Rajapakse nudges the selectors | Sunday Observer

Rajapakse nudges the selectors

Bhanuka Rajapakse, who won the Observer-Mobitel Schoolboy Cricketer of the   Year twice, has a message for the selectors
Bhanuka Rajapakse, who won the Observer-Mobitel Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year twice, has a message for the selectors

Sri Lanka, at a time looking for radical changes to the national side, has been given a timely reminder by World Cup discard Bhanuka Rajapakse who cracked a superb century in the recent unofficial series against India ‘A’.

Even for the recently concluded ICC World Cup, he was a member of the squad from which the final tour party was picked. Hence, the selectors are bound to have a sharp eye on the former Royal College star and two time winner of the Observer-Mobitel Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year when they make changes to the next Sri Lanka team.

Two Anandians and one each from Royal, Nalanda, St. Peter’s and Richmond have enjoyed that rare honour of winning the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year on two occasions each.

Arjuna Ranatunga (1980 and 1982, Ananda), Roshan Mahanama (1983 and 1984, Nalanda), Thilan Samaraweera (1994 and 1995, Ananda), Lahiru Peiris (2004 and 2005, St.Peter’s), Bhanuka Rajapakse (2010 and 2011, Royal) and Charith Asalanka (2015 and 2016, Richmond) are the extraordinary schoolboy cricketers to win the Mega Award twice each in its 40-year-old cherished history.

Sri Lanka’s World Cup winning captain Ranatunga was the first to win the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year twice in 1980 and 1982 while the other five winners achieved their doubles in successive years.

Although Ranjan Madugalle had the unique honour of becoming the first ever Observer Cricketer of the Year in 1978-79, his fellow Royalist Bhanuka Rajapakse won the title twice in 2010 and 2011. After former Sri Lanka captain Dinesh Chandimal won the Observer-Mobitel Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year exactly ten years ago in 2009, Rajapakse made a clean sweep in the next two years. An attacking left-handed batsman, Rajapaksa was picked for the 2010 Under-19 World Cup in New Zealand. He was selected as one of the team’s key middle order batsmen and lived up to his reputation, by finishing as the leading run-scorer for his country with 253 runs.

Prior to that even before winning the Observer-Mobitel Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year, Rajapakse had an excellent tour of Australia with the Under-19 team in 2009. He made a smashing unbeaten 154 off 111 balls in a one-day game and ended the series as the leading run-getter. Thus he holds the record for the highest individual score for Sri Lanka in an Under-19 youth ODI cricket (154 not out) and is also the only Sri Lankan Under-19 cricketer to score 150 in a Under-19 youth ODI innings. Most commentators compared his batting style to Australian Adam Gilchrist. He was adjudged the Young Emerging Player of Under-19 category at the CEAT Sri Lanka Cricket Awards in 2011. He made his first-class debut for the Sinhalese Sports Club in 2011 and has scored over 3,200 runs in first-class cricket so far with seven centuries and 14 fifties with a top score of 268 as his highest individual first class innings.

Rajapaksa’s career-best 268 which included 19 sixes and 22 fours off 173 balls, helped BRC post 629 runs in their first innings against the Ports Authority outfit at the Moors SC ground last February. He joined skipper Rumesh Buddika to add 307 runs for the third wicket and both batsmen, batted with ease as they took only 234 balls to produce the mammoth partnership.

When Rajapakse was dismissed the score was 507 for 5 as two quick fire half centuries from Nimantha Gunasiri and Raminda Wijesooriya put them above and beyond 600 in just 92.3 overs.

Unfortunately, 27-year-old Rajapakse has still not been able to catch the attention of the selectors for a place in the Sri Lanka national team for a place in either Tests or ODIs.

Nevertheless, he has proved his credentials with the opportunities he has got with the Sri Lanka ‘A’ team. Even in his last match for Sri Lanka ‘A’ which was the second unofficial Test against India ‘A’, Rajapakse scored a fluent 110 off 112 balls with three sixes and 17 fours in Habli last month. Although his team lost the second unofficial Test by 152 runs, Ranapakse contributed 110 runs out of his team’s second innings total of 277 runs all out.

At a time Sri Lanka is looking for options for the national team after the World Cup debacle, Rajapakse could be tried to strengthen the middle order batting in the forthcoming Internationals at home.

Born on October 24, 1991 in Colombo, Pramod Bhanuka Bandara Rajapaksa could also be used as a part time bowler with his right-arm medium pace.

Besides playing cricket, his other sporting interests include swimming and squash. In fact, prior to taking to cricket, he was a good swimmer but gave it up to make cricket, his first love.

Meanwhile, the 41th Observer-Mobitel Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year contest is scheduled to be held shortly. Incidentally, this will be the 12th consecutive year that SLT Mobitel will be sponsoring the Mega Show. 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 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 untiring efforts of Sri Lanka Telecom Chairman Kumarasinghe Sirisena and SLT Mobitel Chief Executive Officer Nalin Perera who has played a dynamic role in promoting school cricket in a big way. The dynamic vision of Chairman of Lake House, Krishantha Cooray has always helped this event to go from strength to strength. 

Comments