The very title inspired me to go places - Dharmasena | Sunday Observer

The very title inspired me to go places - Dharmasena

Former Sri Lanka cricketer turned ICC Elite Panel Umpire, Kumar Dharmasena said the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year title he won in 1989 inspired him to excel in the international arena.“It was one of the greatest moments in my career as a cricketer. Winning the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year title was a big inspiration. That helped and encouraged me to play for Sri Lanka,” Dharmasena said.

In an exclusive interview with the Sunday Observer, Dharmasena said winning such a mega award gives a large image and lots of confidence for a schoolboy cricketer to go places. We were determined to reach the top of the ladder and did so with dedication,” he said.

Dharmasena feels that outstanding cricketers with exceptional performances and milestones are less today, compared to his era. He said that could be the reason that hardly any schoolboy cricketers have directly stepped into the Sri Lanka team in recent times, compared to his playing days.

Dharmasena is better known as a member of Sri Lanka’s 1996 World Champion team, led by Arjuna Ranatunga, another proud recipient of the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year title.

Having retired from competitive cricket in November 2006, Dharmasena pursued a career in umpiring. Having faced all umpiring examinations well, Dharmasena went on to make his international debut as an umpire in 2009.

Two years later, he was included in an 18-member panel for the 2011 World Cup in India. In the same year (2011), he was elevated to the Elite Panel of ICC Umpires. He went on to win the coveted Umpire of the Year title at the ICC awards ceremony.

Asked about his observations on the present Sri Lanka cricket team, Dharmasena said there is no need to push the panic button as every team has its own ups and downs.

“I don’t feel anything wrong with the team or the talent we have. We are in a team building process and are experiencing a bad patch. Every team could face such situation,” he said. Dharmasena added that Bangladesh has an experienced team with most of the players hanging around for the past three years or more. “In contrast, we have often tried young talent and we should bounce back soon. It is also the duty of former cricketers too to help the team. We are willing to do so, if invited,” he explained.

He is of the view that the present day challenge for schoolboy cricketers is greater in their future careers and as a result, only a few outstanding cricketers would remain in the game once they leave school.

“Luckily, when I left Nalanda, Hatton National Bank (HNB) offered me employment and gave all the support to pursue my career as a club cricketer and then as an international cricketer. But present day schoolboy cricketers hardly get that sort of support,” he added.

Dharmasena, who turns 46 in three weeks’ time, was born on April 24, 1971 in Colombo. He is one of the best all-rounders produced by Nalanda College, Colombo.

He had three memorable school seasons during his last couple of seasons for the Campbell Place School.

He narrowly missed the chance of becoming the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer in 1988 when he emerged runner up to Sanjeewa Ranatunga of Ananda. However, he continued to perform equally well in the season and was the unanimous choice for the coveted title on 1989.

On the following year too, he finished the runner up when Marvan Atapattu won the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer title.

Since then, Dharmasena became a permanent member of the Bloomfield in the domestic inter-club premier league season, performing regularly with both the bat and the ball.Asked about his future plans, Dharmasena said he is eagerly looking forward to officiate in his 50th Test.

“I have so far officiated 45 Tests and looking forward to that milestone. I do not have too many future plans as we are getting older I take it year by year. The ICC recognizes my work and I am happy with it,” he said.

In less than three years after winning the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year title, young Dharmasena made his Test debut in Sri Lanka’s second Test against South Africa at SSC grounds in September, 1993.

Dharmasena made his Sri Lanka ODI debut on August 24, 1994 in the fifth ODI against Pakistan at Premadasa Stadium capturing 2 for 34 off nine overs.

He has aggregated 868 runs in 31 Tests with three half centuries and captured 69 wickets with 6 for 72 as his best innings analysis. Dharmasena had represented Sri Lanka in 141 ODIs, aggregating 1,222 runs with four half centuries.

He has captured 138 wickets in ODIs. Dhamasena’s off breaks, delivered with a slightly unorthodox action, has been a blessing to the Lankan team in many ODIs.

He is better known for his inspiring acts as a team man, motivating his fellow players even at difficult times. Hence, he was nicknamed ‘unanduwa’ by his teammates.

“If you don’t enjoy the game and dedicate yourself towards it, you won’t be successful. Believe in yourself, work hard with dedication and you will find success,” was his advice to the emerging schoolboy cricketers who keep dreaming of the Sri Lanka cap.