When Muralitharan won top award in 1991 | Sunday Observer

When Muralitharan won top award in 1991

The rich 40-year-old history of the Observer-Mobitel Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year contest has given that much-needed inspiration and motivation to the country’s budding schoolboy cricketers to extend their playing careers beyond school level.

There have been many outstanding players who aggregate over 1,000 runs or capture over 100 wickets during a season but only a few have taken such performances to the next level. Playing for a reputed club after ending their school careers and winning the Sri Lanka cap thereafter has been the dream of every schoolboy cricketer but only a handful would eventually fulfill that dream.

One such outstanding player is who not only had achieved that goal in style but had also gone to erase world records in Test cricket, had emerged through the premier school cricket awards show some 27 years ago. The big news in school cricket during that era was about a magical off spinner who had shattered the dreams of all batsmen in inter-school cricket at that period.

Having come to the limelight to enjoy rich harvests of over 100 wickets each on successive seasons, the soft-spoken and publicity-shy young cricketer from St. Anthony’s College, Katugastota ultimately turned out to be the biggest headache to all top batsmen in the world cricket.

The stepping stone for the young lad for international cricket was the ‘Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year’ title he had in 1991. After making his Sri Lanka debut soon afterwards, he cemented his place in the national team in quick time. He eventually became the highest ever wicket-taker in Test cricket, establishing several other world records in international cricket.

He was none other than spin wizard Muttiah Muralitharan who returned to the ‘Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year’ stage in 2011 as the chief guest, some 20 years after his crowning glory.

Speaking at the 33rd Observer-Mobitel Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year awards night as the chief guest, Muralitharan looked emotional when he went down the memory lane. “You are the future Sri Lanka players. You must keep the Sri Lanka flag flying wherever you go”, he told the gathering. “Play hard and dedicate yourself, then success is bound to come. As young cricketers, you must keep in mind that only eleven could play in a team.

When you get that rare chance of playing, you must put your heart and soul and give hundred percent to the team, so that success will come your way”, Muralitharan had told the gathering, while paying a tribute to the ‘Sunday Observer’ for its role in rewarding the outstanding schoolboy cricketers since 1979.

“Don’t be disappointed if you fail once or twice in the early stages of your career. Keep on trying and success is bound to come your way”, he was quoted as saying.

Muralitharan also advised the schoolboys present at the show. “Keep absolutely cool even when the going is not the way you want. I learnt this from my captain Arjuna Ranatunga (another proud recipient of the ‘Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year’ award in 1980 and 1982) who sported a cool head even when the going was not good. Arjuna used to take pressure off the players when the going is not to his liking. He doesn’t show any anger - that’s why he is called captain cool”, Muralitharan said.

Born on April 17, 1972, Muralitharan has achieved loads of records which would be hard to emulate. He is the only person to capture 800 wickets in Test cricket. Representing Sri Lanka in 133 Tests, Muralitharan has accounted for 800 scalps with an attractive average of 22.72.

With his deadly off breaks, Muralitharan has enjoyed match bags of ten wickets or more on 22 occasions which too accounts for a world record. No other bowler has captured five wickets or more on 67 occasions in Test cricket.

His One Day International record too is equally impressive. In 350 ODIs, the master spinner has captured 534 wickets with an average of 23.08.

It is heartening to see the Mega Show is completing its 40th anniversary this year. Most importantly, the country’s national mobile service provider has been associated with Lanka’s first-ever school cricket Awards Show for 11 years. Together with the Sri Lanka Telecom and SLT Mobitel management, SLT Mobitel’s Chief Executive Officer Nalin Perera is extending the fullest support to make the ‘Mother of all Shows’ a resounding success once again as it continues to remain the dream of every schoolboy cricketer!

With the completion of the annual ‘big matches’ and most of the traditional and tournament fixtures by the end of next month, the cynosure of all eyes would be the 40th Observer-Mobitel Schoolboy Cricketer of the Contest.

Meanwhile, the voting for the Observer - Mobitel Most Popular Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year contest, conducted under three categories - Platinum, Gold and Silver, has now reached its last lap.

Hence, it’s high time to support your alma mater by voting for your favorite schoolboy cricketer and motivate the next generation of cricketers. It will be a morale booster for those outstanding young cricketers as the cream of are preparing to enter the club arena with the hope of proudly wearing that Sri Lanka cap eventually.

It is good to discover that several others too 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’.

Needless to say how important it is for schoolboy cricketers to win an award as recognition to their commendable achievements after a strenuous season. It is not just appreciating their achievements but also a big inspiration for them to step into the big league.

All past winners of this prestigious title have repeatedly said what a big inspiration the award had been to their cricketing careers. Since its humble beginnings at Nawaraga Hala in 1979, the ‘Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year’ contest has gone from strength to strength.