Sri Lanka’s first and the most prestigious school cricket award show will be held for the 39th consecutive year, continuing the rich traditions maintained by the country’s flagship English newspaper, the Sunday Observer. Voting for the most popular segments of the 39th Observer-Mobitel Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year contest commenced last week as the 2016/17 inter-school first X1 cricket season gradually reaches its peak.
The Mega Show will be conducted by the Sunday Observer and sponsored by Sri Lanka’s national mobile service provider – Sri Lanka Telecom Mobitel. It’s not just another cricket awards show! It has a proud history of opening new horizons for the country’s budding schoolboy cricketers and inspiring for them to become national cricketers.
Way back in 1979
It all began way back in 1979 at a time when there had not been a single school cricket awards show. Forget about an awards show altogether, but there had not been an organized inter-school first X1 tournament at that time. Schools engaged in first X1 cricket had only their friendly and traditional inter-school matches. It was the year in which the country’s oldest inter-school cricket match – the Royal-Thomian encounter, celebrated its centenary. Incidentally, the captain of the Royal team at the 100th Battle of the Blues in 1979, Ranjan Madugalle became the first recipient of the prestigious Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year award, just a few months after their big match.
Beside Madugalle, who subsequently went on to captain Sri Lanka and now serves as the Chief Match Referee of the ICC, the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year contest has produced some of the top Sri Lanka cricketers who had prominently marked the country in the world cricket map.
Galaxy of stars have won
Heading that ever-growing galaxy of star list are Sri Lanka’s World Cup-winning captain turned minister Arjuna Ranatunga and the world’s highest wicket-taker in Test cricket Muttiah Muralitharan. Ranatunga, who captained Sri Lanka to the world cup triumph way back in 1996, was adjudged Observer Schoolboy Cricketer in 1980 as an emerging star from Ananda College, Colombo.
He had that rare honour of winning the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer Award twice (in 1980 and 1982), a feat achieved by only a handful of schoolboy cricketers, including former Sri Lanka captain and ICC Match Referee Roshan Mahanama. Spin wizard Muralitharan first came to limelight as a schoolboy cricketer from St. Anthony’s College, Katugastota by capturing over 100 wickets each in successive seasons. He was adjudged the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer in 1989. Besides Madugalle, Ranatunga, Mahanama and Muralitharan, several star cricketers have won this coveted award. Among them are Sri Lanka’s world cup stars Asanka Gurusinha, Marvan Atapattu and Kumara Dharmasena to name a few. As a brilliant schoolboy cricketer from St. Servatius College, Matara, Sanath Jayasuriya too had won the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year Outstation title. That alone speaks the high traditions maintained by the Mega Show which continues to produce champion cricketers.
Winning a glorious award of this magnitude has been the dream of any schoolboy cricketer during the past four decades.
At a time when there had not been a single awards show for schoolboy cricketers or an organized inter-school Under-19 two-day tournament, the Sunday Observer and its publisher Lake House understood the need to inspire the country’s budding cricketers. That had given birth to the country’s biggest school cricket awards show.
It is heartening to see that several others have followed the Sunday Observer’s initiative to hold similar awards shows to commend the achievements of schoolboy cricketers after every season. But the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year remains the ‘Mother of all Shows’. edless to say how important it is for schoolboy cricketers to win an award as recognition to their commendable achievements after a strenuous season. It is not just appreciating their achievements but also a big inspiration for them to step into the big league. All past winners of this prestigious title have repeatedly said what a big inspiration the award had been to their cricket careers. Since its humble beginnings at Nawaragahala in 1979, the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year contest has gone from strength to strengthen.
Its alliance with SLT Mobitel, which has come forward to provide financial backing for almost a decade, has helped the organizers to improve the quality and the standard of the Mega Show. SLT Mobitel’s Senior General Manager Nalin Perera has always extended his fullest support to keep the Mega Show alive, along with the SLT management, spearheaded by its chairman P.G. Kumarasingha. The Lake House (ANCL) management, led by its chairman Kavan Ratnayaka, has teamed up with them to keep the Mega Show alive.
Now, it’s the time to vote for your favourite schoolboy crickcter and hail their achievements during the ongoing season. Voting coupons for the Observer-Mobitel Most Popular Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year contest are now appearing in ANCL newspapers, including the Sunday Observer.