Big matches that escaped or cheated a virus | Sunday Observer

Big matches that escaped or cheated a virus

5 April, 2020
Former Sri Lanka captain Hashan Tillakaratne
Former Sri Lanka captain Hashan Tillakaratne

The Coronavirus could not impact much on Sri Lanka school cricket and spoil it because it hit the country during the latter part of the local inter-school season.

By the time the Coronavirus became deadly, almost all the final league round school matches were concluded. Even the key four Colombo big matches – Royal-Thomian, Ananda-Nalanda, Josephian-Peterite and Thurstan-Isipatana had been concluded when the Coronavirus brought sport and everything else to a complete standstill.

Almost all the key inter-school matches of the 2019/20 season were  completed on time although there were a few matches which are usually played in the third week of March that were affected.

But the inter-school limited over tournament which is usually played after the big matches and before the Sinhala and Hindu New Year could not be played. Nevertheless, cricket-crazy fans must be happy that their respective big matches were not affected.

Especially, young and old Royalists and Thomians would feel happy that they maintained their high traditions which even the two World Wars could not halt.  Thus, the Battle of the Blues, played for the 141st year in 2020, remains the oldest and the most uninterrupted inter-school cricket encounter in the world.

The break due to the virus should be effectively used by people of all walks of life. Especially, the cricketers must maintain their physical fitness.

Although the affluent have their home gyms, the other cricketers must use whatever other opportunities they have to do their physical exercises in their home gardens during curfew time.

Nevertheless, the Observer-Mobitel Cricketers of the Year will not be affected. However, the voting for the Most Popular Schoolboy and Schoolgirl Cricketers of the Year has been temporarily suspended due the prevailing situation in the country. Once  things get back to normal, voting for the most popular contests would resume from where it had been halted.

Meanwhile, former Sri Lanka captain Hashan Tillakaratne paid a glowing tribute to Sri Lanka Telecom Mobitel and the Sunday Observer for conducting the Observer-Mobitel Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year awards ceremony at the end of each inter-school season.  

Tillakaratne, who was adjudged the runner up to Asanka Gurusinha for the best batsman award in the 1986 Observer Schoolboy Cricketer show, said they eagerly looked forward to the event even during their school days.

"Even during that time , it was a gigantic event for us when we were playing school cricket for D.S. Senanayake College. The present schoolboy cricketers too are eagerly looking forward to this event which rewards the most outstanding schoolboy cricketers," he said.

"You feel great when you know that your hard efforts would be rewarded at the end of the school season.

Making your way to the Observer-Mobitel Schoolboy Cricketer victory podium was a great feeling for any schoolboy cricketer and the organizers of this great event - the Sunday Observer of Lake House and its present sponsor SLT Mobitel, deserves all credit for recognizing the school talent, which is the stepping stone for club cricket and to the Sri Lanka pool thereafter," the veteran former Sri Lanka captain said.

 "Mobitel is rendering a great service by providing the financial backing for the show which is undoubtedly a great source of encouragement for thousands of schoolboy cricketers in the country who are dreaming of representing their country at some level," added Tillakaratne who was a member of Arjuna Ranatunga's  World Cup-winning team in 1996.

Tillakaratne, who now functions as the batting coach of the Sri Lanka team, represented Sri Lanka in 83 Tests to aggregate 4,545 runs with 11 centuries and 20 fifties at an attractive average of 42.87.

He made his Test debut for Sri Lanka in December, 1989 in the second Test against Australia in Hobart. Incidentally, his last Test for Sri Lanka too had been against Australia where he made an unbeaten 74 at SSC ground in March, 2004.

His contribution to Sri Lanka cricket with the willow was not only confined to the established game. He was a vital ingredient in the Sri Lanka ODI team, including that of 1996 which beat Australia by seven wickets in Lahore to win the ICC World Cup 24 years ago.

Having represented Sri Lanka in 200 ODIs, he has an aggregate 3,789 runs at an average of 29.60 with two centuries and 13 half tons.

Interestingly, his twin sons - Duvindu Sachin Tillakaratne (Trinity) and Ravindu Sachin Tillakaratne (S.Thomas')  showed great form during their inter-school careers with the former completing the magical 100-wicket mark for the Lions in his final school season. He continues at club level with some superb performances.

Meanwhile, the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer series which commenced way back in 1978/79, has produced several top cricketers  in world cricket. For example, the first ever winner Ranjan Madugalle not only went on to captain Sri Lanka but also serves as the current Chief ICC Match Referee. Even the very next winner Arjuna Ranatunga not only went on to captain Sri Lanka but also led the country to its maiden Word Cup win in 1996.

Leading the champion Sri Lanka side was Ranatunga who had the honour of winning the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year title twice in 1980 and 1982.

Besides Ranatunga, there had been several other past Observer Schoolboy Cricketers of the Year title winners in that champion outfit which opened a new chapter in Sri Lanka sport by conquering the Mount Everest in cricket. They are Asanka Gurusinha (1985), Roshan Mahanama (1983 and 1984), Muttiah Muralitharan (1991), Kumara Dharmasena (1989) and Marvan Atapattu (1990).

Sanath Jayasuriya, who was a member of that champion team and adjudged the Most Valuable Player of the 1996 World Cup tournament, too had been a recipient of the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year outstation title. Those achievements are ample testimony to prove that the Observer-Mobitel Schoolboy Cricketer has always produced future champions in the international arena.

 It was the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year awards show which first brought celebrated spinner Muttiah Muralitharan to a major cricket awards platform when he was adjudged the recipient of the glamorous award in 1991.

Having captured over 100 wickets each in two successive school seasons for St. Anthony's College, Katugastota, the spin wizard was the unanimous choice for the top award exactly 29 years ago.