A new partnership blooms | Sunday Observer

A new partnership blooms

9 February, 2020

It was a pleasure to see the sponsors of the Observer-Mobitel Schoolboy/Schoolgirl Cricketers of the Year receiving a great sportsman as its Chairman in Rohan Fernando.

As President of the Sri Lanka Rowing Association and ex-Vice President of the National Olympic Committee of Sri Lanka, Old Thomian Fernando was a superb rower during his day who has been appointed the Chairman of the Sri Lanka Telecom and SLT Mobitel.

Hence, it is going to be a successful new era for telecommunication as well as sports in Sri Lanka as the giant company is in safe hands. The Mega Show is sponsored by Sri Lanka’s national mobile service provider, Sri Lanka Telecom Mobitel.

Under the new vision of the Chairman of Sri Lanka Telecom and SLT Mobitel Fernando, the Chief Executive Officer of SLT Mobitel Nalin Perera has continued to play a key role towards the success of the event during the past 12 years.

With the long-standing association of the Sri Lanka Schools Cricket Association (SLSCA), the Sri Lanka Cricket Umpires and Scorers Association and Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC), the Observer-Mobitel Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year contest has gone from strength to strength since its inception way back in 1979.

Ever since its inception as the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year 42 years ago, it was Ranjan Madugalle who opened the innings for a galaxy of stars to follow by becoming the first ever Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year in 1978/79.

Since then, he has come a long way, captaining NCC and the Sri Lanka team with distinction before finally holding his current position as the Chief Match Referee of the ICC for almost two decades. It was a singular honour for Sri Lanka as a country to have one of its greatest cricketers in that elite position.

In a previous interview with the ‘Sunday Observer’, Madugalle lavishly praised the Associated Newspapers of Ceylon Limited (ANCL – Lake House) and the country’s flagship English newspaper for promoting school cricket.

Madugalle, who turned 60 on April 22 last year, represented Sri Lanka in 21 Tests, aggregating 1,029 runs with a top score of 103 against India. He has played in 63 ODIs to aggregate 950 runs. He made a debut half century in Test cricket, scoring 65 runs against England in Sri Lanka’s inaugural Test, minutes after Arjuna Ranatunga had become the country’s first ever half centurion in Tests. Madugalle returned to the ‘Observer Schoolboy Cricketer’ presentation podium on its 40th anniversary in 2018 as the chief guest. “I stand here with a great sense of nostalgia and I can still remember the day I received the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year award in the inaugural show hosted by the Sunday Observer. The award is a lasting memory and I will treasure that moment forever,” Madugalle said in his special address as the chief guest.

“Cricket is a noble game. It moulds one’s character and makes it a way of life to the individual concerned. The great game of cricket is governed by laws. Although the laws have changed from time to time to suit modern demands, one has to play the game within the laws because no one is greater than the game and its laws of cricket,” he said.

“While playing the game within the laws of the game, the players must respect their opponents. All are human beings and we must learn to take victory and defeat in the same spirit. In cricket what I have learnt all these years is to treat the opposite side players not as opponents, but as friends. There are many things that one has got to learn from the game. Team strategy and leadership will ultimately bring success and rejoicing and a disciplined mind and body.” These were Madugalle’s special words of advice to the schoolboy cricketers present on that occasion. When the success story of the mega event is spoken about, one cannot forget the lavish contribution made by Sri Lanka Telecom Mobitel which has been the proud sponsor of the Observer-Mobitel Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year show since 2008.

With Mobitel’s support, the standard of the event entered a new era with lavish cash incentives and high quality trophies to the outstanding schoolboy cricketers. Even their coaches and masters-in-change, who have done a silent job behind the scenes, too have been richly rewarded.

Besides Madugalle, several legendary Sri Lanka cricketers including the world’s highest Test wicket taker Muttiah Muralitharan, star all-rounder Sanath Jayasuriya and World Cup winning captain Arjuna Ranatunga have entered the big league after their graduation at the Mega Show.

Sri Lanka’s World Cup winning captain Ranatunga, who had won the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year twice in 1980 and 1982, said it is the dream of any schoolboy cricketer to win the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year award.

“It’s great to conduct the Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year Contest since 1979 to encourage the budding schoolboy cricketers,” he said in an interview. “I am happy at the improvement of outstation cricket as the game has spread far and wide in the country”.

Many Sri Lankan cricketing giants of the past and the present are those who have either won the prestigious and coveted Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year Award or won other awards at the contest,” Ranatunga added. Former Sri Lanka captain and ex-ICC Match Referee Roshan Mahanama, who had won the main title in successive years in 1983 and 1984, said the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year contest has always motivated schoolboy cricketers.

“These events had motivated us as emerging players. It is always a great motivation when you know your achievements are recognized at the end of the season. It was a great honour a schoolboy cricketer could win. I was privileged to achieve one of my dreams during a school career,” he said.

Former Nalanda College captain tuned Sri Lanka cricketer Asanka Gurusinha, the winner of the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year title in 1985, said witnessing his school senior Roshan Mahanama, who won this award twice in 1983 and 1984, was a great inspiration to him.

“I knew how prestigious the award is and the importance of winning the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year award. It is not an award that everybody could win. One has to perform exceptionally well and be consistent right throughout a season to win that – work really hard to reach the pinnacle of a school career.

“The Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year show has not only produced top cricketers but an ICC elite panel umpire such as Kumara Dharmasena,” Gurusinha said in his previous interview.

Former Sri Lanka captain and ex-Chairman of Selectors Sanath Jayasuriya, who was an architect of Sri Lanka’s World Cup triumph in 1996, had won the Observer-Mobitel Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year – Outstation title in 1988. Jayasuriya said that it is hard to express that great feeling he got after winning the title exactly 30 years ago.

“Not only me but also my parents, brother, relatives, coaches and school masters, they all enjoyed that cherished moment.

It was a great feeling. All past winners before me, be it the All-island or Outstation, had made their mark in Sri Lanka cricket.

So, when I won the title, I felt that I am getting closer to earning a place in the national squad,” Jayasuriya said.

ICC Elite Panel umpire, Kumara Dharmasena, the winner of the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year award in 1989, said that it was one of the greatest moments in his career as a cricketer.