Grand finale on Tuesday : First-ever winner Madugalle returns as chief guest | Page 2 | Sunday Observer

Grand finale on Tuesday : First-ever winner Madugalle returns as chief guest

History will be repeated when the grand finale of the 40th Observer-Mobitel Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year contest will be held at the Grand Ballroom of Colombo Hilton on Tuesday, July 3.

The first-ever recipient of the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year title at the inaugural show held exactly four decades ago, will add colour to this historic occasion as the chief guest. He is none other than the Chief Match Referee of the International Cricket Council (ICC), Ranjan Madugalle.

The former Royal, NCC and Sri Lanka captain, born on April 22, 1959, was one of the most technically accomplished batsmen that Sri Lanka ever produced. Merely months after leading the Reid Avenue boys at the centenary Royal-Thomian encounter in 1979, he was adjudged the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year. In the same year, Madugalle was picked to represent Sri Lanka at the second ICC World Cup held in England to make his ODI debut.

Sri Lanka’s national mobile service provider, Sri Lanka Telecom Mobitel is the proud sponsor of the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year contest for the 11th successive year. Under the directions of the Chairman of the Sri Lanka Telecom and SLT Mobitel P.G. Kumarasingha, the Chief Executive Officer of the SLT Mobitel Nalin Perera has played a key role towards the success of the event during the past decade.

Chairman of the ANCL, Krishantha Cooray has been a tower of strength in organizing the Mega Show. Sri Lanka Cricket, headed by former Deputy Speaker Thilanga Sumathipala MP, too has encouraged the organizers to foster the next generation cricketers.

Madugalle complemented the Sunday Observer for understanding the need to recognize the outstanding performances of schoolboy cricketers in an era which did not have an organized inter-school tournament structure or a school cricket awards show.

This was exactly how Madugalle recalled the most cherished moment in his school career: “I was honoured and privileged to win the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year award at its inaugural show in 1979. In fact, we even didn’t know that there was such an award on offer. We played traditional friendly matches to enjoy the game and not for competition or personal glory.

“But it was great to feel that your hard work as a schoolboy cricketer is appreciated at the end of the season. It is a great inspiration and a satisfaction to feel that your performances are recognized.

It is not merely for individual glory but your performances as a team. It was great for the Sunday Observer to recognize the achievements of school teams and their players”.

Meanwhile, the President of the Sri Lanka Schools Cricket Association (SLSCA), Oshara Panditharathna , said the Observer-Mobitel Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year contest has rendered a yeoman service from the days there had not been an official inter-school Under-19 cricket tournament.

“We started the SLSCA Under-19 league tournaments and an awards ceremony subsequently. But the Sunday Observer had begun to recognize the achievements of schoolboy cricketers some 40 years ago, during an era where there had been only traditional friendly matches for first X1 cricketers. It has been a commendable job by the Sunday Observer”, the school cricket chief, who is also the Principal of Dharmapala Vidyalaya, Pannipitiya, said.

“Since your early initiative, there are a few more awards ceremonies for schoolboy cricketers. That is a positive sign because it’s those budding schoolboy cricketers who would ultimately benefit from these events. That’s a great inspiration for the outstanding schoolboy cricketers, something they could eagerly look forward to,” he said.

He complemented the Observer-Mobitel Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year contest for recognizing the contributions made by school coaches and masters in charge as well, stating that they render a priceless contribution behind the scenes, making immense sacrifices. “Even before we thought of appreciating their efforts, you’ll have come forward to appreciate their contributions,” added the SLSCA chief.

Most people, especially schoolboy cricketers and their supporters, believe that the Observer-Mobitel Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year title would elevate outstanding schoolboy cricketers towards a Sri Lanka ‘cap’.

There are plenty of reasons for that belief as most past winners have represented Sri Lanka, just months after their crowning glory at the Mega Show. Hence, winning at least a title award at the Observer-Mobitel Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year contest has remained the dream of every schoolboy cricketer during the past 40 years. At any given time, there have been past award winners in the Sri Lanka team since the 1979 World Cup tournament.

There is no exception this time around as there are three past Observer-Mobitel Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year main title winners, including skipper Dinesh Chandimal, in the present Sri Lanka team currently touring the West Indies.

Chandimal is the most experienced of the three, winning the prestigious Observer-Mobitel Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year title in 2009 when he was leading Ananda College, Colombo. The other two Sri Lankan stars who had emerged through the contest are former captain of Trinity College, Kandy, Niroshan Dickwella (who won the Observer-Mobitel Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year title in 2012) and ex-Cambrian skipper Kusal Mendis won the coveted title in 2013.

Incidentally, there is another former top award winner who functions as the manager of the Sri Lanka team in Asanka Gurusinha, who had played a key role in Sri Lanka’s 1996 World Cup triumph. He had emerged Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year in 1985 when he was representing Nalanda.

Among the galaxy of stars who had graduated to the big league through the 40-year-old contest were the world’s highest wicket taker in Tests Muttiah Muralitharan, the most valuable player in Sri Lanka’s 1996 World Cup triumph Sanath Jayasuriya and the country’s World Cup winning captain Arjuna Ranatunga, to name a few. 

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