It was an immense joy when I was playing for St.
Servatius. Winning the title gave a tremendous boost, confidence and inspiration. Schoolboy cricketers must be motivated to progress to the next level”, Jayasuriya said.
Ex-Sri Lanka captain Marvan Atapattu, who had the honor of holding aloft that glittering Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year award in 1990, considers the rare honor he had was a “certification or a guarantee” and a prediction that he would win a place in the national team.
“As a schoolboy cricketer playing for Ananda, I had been performing well, scoring constantly as a top order batsman. Hence, many considered me as a future national prospect even at that time. Although I too felt that I had a good chance of making it to the national team, there was no guarantee.
Hence almost all previous Observer Schoolboy Cricketers had represented Sri Lanka with distinction I too thought that I am closer to that goal. When I won the title, it gave me the guarantee that I could join that select band”, said Atapattu who had later served as Sri Lanka national coach.
Former Sri Lanka captain Hashan Tillakaratne said the Sunday Observer has done yeoman service to promote school cricket for nearly a century. “It was a fine gesture by Lake House to start an awards ceremony of this nature at a time there was no official inter-school cricket tournament for first XI cricket. We only had friendly two-day matches.
Rewarding schoolboy cricketers for 40 years is no easy task. It has been a great source of encouragement for schoolboy cricketers and we all had eagerly looked forward to this during our school career”, Tillakaratne said.
Sri Lanka captain Dinesh Chandimal too admits that the Observer-Mobitel Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year title he won in 2009 as Ananda captain opened a new chapter in his life with a greater courage and confidence. Chandimal led his team Ananda to 13 outright victories in 2008/09 season. In fact, he led Ananda from front with a lavish contribution with his willow, a staggering 1,580 runs in his final season. He was appointed vice captain of Sri Lanka Under-19 team during the same year.
He was just 19 years old when he scored his maiden first-class century against New Zealand in August 2009 while representing the Sri Lanka Cricket Development XI in a three-day practice match. He established a record against Australian schoolboy team by accounting for eight victims behind the stumps.
In the year 2007, he scored 143 against the Indian Schools side and in the limited-over matches against the England Schools team Chandimal struck a fine century (112) and a half-century (65). Sri Lanka’s national mobile service provider, Sri Lanka Telecom Mobitel continues to provide that ‘smart connection’ to the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year contest. Under the directions of the Chairman of the Sri Lanka Telecom and SLT Mobitel P.G. Kumarasingha, the Chief Executive Officer of the SLT Mobitel Nalin Perera has made a lavish contribution towards the success of the event during the past decade.
Thanks to the longstanding association of the Sri Lanka Schools Cricket Association (SLSCA), the Sri Lanka Cricket Umpires and Scorers Association and Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC), headed by Deputy Speaker Thilanga Sumathipala, the Observer-Mobitel Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year contest has gone from strength to strength.
Meanwhile, voting for the most popular segments of the 40th Observer-Mobitel Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year contest, conducted under three divisions, has reached its peak with the traditional big match season. Voting coupons for the Observer-Mobitel Most Popular Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year contest appear in the Daily News, Sunday Observer, Dinamina and Thinakaran.