Karunaratne: The stand-out Thurstanite | Sunday Observer

Karunaratne: The stand-out Thurstanite

 Flashback: Umesh Karunaratne winning the Observer Mobitel Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year trophy from the first ever winner and ICC Chief Match Referee Ranjan Madugalle
Flashback: Umesh Karunaratne winning the Observer Mobitel Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year trophy from the first ever winner and ICC Chief Match Referee Ranjan Madugalle

Umesh Karunarantne became the first cricketer from Thurstan College to win the Observer-Mobitel Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year, some 11 years ago. Karunaratne won the Mega Award in 2008, 30 years after the launch of Sri Lanka’s first ever schools cricket awards show.

What is unique in Karunaratne becoming the first and only Thurstanite so far to win the Observer-Mobitel Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year prize is that he received the Mega Award from ICC Chief Match Referee Ranjan Madugalle, exactly 30 years after the Royalist had won the first ever title.

When the Observer-Mobitel Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year celebrated its 40th anniversary last year too, Madugalle was the chief guest to encourage the country’s budding schoolboy cricketers.

Out of 22 Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year events before the new millennium, Thurstan could not produce a single champion and they had to spend eight more years in the new millennium before they finally produced a champion.

Kaushalya Weeraratne of Trinity College became the first Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year in the new millennium in 2000 before Kaushal Lokuarachchi of St. Peter’s College won it in the following year.

Sahan Wijeratne of Prince of Wales won the richest prize in school cricket in 2002, followed by Farveez Maharoof of Wesley in 2003. Then came one of the rare moments of producing a double champion, as Lahiru Peiris of St.Peter’s who won back to back titles in 2004 and 2005.

The dominance of Ananda and Nalanda was witnessed in the next two years with Gihan Rupasinghe winning the 2006 crown for the Campbell Place school, followed by their rival school’s Malith Gunatilleke in 2007.

Then came the most cherished moment for Thurstan, when they produced Karunaratne as the winner.

Tennakoon Mudiyanselage Umesh Samantha Karunaratne was born on January 19, 1989 in Sri Jayawardenepura and had represented Bloomfield Cricket and Athletic Club and the Chilaw Marians Cricket Club, Seeduwa Raddoluwa Cricket Club in inter-club tournaments. Prior to that, he represented Sri Lanka Under-19 team but was unfortunate not to go beyond that.

An off spinner Karunaratne made his first Sri Lanka Under-19 appearance in the 2005-06 seasons. Recalled for the tri-nation tournament at home in 2007, he was included in the U-19 World Cup squad the following year.

At the annual awards night of Sri Lanka Cricket in 2005, young Karunaratne won the best all-rounder in the domestic tournaments in 2004.

It was a double celebration for Thurstan as they produced the runner up in the Observer-Mobitel Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year – Geeth Kumara. In addition to his crowning glory, Karunaratne was also adjured runner up in best bowler and best all-rounder categories.

The first to win the prestigious Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year on successive years (in 1983 and 1984) was Roshan Mahanama who is one of the greatest stars who had emerged through the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year contest.

A proud product of Nalanda College, Mahanama was a household name in school cricket during early 80s. He first won the ‘Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year’ title in 1983 with a rich harvest 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.

Although former Ananda captain Arjuna Ranatunga too has won the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year title twice prior to Mahanama. Ranatunga did not win the crown in successive years. Ranatunga first won the coveted title in 1980 after Ranjan Madugalle but failed to repeat it in the following year in which Rohan Buultjens of St. Peter’s won the prestigious title.

However, Ranatunga, in his final inter-school first XI season for Ananda was crowned Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year once again in 1982.

Following Ranatunga and Mahanama to join the select band of schoolboy cricketers to win the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year title twice each were Thilan Samaraweera (1994 and 1995), Lahiru Peiris (2004 and 2005), Bhanuka Rajapakse (2010 and 2011) and Charith Asalanka (2015 and 2016).

The last of those six rare occasions was witnessed two years ago when Richmond’s Asalanka won back to back titles. In his last interview with the Sunday Observer, 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’.

Meanwhile, the 41th chapter of the Observer-Mobitel Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year contest is scheduled to be held later next month.

Incidentally, this will be the 12th consecutive year that SLT Mobitel will be sponsoring the Mega Show and the voting for the Observer-Mobitel Most Popular Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year finished last week.

Winning the Observer-Mobitel Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year title has been the dream of every schoolboy cricketer as they generally believe that the prestigious title would take them closer to sporting the Sri Lanka ‘cap’. Most past winners of the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the title had made their Sri Lanka debut in double quick time.

SLT Mobitel has played a key role in the promotion of the Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year during the past 12 years.

Thanks to the leadership of Sri Lanka Telecom Chairman Kumarasinghe Sirisena, SLT Mobitel Chief Executive Officer Nalin Perera has played a dynamic role in promoting school cricket in a big way. The untiring efforts of Chairman of Lake House, Krishantha Cooray has always helped this event to go from strength to strength.

 

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