Heartburn for former heart-throb Mahanama | Sunday Observer

Heartburn for former heart-throb Mahanama

Roshan Mahanama
Roshan Mahanama

Former Sri Lanka captain and ex-ICC Match Referee Roshan Mahanama feels that there should be a balance in the number of matches a school team has to play during a season if the quality of the game is to be maintained.

“I agree that we need to give more opportunities to outstation teams. But that should not be done at the expense of quality,” Mahanama said in a recent interview.

The Observer-Mobitel Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year is sponsored by Sri Lanka’s national mobile service provider SLT Mobitel.

The former Nalanda College captain speaking further said that the country’s first and the premier school cricket award - Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year, has always motivated schoolboy cricketers as they look forward to be rewarded and recognized at the end of each season, for their hard work.

“These events motivated us as emerging cricketers. It is always a great motivation when you know that your achievements are being recognized,” he said.

Mahanama feels that his crowning glory as the ‘Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year’ in successive years (1983 and 1984), was a major milestone in his career.

“To be adjudged the best schoolboy cricketer and be honored for the hard work during the season was a great encouragement. I was privileged to receive this award as it was one of my dreams,” he said.

“Winning the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year in successive years was a memorable one and a stepping stone to playing in big the league. Being crowned the best Schoolboy Cricketer made me even more determined to work harder to reach greater heights when I first got the taste of international cricket,” he said.

“I had watched former Nalanda Bandula Warnapura in action. We had full houses for all those inter-school games and it was a passion. The school authorities too encouraged the boys to watch matches,” he added.

He said that schoolboy cricketers should be willing to make sacrifices, rather than looking for short cuts to success. “Young schoolboy cricketers must have a genuine willingness and desire to work towards their targets with dedication. They must remember that there are no short cuts for success”, said Mahanama.

He said the schoolboy cricketers during his era did not get many opportunities to play international matches at under-19 level. “I had played for Nalanda for five seasons but we had only two overseas tours. But the present day players get more and more opportunities. I wonder whether the players are making full use of these tours,” he said.

The stylish top order bat, recalling his days as a schoolboy cricketer at Nalanda College, said that it was a great feeling to have their names on the team’s fixture card.

“Even the old boys made it a point to skip all other engagements to --watch their school team in action.. It was a great honor to see our names in the fixture card - first as a player, then as a coloursman and later as vice-captain or captain,” Mahanama said.

Though Arjuna Ranatunga won the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year titles in 1980 and 1982, Mahanama was the first to win the prestigious title in successive years in 1983 and 1984. He first won the ‘Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year’ title in 1983 with a rich harvest of runs with the willow. He continued to let his willow to do the talking in the following year too and his superb form won him the title for the second successive year in 1984.

Apart from Ranatunga and Mahanama, the others to win the title twice were Thilan Samaraweera (1994 and 1995), Lahiru Peiris (2004 and 2005), Bhanuka Rajapakse (2010 and 2011) and Charith Asalanka (2015 and 2016).

Mahanama urged schoolboy cricketers to work hard to achieve their targets in a disciplined manner, maintaining the high traditions of the game - instead of being ‘remote-controlled’.

It was his late father Upali Mahanama who had been a tower of strength behind the celebrated cricketer’s success story.

“He was a great source of encouragement to me. He stressed the importance of adding values and discipline to our lives. Then I was lucky to come under the watchful eyes of Lionel Sir (Lionel Mendis)”.

Mahanama recalling the early part of his distinguished career said: “He set us targets as young players and groomed us well.” Mahanama pointed out one important thing in his career. “Most importantly, we were taught to respect the game, its culture and to follow team ethics. Even the coaches and masters in charge during our time conducted themselves in an exemplary manner to earn respect. We also had the highest respect and regard for umpires,” he said.

Mahanama said that deteriorating standards in school cricket has prevented youngsters from directly marching into the national team like in the past.

“In the past a player such as Ranjan Madugalle earned his place in the national squad directly from school level. Unfortunately, we do not often find consistent players in school cricket, ready to face that challenge,” he said.

Mahanama is of the view that his crowning glory as the ‘Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year’ in 1983 and 1984, was a major milestone in his career.

“To be adjudged the best schoolboy cricketer and being honored for the hard work during the season was a great encouragement. I was privileged to achieve it as one of my dreams,” he said.

Mahanama, who turns 53 in May, represented Sri Lanka in 52 Tests with an aggregate of 2576 runs with four centuries and 11 fifties. His career-best innings of 225 was registered against India in 1997 while sharing a record partnership of 576 runs with Sanath Jayasuriya (340) at the Premadasa Stadium in Colombo that helped Sri Lanka record the highest team total in a Test. He made a half century in his last Test for Sri Lanka - against South Africa at Centurion Park in 1998.

Mahanama played in 213 One Day Internationals for Sri Lanka to enjoy an aggregate of 5162 runs with four centuries and 35 half centuries.