Schools ‘Big Match’ season set to bolster Schoolboy Cricketer contest | Sunday Observer

Schools ‘Big Match’ season set to bolster Schoolboy Cricketer contest

School cricket will be at its best with the key matches scheduled to be played during the coming weeks. At the same time, the race for the Observer-Mobitel Most Popular Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year will reach its climax with the commencement of the traditional inter-school ‘Big Matches’ from this weekend.

Voting for the Observer-Mobitel Most Popular Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year contest, conducted under three divisions - Platinum, Gold and Silver, is gradually reaching its peak as schoolboys and their supporters show a special interest towards their respective school teams during the ‘Big Match’ season.

Winning a title at the Obsever-Mobitel Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year mega event will be the ultimate dream of every schoolboy cricketer as they are acutely aware that such recognition would take them closer to winning Sri Lanka a ‘cap’ in the coming year. There have been enough and more examples to prove this common belief from the day the first-ever Observer Schoolboy Cricketer Ranjan Madugalle in 1979 get selected for the ICC World Cup tournament in England.

Merely a couple of months after becoming the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year in the inaugural year, the then Royal captain found a place in the Sri Lanka team for the second ICC World Cup tournament. Just out of school after leading the Reid Avenue boys at the centenary Royal-Thomian cricket encounter, Madugalle made his Sri Lanka debut against India in

Manchester exactly on his 20th birthday.

It turned out to be a perfect birthday celebration for Madugalle as his team, then Sri Lanka only an associate member of the ICC without Test status, beat much fancied India by 47 runs in their first round match of the 1979 World Cup tournament.

Three years later, Madugalle and the very next winner of the Observer Schoolboyu Cricketer of the Year title Arjuna Ranatunga (in 1980 and 1982) were selected to play for Sri Lanka in its inaugural Test – against England way back in February, 1982. Both of them grabbed the memorable opportunity they got to score half centuries. Ranatunga (54) became the first ever Sri

Lanka batsman to score a half century in Test cricket. Minutes later, Madugalle (65) completed his half century in Sri Lanka’s first innings.

For many past Observer-Mobitel Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year winners, the mega title they had won at Sri Lanka’s oldest school cricket awards show remains the most memorable moment in their lives. Despite going places and winning many International Awards, they still value the cherished moment at the mega event.

One such legendary Sri Lanka cricketer is former national captain turned Cabinet Minister Arjuna Ranatunga. “You may go places and win many other international awards, but an award won at ‘Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year’ event remains the most memorable in every cricketer’s life”, said

Ranatunga in a recent interview. “Winning the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year Award twice remains the most cherished moment in my life” Ranatunga was quoted as saying. He further added that those titles won from 1980 to 1982 had given him “tremendous inspiration and confidence” when he had stepped into the international arena.

“When a schoolboy is adjudged the Best Batsman, Best Bowler, Best Allrounder or the Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year, that’s a tremendous boost for a youngster, who could then aim at club level and international level thereafter”, he added.

Former Nalanda captain and member of Sri Lanka’s World Champion team in 1986, Kumar Dharmasena, the winner of the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year award in 1989, had said that it was one of the greatest moments in his career as a cricketer.

“Winning the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year title was a big inspiration.

That helped and encouraged me to play for Sri Lanka. Winning such a mega award gives a huge image and confidence to a schoolboy cricketer to go places. We were determined to reach the top of the ladder and did so with dedication”, said the ICC Elite panel umpire who had now competed 50 Tests as an ICC umpire.

Sri Lanka’s first and the most prestigious school cricket award show will be celebrating its 40th milestone this year, continuing the rich traditions maintained by the country’s flagship English newspaper, the ‘Sunday Observer’.

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. With SLT Mobitel stepping in as the principal sponsor 11 years ago, the contest has gone from

strength to strength. It all began way back in 1979 at a time when there had not been a single

School Cricket Awards show. Forget about an awards show altogether, but there had not been an organized inter-school first XI tournament at that time. Schools engaged in first XI cricket had only their friendly and traditional inter-school matches.

Beside Madugalle, who subsequently went on to captain Sri Lanka and now serves as the Chief Match Referee of the ICC, the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year contest has produced some of the top Sri Lanka cricketers who had prominently marked the country in the world cricketing map.

That evergrowing list of galaxy of stars includes Sri Lanka’s World Cup-winning captain Ranatunga and the world’s highest wicket taker in Test cricket Muttiah Muralitharan.

Ranatunga, who captained Sri Lanka to the World Cup triumph way back in 1996, was adjudged ‘Observer Schoolboy Cricketer’ in 1980 as an emerging star from Ananda College, Colombo.

He had that rare honor of winning the ‘Observer Schoolboy Cricketer’ Award twice (in 1980 and 1982), a feat achieved by only a handful of schoolboy cricketers, including former Sri Lanka captain and ICC Match Referee Roshan Mahanama. 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.

Apart from Madugalle, Ranatunga, Mahanama, Muralitharan and Dharmasena, several star cricketers have won this coveted award. Among them are Sri Lanka’s world cup stars Asanka Gurusinha and Marvan Atapattu to name a few.

As a brilliant schoolboy cricketer from St. Servatious College, Matara, Sanath Jayasuriya too had won the ‘Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year’ Outstation title in 1988. That alone speaks the high traditions maintained by the Mega Show which continues to produce champion cricketers.

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 as the ‘Mother of all Shows’.