Stage set for Tuesday’s Mega Show | Sunday Observer

Stage set for Tuesday’s Mega Show

Charith Asalanka of Richmond College,  Galle has won the prestigious title during  last two years to join the select band
Charith Asalanka of Richmond College, Galle has won the prestigious title during last two years to join the select band

Tuesday will be another red letter day in Sri Lanka’s first-ever school cricket awards show – the Observer-Mobitel Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year unveils its 39th edition at the Grand Ballroom of the Galadari Hotel,Colombo commencing from 5.30 p.m.

Since its humble beginnings at Nawarangahala in 1979, Sri Lanka’s first and the premier school cricket award show has come a long way, inspiring the next generation national cricketers. Inaugurated by the Sunday Observer and Lake House during a period in which there had not been any Under-19 inter-school tournament structure or a school cricket awards ceremony,

Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year contest has reached some great milestone, recognizing the budding cricketers of the nation.

Who will be the most outstanding cricketer who will be crowned the Observer-Mobitel Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year 2017? That will be the million-dollar question as the top most school cricketers gather at the Galadari Hotel to seek an answer. Winning the prestigious title is considered the highest award to be won by a schoolboy cricketer, a feat some of the most outstanding players have achieved before stepping into the big league.

Asanka Gurusinha, former Sri Lanka cricketer and present manager of Sri Lanka team returns to the Mega Show 32 years after wining the title, this time as the chief guest

Former Sri Lanka cricketer and the present manager of the Sri Lanka team, Asanka Gurusinha will be the chief guest at the awards ceremony. It will be some 32 years after Gurusinha making his appearance at the mega show after winning the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year title in 1985 as an outstanding schoolboy cricketer from Nalanda College, Colombo.

Gurusinha was the fifth youth star to win the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year title after Ranjan Madugalle (1979), Arjuna Ranatunga (1980 and 1982), Rohan Buultjens (1981) and Roshan Mahanama (1983 and 1984). In a recent 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 the latter had been a senior player at 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 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.

Representing Sri Lanka in 147 ODIs, Gurusinha has aggregated 3,902 runs inclusive of two centuries and 22 fifties to average 28.27. 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. Sri Lanka Telecom Mobitel will be the proud sponsor of the Mega Show, providing financial support for the tenth consecutive year. SLT Mobitel has helped the organizers to improve the quality and the standard of the Mega Show. SLT Mobitel’s Chief Executive Officer Nalin Perera has made an immense contribution to the success story of the event, extending his fullest support, along with the SLT management, spearheaded by its chairman Kumarasinghe Sirisena.

Right from the inaugural year 1979 in which Madugalle was adjudged the first-ever recipient of the coveted title, the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the series have produced many legendary cricketers who have made their mark in world cricket, including Sri Lanka’s world cup-winning captain Arjuna Ranatunga, world’s highest wicket taker in Tests Muttiah Muralitharan and the most valuable player in the 1996 World Cup tournament Sanath Jayasuriya.

There are three past award winners in the current Sri Lanka team – the new Test captain Dinesh Chandimal, emerging batting stars in world cricket Niroshan Dickwella (2012) and Kusal Mendis (2013). Incidentally, the manager of the current Sri Lanka team Asanka Gurusinha (1985) and chairman of selectors Sanath Jayasuriya (1988 – Outstation) too have been among the galaxy of stars who have come to limelight through the Mega Show. 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.

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.

Beside Madugalle, Ranatunga, Mahanama, Gurusinha and Muralitharan, several star cricketers have won this coveted award. Among them are Sri Lanka’s world cup stars Sanath Jayasuriya, Marvan Atapattu and Kumara Dharmasena to name a few. As a brilliant schoolboy cricketer from St. Servatious College, Matara, 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. Former Sri Lanka captain and ex-national coach Atapattu (1990), former Sri Lanka captain and ex-ICC Match Referee Mahanama, former Sri Lanka player and ICC Elite Panel Umpire Kumar Dharmasena and ex Sri Lanka Test batsman turned the outgoing batting coach of the Bangladesh nation team Thilan Samaraweera (1994 and 1995).

Winning a glorious of 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’.