Three winners of contrasting styles | Sunday Observer

Three winners of contrasting styles

Launching a school cricket awards show during an era when there had not been any organized inter-school tournament and continuing it for 40 years uninterrupted is no easy task. That is exactly what the Sunday Observer, together with its current sponsor Sri Lanka Telecom Mobitel, has done!

The first-ever recipient of the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year title – the current Chief Match Referee of the ICC, Ranjan Madugalle has confirmed his participation at the 40th anniversary celebrations. The former Royal College, NCC and Sri Lanka captain turned ICC Chief Match Referee will grace the historic occasion as the chief guest.

The country’s first school cricket awards show has produced many world class cricketers who consider the Mega Show as their stepping stone for the big league. Since Sri Lanka’s inaugural Test in 1982, almost all national teams had at least one past Observer Schoolboy Cricketer. That alone shows the impact the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year show has made on Sri Lanka’s cricket history.

The first two winners of the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year award– Ranjan Madugalle (1979) and Arjuna Ranatunga (1980 and 1982) represented Sri Lanka at the inaugural Test – against England played at the Sara Oval in February 1982. They were the first two Sri Lanka batsmen to score half centuries in Test cricket.

During the last couple of weeks, we discussed the progress of the Mega Show in its first three decades. The first decade of the Mega Show saw the emergence of some of the big names in Sri Lanka cricket. Besides Madugalle and Ranatunga, we saw Roshan Mahanama (1983 and 1984) and Asanka Gurusinha (1985) emerging through the Mega Show to make lavish contributions to Sri Lanka cricket.

Last week, we had a flashback on milestone achievements of former Observer Schoolboy Cricketers Kumara Dharmasena, Marvan Atapattu and Muttiah Muralithan and today we will have a closer look on the outstanding cricketers produced through the Mega Show during the past decade.

Three of the brilliant Observer-Mobitel Schoolboy Cricketers who had come to the limelight during the past decade, including Sri Lanka captain Dinesh Chandimal, are currently serving the national team.

The Sri Lanka national team is studded with three former Observer-Mobitel Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year main award winners in Chandimal (2009 winner), Niroshan Dickwella (2012) and Kusal Mendis (2013). Just months after their crowning glory, the trio has become vital ingredients of the national team, cementing their places in double quick time.

Sri Lanka Test captain Chandimal is the most senior of the three, having won the prestigious Observer-Mobitel Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year title in 2009 when he was representing Ananda College. Former Trinity skipper, Dickwella won the Observer-Mobitel Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year title in 2012. Kusal Mendis, who led Prince of Wales College, Moratuwa with distinction, was adjudged Observer-Mobitel Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year in 2013. Months later, he was chosen to captain the Sri Lanka Under-19 team to Bangladesh in 2013.

At 28 years of age Chandimal has represented Sri Lanka in 46 Tests to aggregate 3,413 runs with an attractive average of 43.75, cracking 10 centuries and 16 fifties that included a career-best knock of 164.

In 139 ODIs, Chandimal has aggregated 3,433 runs with an average of 32.69. He has scored four ODI centuries and 21 fifties with a career-best knock of 111. Chandimal, following the footsteps of most other past recipients of the prestigious title, made his Sri Lanka debut only months after he was crowned the Observer-Mobitel Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year in 2009. He did not get an opportunity for a long innings (made an unbeaten 10 on his ODI debut for Sri Lanka against Zimbabwe in Bulawayo on June 1, 2010) when his team had a nine-wicket victory.

Chandimal is one of the most technically accomplished batsmen in the Sri Lanka team who is capable of hitting bowlers to all corners of the ground with a wide range of strokes. He has shown maturity at the crease with a good temperament to build and pace an innings. Dickwella, considered one of the most successful Trinity captains and a reliable top order batsman, entered the big league by winning the Observer-Mobitel Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year title six years ago –having scored over 1000 runs in the previous season. He is an attacking left-handed wicket-keeper batsman. Dickwella, who turns 25 on June 23, comparatively has an impressive record in limited-overs cricket.

Merely months after winning the coveted title at the Mega Show, Dickwella was called to represent Sri Lanka A on its tour of England in 2013. Since then, he has proved his class not only as an accomplished top order batsman but also as a dependable wicket keeper. Having made his Sri Lanka debut in 2014 against India in Ranchi, Dickwella has represented Sri Lanka in 36

ODIs to aggregate 1074 runs with two centuries and five half tons with a career-best ODI innings of 116.

Dickwella is only ten runs short of reaching the milestone of 1000 Test runs after figuring in 17 matches, producing eight half centuries that includes a career-best innings of 83.

The Trinity Lion has said that winning the Observer-Mobitel Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year title was a great source of encouragement. “Winning the award was a great encouragement for me. It gives me great pleasure to learn that the contest has lasted for four decades. This contest has produced a bunch of some great cricketers in the All-Island and Outstation competitions. Most of the recipients have blossomed in their chosen professions, be it in cricket or otherwise,”, Dickwella was quoted as saying. Mendis, who has produced many match-winning innings for Prince of Wales, was adjudged the Observer-Mobitel Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year in 2013. Since then, he has shown impressive form with the bat.

A smart wicket-keeper and dependable right-hand batsman, Mendia has often let his willow to do the talking. Just months after winning the Observer-Mobitel Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year title five years ago, he was appointed Sri Lanka’s under-19 captain for the Youth World Cup.

Mendis signalled his Sri Lanka debut with an explosive half century scoring 51 off 59 balls with eight boundaries in Sri Lanka’s first ODI against Ireland in Dublin on June 16, 2016. Since then, Mendis has figured in 44 ODIs for Sri Lanka and has scored 1,239 runs for an average of 30.97. He has one century and 11 fifties to his credit with a career-best knock of 102.

Representing Sri Lanka in 24 Tests, Mendis has aggregated 1712 runs with four centuries and five fifties. He was the top scorer for Sri Lanka in the first innings of the recent second Test against Bangladesh in Dhaka. His brave 68 off 98 balls mainly helped Sri Lanka to take a vital first innings lead, which eventually won the match for them and with it the two-Test series.

SLT Mobitel, the national mobile service provider, continues to provide that ‘smart connection’ to the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year Contest. Chief Executive Officer of SLT Mobitel Nalin Perera, under the directions of the Chairman of the Sri Lanka Telecom and SLT Mobitel PG Kumarasingha, has made a great contribution towards the success of the event during the past decade.

The Observer-Mobitel Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year continues to enjoy the longstanding association of the Sri Lanka Schools Cricket Association (SLSCA) and the Sri Lanka Cricket Umpires and Scorers Association with the blessings of Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC), headed by Thilanga Sumathipala.

The 40th edition of the Observer-Mobitel Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year contest is scheduled to be held shortly. This will be the 11th consecutive year that SLT Mobitel will be sponsoring the Mega Show, which has a rich history of producing legendary cricketers, including the world’s highest Test wicket taker Muttiah Muralitharan.

Meanwhile, voting for the most popular segments of the 40th Observer-Mobitel Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year contest, conducted in three divisions, is on its last lap.

Voting for the Observer-Mobitel Most Popular Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year contests could be made through voting coupons which continue to appear in the Daily News, Sunday Observer, Dinamina and Thinakaran.