Schoolboy Cricketer title, a major milestone in Mahanama’s career | Sunday Observer

Schoolboy Cricketer title, a major milestone in Mahanama’s career

Former Sri Lanka ODI captain and ICC Match Referee Roshan Mahanama feels that his crowning glory as the ‘Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year’ in 1983 and 1984, was a major milestone in his career.

“To be adjudged the best schoolboy cricketer and being honored for the hard work during the season was a great encouragement. I was privileged to achieve one of my dreams”, said Mahanama in a recent interview with the Sunday Observer. “Winning the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year on successive years was a memorable one. It was my stepping stone. Becoming the best Schoolboy Cricketer made me even more determined to work harder to reach greater heights”, he said. “As a kid, I had watched former Nalanda players such as Bandula Warnapura in action. We had full houses for all those inter-school games. It was a passion. The school authorities too encouraged the boys to watch matches”, he added.

Mahanama, recalling his days as a schoolboy cricketer at Nalanda College, said that it was a great feeling to have their names on the team’s fixture card. “Even the old boys made it a point to skip all other engagements to watch their school team’s matches. It was a great honor for us to see our names in the fixture card - first as a player, then as a coloursman and later as vice-captain or captain. I still have preserved those Nalanda fixture cards with me”, Mahanama said.

The first to win the prestigious Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year on successive years in 1983 and 1984, Mahanama is one of the greatest stars who had emerged through Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year contest.

A proud product of Nalanda College, Colombo, Mahanama was a household name in school cricket during early 80s. He first won the ‘Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year’ title in 1983 with a rich harvest with the willow. He continued to let his willow to do the talking in the following year too and his superb form won him the title for the second successive year in 1984.

Although former Ananda captain Arjuna Ranatunga too has won the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year title twice prior to Mahanama but Ranatunga did not win the crown on successive years. Ranatunga first won the coveted title in 1980 after Ranjan Madugalle but failed to repeat the following year in which Rohan Buultjens of St. Peter’s won the prestigious title.

However, Ranatunga, in his final inter-school first XI season for Ananda was crowned Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year once again in 1982.

Following Ranatunga and Mahanama to join the select band of schoolboy cricketers to win the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year title twice each were Thilan Samaraweera (1994 and 1995), Lahiru Peiris (2004 and 2005), Bhanuka Rajapaksa (2010 and 2011) and Charith Asalanka (2015 and 2016).

The last of those six rare occasions was witnessed two years ago when Richmond’s Asalanka won back to back titles. In his last interview with the Sunday Observer, Mahanama urged schoolboy cricketers to work hard to achieve their targets in a disciplined manner, maintaining the high traditions of the game - instead of being ‘remote-controlled’.

“Schoolboy cricketers should be willing to make sacrifices, rather than looking for short cuts to success. Young schoolboy cricketers must have a genuine willingness to work towards their targets with dedication. There are no shortcuts”, he said. The former Nalanda captain said the country’s first and the premier school cricket awards show has always motivated schoolboy cricketers at the end of each season, recognizing their hard work. “These events motivated us as emerging cricketers. It is always a great motivation when you know that your achievements are being recognized”, he said.

It was his late father Upali Mahanama who had been a tower of strength behind the celebrated cricketer’s success story. “To me, he was a great source of encouragement. He stressed the importance of adding values and discipline to our lives. Then I was lucky to come under the watchful eyes of Lionel Sir (Lionel Mendis)” Mahanama recalled the early part of his

distinguish career. “He set us targets from our young ages and groomed us well”, he added.

Mahanama pointed out that Schoolboy Cricketers should be given adequate rest between their games. “During our time, we had enough rest between the games”.

Most importantly, we were taught to respect the game, its culture and to follow team ethics. Even the coaches and masters in charge during our time conducted themselves in an exemplary manner to earn respect. We had the highest respect and regard for the umpires”, he said.

“The heavy load of matches per season, compared to the past, does not give adequate time for schoolboy cricketers to rest or recover between the games.

It is not the quantity but the quality that matters. Most junior cricketers tend to depend totally on the messages sent by their coaches and masters in charge, for on-field decisions. They are being remote-controlled at the middle. Hence, they are not in a position to stand on their own and take decisions. Winning at any cost should not be the motto”, Mahanama pointed out.

Mahanama said that deteriorating standards in school cricket has prevented producing youngsters who could directly march into the national team, as in the past.

“In the past, players such as Ranjan Madugalle earned their places in the national squad directly from school level. Unfortunately, we do not often find consistent players in school cricket, geared up to face that challenge”, he said.

The stylish former Sri Lanka top order batsman said the schoolboy cricketers during his era did not get many opportunities to play international matches at under-19 level. “I had played for Nalanda for five seasons but we had only two tours. But the present day players get more and more opportunities. I wonder whether the players are making full use of those tours,” he said.

Mahanama feels that there should be a balance on the number of matches a school team has to play during a season to maintain the quality of the game. “True that we need to give more opportunities to outstation teams but that should not happen at the expense of quality”, he said.

Mahanama, who turns 52 in May, has represented Sri Lanka in 52 Tests had an aggregate of 2,576 runs with four centuries and 11 fifties. His career best innings of 225 was registered against India in 1997, sharing a record partnership of 576 runs with Sanath Jayasuriya (340) at Premadasa Stadium in Colombo helped Sri Lanka record the highest team total in a Test.

He made a half century in his last Test for Sri Lanka - against South Africa at Centurion Park in 1998. Mahanama has played in 213 One Day Internationals for Sri Lanka to enjoy an aggregate of 5,162 runs with four centuries and 35 half centuries.

oupons to vote for the ‘Observer -Mobitel Most Popular Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year’ contests conducted under three categories, are published in the Lake House national newspapers – Sunday Observer, Daily News, Dinamina and Thinakaran. The event is sponsored by Sri Lanka Telecom Mobitel.