The green light awaits | Sunday Observer

The green light awaits

Sadeera Samarawickrama
Sadeera Samarawickrama

 This year’s Observer-Mobitel Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year will be held no sooner the health authorities give the green light for the awards ceremony of this magnitude to be held.

The second stage of schools re-opened last week after about four months due to the Covid-19 epidemic. With the lower grades of the schools also due to start next week, the interest in the Observer-Mobitel Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year contest will gradually mount.

However, the exact date to host the 42nd Observer-Mobitel Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year cannot be decided right now as the health authorities have still not flashed the green light for conducting sports awards ceremonies where sports fans gather.

Although the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year began in 1978/1979 with the then Royal College captain Ranjan Madugalle becoming their first winner, it took eight long years to produce the first Josephian Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year. It was in 1987 that Rohan Weerakkody became the first Joes cricketer to win this coveted award.

But it took another 27 years since then to produce another Josephian star to enjoy that honour. It was in 2014 that St. Joseph’s College wicket keeper batsman Sadeera Samarawickrama won that honour.

A highly talented cricketer Samarawickrema stepped into the big league by winning the Observer-Mobitel Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year which inspired and encouraged him.

He not only won the richest prize in Sri Lanka’s schools cricket in 2014 but also capitalized on that to be included in the Sri Lanka team in next to no time as most of his predecessors have done.

Samarawickrama represented the Sri Lanka Under-19 team in the same year he won the glittering Observer-Mobitel Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year trophy, bringing honour to the Darley Road school.

Samarawickrama is considered a dashing wicket keeper-batsman who bats in the middle order in Tests. In limited over ODI and T20 cricket, he has regularly seen his team off to flying starts as an opener.

He began his school cricket career at Thurstan and then moved to St Joseph’s in his final years. His most memorable innings of 126 came in St Joseph’s all-important big game. That earned him a passage to Sri Lanka’s Under-19 squad.

He won the Observer-Mobitel Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year in 2014 after two subsequent big time players had won it in the previous years and marched into the Sri Lanka team – ex-Trinity Lion Niroshan Dickwella in 2012 and former Cambrian Kusal Mendis in 2013.

Though Mendis made it direct to the national team from Under 19 national level, Samarawickrama had to work hard to earn his place in the Sri Lanka team with impressive first-class performances.

Making his Sri Lanka ‘A’ debut in February 2017, Samarawickrama cracked 185 runs off 223 balls against a strong England Lions attack. This outstanding performance earned him a maiden Sri Lanka call-up in September of the same year for the Tests against Pakistan.

Born on August 30, 1995, Samarawickrama has represented the Sri Lanka team in all forms of the game. He played for Sri Lanka’s squad at the 2014 ICC Under-19 Cricket World Cup tournament and aggregated 265 runs at an average of 44.17 in the 2014 Youth World Cup.

His willow kept on talking in the 2016–17 Premier League Tournament, producing the highest aggregate of 1,016 from 10 matches in 19 innings. He was the best batsman in domestic cricket for the 2016–17 season at Sri Lanka Cricket’s annual awards ceremony.

He had the honour of being part of the Sri Lankan team in the Asian Cricket Council Emerging Teams Asia Cup 2017 tournament. He scored 45 runs to win the low-scoring final against Pakistan. It was the first time that Sri Lanka won the Asian tournament.

He made his Test debut for Sri Lanka against Pakistan in October 2017, taking part in Sri Lanka’s first day-night Test match. He made 38 runs in the first innings and put on a superb 68-run stand with centurion Dimuth Karunaratne.

He was selected in Sri Lanka’s ODI squad for their series against Pakistan in the United Arab Emirates in October 2017 to make his ODI debut on October 20, 2017. In the Sri Lanka’s ensuing Twenty20 International against Pakistan, he made his T20I debut on October 26, 2017 as wicket-keeper batsman.

Meanwhile, the stage is set for the 42nd Observer-Mobitel Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year contest which is scheduled to be held soon. Prior to that, the special selection panel will meet this month to pick the prospective winners.

This will be the 13th consecutive year that Sri Lanka Telecom Mobitel will be sponsoring the Mega Show, the country’s first schools cricket awards show which had started in an era in which there had not been even an inter-school tournament.

Winning the Observer-Mobitel Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year title has remained the dream of every schoolboy cricketer. Moreover, there is a common belief among schoolboy cricketers that the prestigious title would take them closer to sporting the Sri Lanka cap.

Most past winners of the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year title had made their Sri Lanka debut in double quick time.

It all began way back in 1979 at a time when there had not been a single school cricket awards show. Forget about an awards show altogether, there had not been an organized inter-school First X1 tournament at that time. Schools engaged in First X1 cricket had only their friendly and traditional inter-school matches.

SLT Mobitel has played a praiseworthy role in the promotion of the Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year, thanks to the untiring efforts of Sri Lanka Telecom Chairman Rohan Perera and SLT Mobitel Chief Executive Officer Nalin Perera who is playing a dynamic role in promoting school cricket in a big way.

The unique vision of Lake House Chairman, President’s Counsel W. Dayaratne will spur this event and school cricket to go that extra mile.

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