Peiris: The Peterite who missed history | Sunday Observer

Peiris: The Peterite who missed history

Flashback - Lahiru Peiris of St. Peter’s winning the title for the second successive time in 2005
Flashback - Lahiru Peiris of St. Peter’s winning the title for the second successive time in 2005

Winning the Observer-Mobitel Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year award and sporting the crown has been the dream of every schoolboy for over four decades. It has remained the most glorified title to win during a player’s school career. But how does it sound if a schoolboy were to be crowned three times with this dream title that has never happened.

Of the past 40 contests held since 1978/79, only six have been really outstanding to win the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year title twice. They are Arjuna Ranatunga of Ananda (1980 and 1982), Roshan Mahanama of Nalanda (1983 and 1984), Thilan Samaraweera of Ananda (1994 and 1995), Lahiru Peiris of St. Peter’s (2004 and 2005), Bhanuka Rajapakse of Royal (2010 and 2011) and Charith Akalanka of Richmond (2015 and 2016).

Although Rohan Buultjens (1981) and Kaushal Lokuarachchi (2001) became the first and second from St. Peter’s College to win the prestigious title, Lahiru Peiris became the first and the only Peterite so far to win the crown twice. He was a household name from 2003 to 2006, with rich harvests in successful seasons.

He first won the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year title in 2004. In the 2004-2005 season too, he let his willow to do the talking as he was crowned Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year in 2005.

Even in his final year for St. Peter’s as captain, he stood a good chance of winning the title for the third time – a feat which no schoolboy has achieved so far.

But the elegant right-hand batsman, Lahiru Peiris was picked as the runner-up to Gihan Rupasinghe of Nalanda in the 2006 Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year contest.

Peiris celebrated his 32nd birthday yesterday and was born on June 1, 1987 in Colombo.

The most celebrated note in his school career was his match-saving defiant unbeaten century - 111 not out with 13 boundaries, for St. Peter’s in the 2006 ‘Big Match’ against their traditional rivals St. Joseph’s played at the P Sara Oval. In the 2006 Battle of the Saints, St. Joseph’s elected to bat first and declared with a formidable total of 335 for 5. St. Peter’s in reply were dismissed for 193 and the Peterites were facing a big defeat as they were forced to follow-on.

But he played a sheet-anchor role to pull the Peterites out of danger after going in to bat at number four.

He batted with courage to remain unbeaten on 111 at the close with St. Peter’s making 279 for 3 in their second essay. He shared two valuable partnerships, first with S. Gunaratne adding 131 for the third wicket and a further unfinished 97 runs for the fourth wicket with Anuk Silva. Young Lahiru took to the game in 1999 and captained the under-13, under-15 and 1st XI teams. In the final round match in the under-13 tournament he scored his first century 113 which was against Wesley at Campbell Park.

He toured Chennai and Bangalore with the under-13 division one champion team in 2000 and also played for the Sri Lanka Under-15 team in the Asia Cup and scored two half centuries against Pakistan and the UAE.

He went on a scholarship to Australia in 2003 arranged by the Sri Lanka Cricket Foundation of Victoria. He played for Carey Baptist Grammer School in Kew and did exceptionally well and was awarded the best batman’s trophy. During his stay in Melbourne, young Lahiru also played for the Old Peterite team that won the one-day six-a-side competition conducted at the Barry Simon Reserve Hills on Australia Day.

He became the Sri Lanka Schools under-19 Best Batsman in 2005 and was included in the pool but was unlucky to miss out on a place in the Sri Lanka team for the Under-19 World Cup in England. St. Peter’s under his captaincy remained unbeaten in 2006.

After leaving school, Lahiru did not find much time to continue playing big time club cricket as he was occupied following a management trainee and administrative course. He turned out for Sebastianites but did not get a chance to play for Sri Lanka. Meanwhile, voting for the Observer-Mobitel Most Popular Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year and Observer-Mobitel Most Popular Schoolgirl Cricketer of the Year is about to end with some heavy voting pouring in the last few weeks.

It is no easy task to continue a mega awards show of this magnitude. As the first ever award winner and Chief ICC Match Referee Ranjan Madugalle had pointed out before, the sponsors play a key role in promoting the game and encouraging schoolboy cricketers.

Credit goes to Haliborange for coming forward to support the Sunday Observer’s initiative to start the first school cricket awards show by becoming the sponsor of the inaugural show. Thereafter the Bata Shoe Company took the baton before SLT Mobitel joined in with a lavish and superior sponsorship package 12 years ago.

The entry of SLT Mobitel as the principal sponsor enabled the organizers to improve the standard of the Mega Show significantly, improving the quality of the event to offer solid trophies and bigger cash awards.

Gracing the 40th anniversary Observer-Mobitel Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year at the last Mega Show, Madugalle emphasized the value of the show and what it means to him. “It is an absolute privilege and I am deeply humbled to be in your midst. As I stand before you tonight an obvious sense of nostalgia overcomes me. It was some 40 years ago that I was on your side, sans grey hair and spectacles. More importantly I was single,” Madugalle was quoted as saying.

“I am on this side 40 years later speaking to you as someone who’s played the game, someone who’s walked the life as a cricketer officially, locally and internationally but more importantly as a father of cricket, really because I have children but they are girls,” he said.

“I never hide my age and I was born in 1959. In another ten years time you will celebrate your 50th Observer-Mobitel Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year and I promise you if I have any life left in me even in a turbo-charged wheelchair I’ll come to cheer you all,” Madugalle said.