Sri Lanka Cricket on right direction under Sumathipala: Schoolboy Cricketer title made me believe in myself - Gurusinha | Sunday Observer

Sri Lanka Cricket on right direction under Sumathipala: Schoolboy Cricketer title made me believe in myself - Gurusinha

Former Sri Lanka cricketer and current Cricket Manager of the Sri Lanka national team, Asanka Gurusinha said the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year title he won in 1985 was the turning point in his cricket career.

In an exclusive interview with the Sunday Observer, the 50-year-old ex-Sri Lanka world cup star said the year 1985 turned out to be a memorable year for him after winning the most sought-after title in school cricket. “When Roshan Mahnama won this award twice in 1983 and 1984, I felt how prestigious it is to win the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year award. It is not an award that everybody could win. One has to perform exceptionally well and be consistent right throughout a season to win that – work really hard to reach the pinnacle of school career,” he said.

Gurusinha, better known as Gura in cricketing circles, said he was ambitious after witnessing the proud moment of Mahanama as well as for his alma mater Nalanda College, Colombo. “I knew hard work and dedication with exceptional performance could take a schoolboy cricketer towards that goal.

That was exactly what happened in the following year,” recalled Gurusinha. Aftetr an outstanding 1984/85 season for Nalanda, with a rich harvest of over 1,000 runs with the willow, young Gurusinha was adjudged the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer in 1985. “It was a great moment, to win the highest award in school cricket before a packed house at the BMICH. After winning the title, I started believing in myself more. In less than five months after that I made my Test debut for Sri Lanka,” he added. Gurusinha paid glowing tribute to Lake House and the Sunday Observer for conducting the show for almost four decades since 1979. “I am glad that the Lake House is hosting the awards show uninterrupted and encouraging the budding schoolboy cricketers. During my time, this was the only school cricket awards show and we were eagerly looking forward to it,” he said.

The technically sound left-handed top order bat, who eventually turned out to be one of the most dependable one drop batsmen ever produced by Sri Lanka, made his ODI debut on November 3, 1985 in Sri Lanka’s fourth ODI against Pakistan in Hyderabad. Representing Sri Lanka in 147 ODIs, Gurusinha has aggregated 3,902 runs inclusive of two centuries and 22 fifties to average 28.27. Merely four days after making his ODI debut, Gurusinha won his Test cap on November 7, 1985 to play for Sri Lank in the third Test against Pakistan in Karachi. The reliable left-handed batsman has represented Sri Lanka in 41 Tests to aggregate 2,453 with seven centuries and eight half tons. He has a Test average of 38.92 with a career best score of 143.

Asked about the present day school cricket, Gurusnha said the standard has not been the same, when it is compared to his playing days at the Campbell Place school. “I have not followed it thoroughly. But from what I have gathered, I feel the standard has dropped a bit. Nevertheless, we have one of the best inter-school cricket structures in the world which is still competitive. We have talented players and it’s a matter of grooming them for the future,” Gurusinha said.

He stressed the importance of paying enough attention to school cricket. “It is the feeding ground for the national pool. Aggregating 1,000 runs or capturing over 100 wickets was not an easy task in our era with a school playing a limited number of traditional fixtures. In my final year, there

was only one other batsman who had scored over 1,000 runs. Players like Ranjan (Madugalle), Arjuna (Ranatunga) and Roshan (Mahanama) marched directly to the national level just after their school careers. I would like to experience the same again to enrich the national team,” he added.

When I accepted the post of cricket manager of the Sri Lanka national team, my wish was to see talented under-19 school cricketers knocking for places in the national team directly,” he said.

He was concerned about the dying spectator interest for school cricket, which had been at its best during his era. “One reason for that is that there is too much of cricket now. Live television coverage also discourages fans from going to grounds. I could remember the Royal-Nalanda match in 1983. We were after five wins and Royal after seven wins. The Reid Avenue

ground was packed,” he said. Gurusinha said outstanding performances star schoolboy cricketers too prompted cricket fans to come in their numbers, irrespective of their school affiliations. “When Aravinda (De Silva) was playing for D.S. Senanayake College, most fans who had nothing to do with DSS, came purely witness Aravinda in action,” he pointed out. Sri Lanka Cricket Manager feels that there is a vast gap between present day school cricket standard and that of Sri Lanka ‘A’ or national team.

“There is a big gap now and you need to come out with an exceptional performance to make it to the national team. Fitness and sharp ground fielding play an important role and these aspects should be looked into from school level,” he said.

Nevertheless, Gurusinha sees a bright future for Sri Lanka cricket. “We must set one goal and work towards that at all levels. High performance culture should work from school level with intense training and highest fitness levels,” he said.

Gurusinha said Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) is heading towards right direction under the presidency of Thilanga Sumathipala. “That is why I accepted this role to work as the manager of the national team.

It is on the right path,” Gurusinha added. Advising the young schoolboy cricketers aspiring to play for Sri Lanka in the future, Gurusiha said physical fitness is a key area that makes a complete cricketer. “Fitness is very important, not only to play school cricket but even in their studies with a sound mind. They must work hard with dedication. Just because one takes 50 wickets, he should not expect a direct place in the national team. Instead, he should keep on performing and maintain consistency,” he said.

Gurusinha is an architect of Sri Lanka’s 1996 World Cup triumph, aggregating 307 runs – the sixth highest among all teams, with three half centuries in six matches to average 51.16. Even at the last match of his Test career, he made a patient 88 off 239 balls against Zimbabwe at SSC

grounds in September 1996. “The Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year show has not only produced top cricketers but some international level umpires such as Kumar Dharmasena who serves in the ICC elite panel.

“We should also thank school coaches and masters-in-charge who render a yeoman service,” Gurusinha concluded, before his departure to Australia yesterday following Sri Lanka’s home series against Bangladesh After a two-and-a-half-week holiday in Australia, Gurusinha is expected to return to Sri Lanka to join the national team, in preparations for the ICC Champions trophy tournament in England in June.