Women’s cricket spearhead thrilled at new venture | Sunday Observer

Women’s cricket spearhead thrilled at new venture

Head of Sri Lanka women’s cricket, Apsari Tillakaratne with her husband and former Sri Lanka captain Hashan Tillakaratne
Head of Sri Lanka women’s cricket, Apsari Tillakaratne with her husband and former Sri Lanka captain Hashan Tillakaratne

Apasiri Singhabahu Tillakaratne, who heads women’s cricket of Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC), hailed the Sunday Observer and SLT Mobitel’s decision to accommodate special awards for girls’ schools at the forthcoming 40th Observer-Mobitel Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year mega awards ceremony.

“It is heartening to know that the organizers of the Observer-Mobitel Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year contest have decided to recognize girls’ schools playing cricket. Sri Lanka’s first-ever school cricket awards show will achieve another first with this new move,” she said.

In an exclusive interview with the Sunday Observer, the head of Sri Lanka women’s cricket said the decision to accommodate schoolgirl cricketers would open a new chapter in local cricket. “Undoubtedly, it will be a big inspiration to hundreds of schoolgirls playing cricket. Just like the Sunday Observer inspired schoolboy cricketers exactly four decades ago by launching the country’s first-ever school cricket awards show, they have reached another milestone with the gesture,” she said.

Apsari said the new move to popularize the game among schoolgirls is the brainchild of none other than the president of Sri Lanka Cricket, Thilanga Sumathipala who had suggested to play a series of inter-school girls big matches. She said the concept had received an overwhelming response from schools in all parts of the country, including the Northern Province. “He came out with this visionary venture in handing me the responsibility of heading women’s cricket of SLC. He initially gave me a target to organize ten girls’ schools big matches last year. We successfully accomplished the target as schoolgirls responded positively with the blessings of their principals,” said Apsari the wife of former Sri Lanka captain Hashan Tillakaratne.

“The SLC president gave us all encouragement and necessary funds to organize these big matches. There was a tremendous response, both from school authorities as well as schoolgirls. We hope to go a few steps forward by organizing 15 girls’ schools big matches this year.

“With the unprecedented response we have got so far, I am sure that we could achieve that target easily” she said.

“Thanks to the efforts of the SLC president, we got the Premadasa Stadium free of charge and Pallekelle International Stadium at a concessionary rate to host some of these key matches. We will extend this program to areas such as Vavunia, Nuwara Eliya, Ratnapura, Matara, Monaragala and Trincomalee this year, covering all nine Provinces of the country. SLC will provide all logistical support, including the grounds, balls, umpires, scorers and all other logistical needs,” she said.

Apsari said they will also help girls’ schools taking to cricket by providing the services of qualified coaches. “Since we outlined our plans at a news conference held at the SLC recently, there has been a big awareness and response. Several schools new to girls’ cricket have indicated their willingness to work with us. The most recent one is Newstead College, Negombo. Among the other schools which would come under this program are Visakha, Mahamaya (Kandy) and Nugawela Central (Kegalle). “We will find suitable opponents for these schools to play their big matches. We would also like to arrange big matches among the more popular schools such as Bishop’s College, Ladies College and Museaus College. For the first time in local school cricket history, we were able to organize a girls big match in Jaffna,” she revealed.

Apsari said the SLC program of organizing girls’ schools has even begun to attract sponsors. “There have been a requests from a couple of television channels to obtain telecasting rights of these matches. That shows this program has been well received by people and is gathering momentum. It will help schoolgirl cricketers to march towards new horizons,” she added.

The head of SLC women’s cricket said even school principals and teachers too have shown a keen interest in popularizing the game by encouraging schoolgirls.

“This will directly help SLC in its talent search to fill future vacancies of the national women’s pool. The most outstanding schoolgirl cricketers will be absorbed in to development pools.

From there, they could prove their class and advance to the emerging team and ultimately to the national women’s team,” Apsari explained. “Playing school cricket would help schoolgirls in a big way, apart from the prospect of representing Sri Lanka in the future. It will give them a distinct advantage in the job market as well. The cream of schoolgirl cricketers will find places in the national under-23 development squad,” she concluded.

It will be a significant milestone in the four-decade-long journey of the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year contest.

After the humble beginnings at Nawarangahala way back in 1979, Sri Lanka’s premier school cricket awards show has come a long way to become the most sought after event in the school cricket calendar.

The dream of every schoolboy cricketer has been to secure an award at the Mega Show. Exactly 40 years after its inauguration, it will also become the dream of every schoolgirl cricketer from this year. Having produced some of the legendary Sri Lanka cricketers, the Mega Show would also become the breeding platform for future Sri Lanka women’s cricket stars as well.

Meanwhile, voting for the most popular segments of the 40th Observer-Mobitel Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year contests continues under three divisions. 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.

SLT Mobitel, the national mobile service provider, provides that ‘smart connection’ to the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year Contest. Its Chief Executive Officer Nalin Perera, under the directions of the Chairman of the Sri Lanka Telecom and SLT Mobitel P.G. Kumarasingha, has been a tower of strength behind the successful story of the Mega Show, especially 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 Association with the blessings of Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC).

All arrangements have been finalized to host the 40th Observer-Mobitel Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year mega awards ceremony 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 Sri Lanka cricketers. 

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