Mahanama: The indelible role model | Page 2 | Sunday Observer

Mahanama: The indelible role model

There is only three weeks to go before the oldest big match and the world’s oldest uninterrupted inter-school cricket encounter - the Battle of the Blues - between Royal and S. Thomas’ to be played.

It is during this time that the Observer-Mobitel Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year gathers momentum. Now there is an added reason to feel proud because the Observer-Mobitel Schoolgirl Cricketer of the Year too is run concurrently.

The 42nd Observer-Mobitel Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year, organised by the country’s flagship English newspaper, the ‘SUNDAY OBSERVER’ is sponsored by Sri Lanka’s national mobile service provider SLT Mobitel.

It is less than a week for the commencement of the much awaited big matches with the first one starting this weekend.

When going through the big match history, every school has their own big match heroes. All of them enjoy their glory after their school careers and proudly take that pride to world level.

Contributed lavishly

Former Sri Lanka captain and ex-ICC Match Referee Roshan Mahanama is one such hero who has contributed to the game lavishly.

He has left his mark from his days at Nalanda and went on to become a classic example to all young cricketers aspiring to reach the top in the game.

He strongly believes 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.

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

The ex-Nalanda 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 at the end of each season for their hard work.

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

He rated that his crowning moments as the ‘Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year’ in successive years (1983 and 1984) was a major milestone in his career.

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

“It was a memorable occasion and a stepping stone to club level and to international cricket thereafter. Being crowned the best Schoolboy Cricketer made me even more determined to work harder to reach greater heights and get the taste of international cricket,” he said.

“We had full houses for all those inter-school games from the days Bandula Warnapura was playing and it was a passion. The school authorities too encouraged the boys to watch matches,” he added.

“There are no shortcuts to reach the pinnacle. Schoolboy cricketers should be willing to make sacrifices rather than looking for short cuts for success. On the other hand, 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.

Compared to the days he played, Mahanama said there are more and more opportunities for schoolboy cricketers. 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 queried.

Names on the fixture card

Recalling his days as a schoolboy cricketer at Nalanda College, Mahanama said that it was a great feeling to have their names on the 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 honour 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.

Mahanama was the first to win the prestigious title in successive years in 1983 and 1984, though Sri Lanka’s World Cup winning captain Arjuna Ranatunga won the titles in 1980 and 1982.

Mahanama first won the ‘Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year’ title in 1983 scoring a rich harvest of runs. 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’.

“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.

He pointed out 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.

Great encouragement

“To be adjudged the best schoolboy cricketer and be honoured 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 54 on May 31, played 52 Tests for Sri Lanka with an aggregate of 2,576 runs with four centuries and 11 fifties. His career-best innings of 225 was made against India in 1997.

During that innings he was associated in a record partnership of 576 runs with Sanath Jayasuriya (340) at the Premadasa Stadium in Colombo that eventually helped Sri Lanka record the highest team total in a Test. Interestingly, 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 5,162 runs with four centuries and 35 half centuries.

Former Sri Lanka captain and ex-ICC Match Referee Roshan Mahanama reiterated 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.

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