School cricket, Some of the best moments in my sports career | Sunday Observer

School cricket, Some of the best moments in my sports career

ICC Chief Match Referee, Ranjan Madugalle spoke and recalled his early days as a schoolboy cricketer as some the best moments in his cricketing life. In conversation with the Sunday Observer, the first-ever winner of the prestigious Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year award in 1979, said that he had thoroughly enjoyed his school cricket career at Royal College, Colombo.

The Ex-Sri Lanka captain the first Sri Lankan to be appointed as ICC’s Chief Match Referee said that he had “made some good and dear friends both on and off the field,” not only with his team mates but also from his opposing teams mates and numerous people that he has come to know through his journey in cricket.

The former Royal, NCC and Sri Lanka captain said he was honoured and privileged to become the first-ever recipient of the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year Award 39 years ago, although he 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 where sponsorship and commercialization were not as what it is now. As such to start an awards show of this nature was inspirational to the then schoolboy cricketers.

Born on April 22, 1959, Ranjan Senerath Madugalle is one of the most technically skilled Test batsmen that Sri Lanka has ever produced. He hugged the limelight from his early days with a rich harvest of runs with the willow in successive seasons and led his alma mater in the centenary Royal-Thomian Cricket encounter in 1979. Months later, he won the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year Award. In the same year, he represented Sri Lanka at the second ICC World Cup held in England and made his ODI debut. He had the honour of scoring a half century (65) on his Test debut, at Sri Lanka’s inaugural Test against England at Sara Stadium way back in 1982. In fact, Madugalle and Arjuna Ranatunga, who won the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year Award in its second awards show, were the first two half centurions in Sri Lanka’s Test history. Here are the excerpts from the conversation with Madugalle.

Q. How do you see the present day school cricket compared to your era at Royal College?

A. A school team now plays a greater number of matches compared to our time. We played about 11 matches for a season but now we see most school teams play more than 20 matches during a season. This schedule places a strain on the mind and body of a young cricketer. Therefore, it is important to strike a right balance as “more” is not always the best.

There were no competitions or tournaments during our time. We had only friendly games. But the quality of cricket played was of a consistently high standard. Spectators came in their numbers to witness inter-school cricket matches in the good old days but that trend has deteriorated now.

Q. What could be the reason for lack of spectator interest in inter-school cricket?

A. This is due to the era we live in. People have more options to choose from now. In the past school cricket was one of the few top flight options that were available for students to take up to and for people to watch. The standards were high too. Now there are many options available to young school boys. In addition, Television brings the best of sport and entertainment live to your doorstep.

Q. Tell us how you enjoyed your days as a schoolboy cricketer?

A. I thoroughly enjoyed my school cricket career, possibly some of the best moments in my cricketing life. I learnt a lot during my school cricket career from the junior level to first X1, not only about the game but also about life. I have made good friends both on and off the field, not only from my school but also from other schools as well. Some of my life’s learning lessons were picked up on the cricket field. This was a memorable and a rewarding period.

Q. How did you feel when you became the first-ever recipient of the prestigious Observer Schoolboy Cricketer title?

A. I felt honoured and privileged to win the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year award at its inaugural show in 1979. In fact, we even didn’t know that there was such an award on offer. We played traditional friendly matches to enjoy the game and play it to the best of our ability in the spirit it was meant to be played. But it was great to feel that your hard work as a schoolboy cricketer was appreciated at the end of the season. It was a great inspiration and also gave a sense of satisfaction to feel that your performances were recognized. It was also refreshing to see the Sunday Observer recognize not only individual performances but more importantly team performances as well.

Q. Do you think the deteriorating standards of local school cricket, which was once considered the best in the world, has affected the standard of the feeder pool to the Sri Lanka national team?

A. I don’t like to identify it as deteriorating standards. I would rather say…. the standard of local school cricket has not improved at the levels we would have liked. There are various factors that could be attributed towards that. One main reason could be the structure, scheduling and intent of the inter-school cricket tournaments. Then the quality of pitches that are being used for school matches, the standard of coaching and guidance the young schoolboy cricketers get etc.

Q. How important is physical fitness for a cricketer, be it at school level or at the highest international level?

A. In today’s highly competitive world of cricket physical fitness plays an important role. Physical fitness, nutrition, skills and a strong and healthy mind are equally important factors in producing a complete player, be it in cricket or any other sport for that matter.

Your success as a player depends on how good you are in all those areas.

Q. How do you feel when you look back at your career – first as a schoolboy cricketer and captain of Royal College, then leading NCC and Sri Lanka captain, becoming ICC Match Referee and finally to be elevated as the Chief ICC Match Referee?

A. Absolutely lucky to have been a part of each of these phases and progress to the level that I am today. I have learnt many a lessons during each of those phases, not only in cricket but also about life. It has been a privilege and this journey has been enjoyable something I will treasure for the rest of my life.

Q. If you had not become a cricketer?

A. I would have become a professional in a chosen field. At 20 years, I entered the corporate world. If not for cricket may be I would have chartered a career path that I would have liked and enjoyed.

Q. What is your advice to present day schoolboy cricketers?

A. Enjoy the game! It is the foremost. Play by the laws and the spirit of cricket. Always remember that the game is bigger than the individual. Respect your opponents as much as you respect your own team mates. When you reach my age one will realize that you will be remembered not for the amount of runs you had scored or the wickets that you had captured but for the person you are and become.