MARCH PARADE ON SHOW | Sunday Observer


8 March, 2020
Kumara Dharmasena, ICC’s most sought after elite panel umpire-Ranjan Madugalle, ICC Chief Match Referee
Kumara Dharmasena, ICC’s most sought after elite panel umpire-Ranjan Madugalle, ICC Chief Match Referee

March is considered the ‘big match’ month and two big matches –Thurstan-Isipatana and Josephian-Peterite have just been concluded.

The Battle of the Maroons between Ananda and Nalanda is also set to conclude today and the pitch has now been laid for the world’s oldest uninterrupted inter-school encounter – the Battle of the Blues between Royal and S.Thomas’ to continue its 141 years of glorious cricketing traditions.

With the mega big match to be called ‘play’ at the SSC ground on Thursday, it will also be interesting to go down memory lane and take a look at the past winners of this prestigious Observer-Mobitel Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year, which has showcased many legendary Sri Lankan cricketers.

The Observer-Mobitel Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year contest has produced a group of elite cricketers who have engraved their names in Sri Lanka cricket history in letters of gold. The first recipient of the coveted title, Ranjan Senerath Madugalle not only reached the pinnacle of his career as a cricketer but also progressed to captain Sri Lanka and also reach the very top as an official by becoming the Chief ICC Match Referee, a proud record indeed.

The contest, which began as an unofficial one in 1978, was made official the following year and is getting bigger and broader yearly as it has explored the talent in the rural areas which has given those cricketers the opportunities to be on par, or even become better than the players representing Colombo schools judging by the number of players emerging from the rural schools who have stamped their class as top players.

The 1978 Sunday Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of The Year Contest was a significant one, though it was held in the outstation and not counted in the series.

The contest was held at the Galle Esplanade for the first time with a view to promoting the game in the outstation. It was quite appropriate in having the show in Galle as the Outstation Schoolboy Cricketer of that year was Upul Sumathipala from Mahinda College, Galle.

Ranjan Madugalle, now the ICC’s chief match referee and hailing from Royal College, Colombo won the 1978 contest and was also adjudged the winner in the following year (1979) from which the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year show formally started at Nawarangahala.

In both years St. Sebastian’s College cricketer Roger Wijesuriya was the runner-up.

Ranjan and Roger had prolific records representing their respective schools which resulted in them finding places in the Sri Lanka World Cup team in 1979 in England.

Madugalle who led an unbeaten Royal team, in addition to winning the main award (Schoolboy Cricketer), was also picked as the Best Captain and Best Batsman and runner-up in the Best Fielder category after a highly successful season.

A panel of umpires comprising Camillus Perera (Chairman), Vernon Tissera, Gilbert Perera, Allan Felsinger and KT Ponnabalam picked the winners at the Colombo Cricket Club (CCC) pavilion in 1978.

The short listed contestants for the Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year 1978 were Prasanna Amarasinghe (Ananda), Ranjan Madugalle (Royal), Shammy Rajendra (Wesley), Roger Wijesuriya (St.Sebastian’s) and Selvaraj Dinesh (Trinity).

Ananda captain Arjuna Ranatunga, who won the title after Madugalle in 1980, is another great Sri Lanka cricketer who steered the Sri Lanka national team to conquer cricket’s ‘Mount Everest’ in world cricket.

Ranatunga, who became the First Schoolboy Cricketer to win the Mega Award twice, captained Sri Lanka’s World Cup winning team in 1996.

The galaxy of stars who have illuminated Lankan cricket skies and most of them emerged through the Observer-Mobitel Schoolboy Cricketer contest include the world’s highest Test wicket taker Muttiah Muralitharn, the Most Valuable Player award winner in the 1996 World Cup tournament Sanath Jayasuriya (outstation title), former Sri Lanka captain and ex-national coach Marvan Atapattu (1990), former Sri Lanka captain and ex-ICC Match Referee Roshan Mahanama, former Sri Lanka player cum 1996 World Cup star Asanka Gurusinha, former Sri Lanka player turned ICC Elite Panel Umpire Kumara Dharmasena and ex Sri Lanka Test batsman Thilan Samaraweera (1994 and 1995).

Former captain Dinesh Chandimal (Ananda - 2009), Niroshan Dickwella, (Trinity – 2012) and Kusal Mendis (Prince of Wales - 2013) are some of the recent past Observer-Mobitel Schoolboy Cricketer winners who have sported the Sri Lankan cap.

Apart from those popular figures, there are several other past award winners who have proved their class with the Sri Lanka national team and at various other levels. Among them are Rohan Buultjens (St.Peter’s - 1981), Roshan Jurangpathy (Royal - 1986), Rohan Weerakkody (St. Joseph’s - 1987), Sanjeeva Ranatunga (Ananda - 1988), Sajith Fernando (St. Anthony’s, Katugastota - 1992), Naveed Nawaz (DS. Senanayake - 1993), Nimesh Perera (St Sebastian’s, Moratuwa - 1996), Chinthaka Jayasinghe (Dharmapala -1997), Pradeep Hewage (St.Benedict’s - 1998), Muthumudalige Pushpakumara (Ananda -1999), Kaushalya Weeraratne (Trinity - 2000), Kaushal Lokuarachchi (St.Peter’s - 2001), Sahan Wijeratne (Prince Of Wales - 2002), Farveez Maharoof (Wesley - 2003), Lahiru Peiris (St.Peter’s – 2004 and 2005), Gihan Rupasinghe (Nalanda - 2006), Malith Gunatilleka (Ananda - 2007), Umesh Karunaratne (Thurstan - 2008), Bhanuka Rajapakse (Royal – 2010 and 2011), Sadeera Samarawickrema (St. Joseph’s - 2014), Charith Asanlanka (Richmond –2015 and 2016), Nipun Ransika (P de S Kularatne MV, Ambalangoda 2017), Hasitha Boyagoda (Trinity 2018) and Lakshitha Rasanjana (Nalanda 2019).

Roshan Jurangpathy was the second Royalist to win the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year title and play Test cricket after Madugalle.

As a teenager, Jurangpathy had shown great promise but the then selectors gave him only a couple of chances which was not fair considering his immense talent. Days before his 18th birthday, Jurangpathy became the youngest Sri Lankan player to score a first-class century.

Sanjeewa Ranatunga too went on to represent Sri Lanka in Test cricket. In nine matches, he had aggregated 531 runs with two centuries. He had also played 13 ODIs for Sri Lanka and scored two half centuries.

Among the other former Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year award winners who had represented Sri Lanka at the highest level are Farveez Maharoof (22 Tests and 109 ODIs), Muthumudalige Pushpakumara (three ODIs), Naveed Nawaz (one Test, three ODIs), Kausal Lokuarachchi (four Tests and 21 ODIs) and Kaushalya Weeraratne (15 ODIs and five T20s).