A title only for the performing best | Sunday Observer

A title only for the performing best

Ranjan Madugalle
Ranjan Madugalle

There has been a greater response for the Observer-Mobitel Most Popular Schoolboy Cricketer contest as the final weeks of voting has begun with the completion of the first term inter-school matches.

With only a couple of months to go for the grand finale, there has been heavy voting during the past few weeks and the contest, conducted under three divisions, should turn out to be a keenly contested tussle during its final lap. Voting coupons for the Observer-Mobitel Most Popular Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year contest appear in the Daily News, Sunday Observer, Dinamina and Thinakaran.

The Mega Show is sponsored by Sri Lanka’s national mobile service provider, Sri Lanka Telecom Mobitel. Under the directions of the Chairman of Sri Lanka Telecom and SLT Mobitel P.G. Kumarasingha, the Chief Executive Officer of SLT Mobitel Nalin Perera has played a key role towards the success of the event during the past 11 years.

With the long-standing association of the Sri Lanka Schools Cricket Association (SLSCA), the Sri Lanka Cricket Umpires and Scorers Association and Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC), the Observer-Mobitel Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year contest has gone from strength to strength since its inception way back in 1979.

The 40th Observer-Mobitel Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year grand awards ceremony will be held at the Grand Ballroom of the Colombo Hilton. It is likely that the first-ever recipient of this prestigious award, former Royal College captain turned ICC Chief Match Referee Ranjan Madugalle would grace this historic occasion as the chief guest.

The Observer-Mobitel Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year contest, ever since its inception in 1979 has produced many top Sri Lanka cricketers who had made their mark in international cricket.

Beside Madugalle, several legendary Sri Lanka cricketers including the world’s highest Test wicket taker Muttiah Muralitharan, star all-rounder Sanath Jayasuriya and World Cup winning captain Arjuna Ranatunga have entered the big league after their graduation at the Mega Show.

During their recent interviews on Sri Lanka’s first ever school cricket awards show, many past winners have hailed the leading role played by the Sunday Observer to foster local school cricket from the good old days.

The first ever recipient of the prestigious title - former Royal, NCC and Sri Lanka captain Ranjan Madugalle said that Lake House and the Sunday Observer should be complemented for keeping the show going for all these years.

“Most of the schoolboy cricketers who had won the top awards in the past were from Colombo and its suburbs.

But the situation has changed now. Outstation schools have come in a big way and it is a positive sign for the game. May the show continue for many years to come,” said the ICC Chief Match Referee Madugalle.

Sri Lanka’s World Cup winning captain Arjuna Ranatunga, who had won the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year twice in 1980 and 1982, said it is the dream of any schoolboy cricketer to win the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year award. “It’s great to conduct the Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year Contest since 1979 to encourage the budding schoolboy

cricketers. I was particularly happy to see the Northern Province joining with the others in the competitions at the contest,” he said. “I am happy at the improvement of outstation cricket as the game has spread far and wide in the country.

Many Sri Lankan cricketing giants of the past and the present are those who have either won the prestigious and coveted Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year Award or won other awards at the contest,” Ranatunga added.

Former Sri Lanka captain and ex-ICC Match Referee Roshan Mahanama, who had won the main title on successive years in 1983 and 1984, said the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year contest has always motivated schoolboy cricketers at the end of every season.

“These events had motivated us as emerging players. It is always a great motivation when you know your achievements are recognized at the end of the season.

It was a great honour a schoolboy cricketer could win. I was privileged to achieve one of my dreams during a school career,” he said.

Former Nalanda College captain tuned Sri Lanka cricketer Asanka Gurusinha, the winner of the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year title in 1985, had this to say: “When Roshan (Mahanama) won this award twice in 1983 and 1984, I knew how prestigious the award is and the importance of winning 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 a school career.

“The Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year show has not only produced top cricketers but ICC elite panel umpires such as Kumara Dharmasena”, Gurusinha said.

Former Sri Lanka captain and ex-Chairman of Selectors Sanath Jayasuriya, who was an architect of Sri Lanka’s World Cup triumph in 1996, had won the Observer-Mobitel Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year – Outstation title in 1988. Jayasuriya said that it is hard to express that great feeling he got after winning the title exactly 30 years ago.

“Not only me but also my parents, brother, relatives, coaches and school masters, they all enjoyed that cherished moment.

It was a great feeling. All past winners before me, be it the All-island or Outstation, had made their mark in Sri Lanka cricket.

So, when I won the title, I felt that I am getting closer to earning a place in the national squad,” Jayasuriya said. ICC Elite Panel umpire, Kumara Dharmasena, the winner of the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year award in 1989, 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,” the former Sri Lanka all-rounder said. Former Sri Lanka captain Marvan Atapattu, who won the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year title in 1990, said he considered it as a ‘certification or a guarantee’ that he would play for Sri Lanka after his school career at Ananda College.

“When I had been performing well and scoring constantly for Ananda as a schoolboy cricketer, many considered me as a future Sri Lanka prospect. Although I too had felt that I had a chance, there was no guarantee. All those who had won the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year title before me had gone on to play for Sri Lanka with distinction. So, when I won the title, I knew that I too could join that select band,” he said.

Niroshan Dickwella, won the Observer-Mobitel Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year title in 2012. He feels proud to step into the big league through the Mega Show.

“It gives me great pleasure to learn that the contest has lasted for nearly four decades. This has produced a bunch of some great cricketers in the All-Island and Outstation competitions,” Most of the recipients are doing well in their chosen professions, cricket or otherwise,” Dickwella said.

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