Brighter look for looming awards show | Sunday Observer

Brighter look for looming awards show

9 August, 2020
Ranjan Madugalle
Ranjan Madugalle

The Covid-19 impact on Sri Lanka has been greatly reduced, though the threat posed by the pandemic is still alive. Though the global threat continues, the situation here has improved greatly and the general election was also conducted in keeping with the health guidelines to the maximum.

With the political stability being established with a stable government in decades, hosting the 42nd Observer-Mobitel Schoolboy and Schoolgirl Cricketer of the Year is looking brighter. No sooner the green light comes from the authorities, we will be able to host the Mega Show sooner than later.

Even the race for the Observer-Mobitel Schoolboy and Schoolgirl Cricketer of the Year Most Popular contests have now reached its peak with more and more votes pouring in. There is an intense battle for supremacy in the Observer-Mobitel Most Popular Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year. Especially, there is a keen battle for supremacy for the first five places.

School cricket fans from all corners of the country have shown a tremendous interest ever since the beginning of the contest, making it the Mother-of-All-Shows. Inspired by the initiative given by Sri Lanka’s flagship national newspaper - the Sunday Observer, it has gone from strength to strength. Although there has been a couple of similar events that emerged subsequently, the Observer-Mobitel Schoolboy Cricketer has remained the Mega Show.

We as the creator of the novel concept some four decades ago are happy to see more school cricket awards coming up to reward schoolboy cricketers. It is the country’s budding schoolboy cricketers who will be rewarded at the end after a strenuous season.

The concept of rewarding schoolboy cricketers at the end of each season was introduced to Sri Lanka by Lake House and it started the prestigious event in 1978/79. Organized by the Associated Newspapers of Ceylon Limited (ANCL), the event is sponsored by the country’s national mobile service provider Sri Lanka Telecom Mobitel.

The Observer Schoolboy Cricketer has always remained the cherished dream of every schoolboy cricketer for over four decades. From the day the then captain of Royal College, Ranjan Madugalle was chosen the first ever Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year, it has remained the highest achievement that a schoolboy cricketer could ever dream of.

The 1978/79 event gave a successful beginning for Sri Lanka’s first ever school cricket awards show. It also gave birth to a new generation of cricketers who took Sri Lanka cricket to new horizons.

Madugalle, who captained the Reid Avenue boys in the centenary Royal-Thomian cricket encounter in 1979, had a wonderful time since then. He was picked in the Sri Lanka team for the World Cup in the same year 1979 and went on to lead club team NCC and Sri Lanka with distinction in next to no time.

Ever since Madugalle pocketed the first title in 1978/79, the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer has produced a galaxy of stars who have taken Sri Lanka to great heights.

Arjuna Ranatunga, Roshan Mahanama, Asanka Gurusinha, Sanath Jayasuriya, Muttiah Muralidaran, Mavan Atapattu and Kumara Dharmasena are some of them who had marked Sri Lanka prominently on the world cricketing map.

Madugalle now 61, had represented Sri Lanka in 21 Tests, scoring 1,029 runs which included a brilliant 103 and seven half centuries. He had aggregated 950 runs with three half centuries in 63 one-day Internationals.

The stylish former Royal College captain was a member of the Sri Lanka team to play in the country’s first ever Test team. In fact, Madugalle (65) and another Observer Schoolboy Cricketer Arjuna Ranatunga (54) were the first Sri Lankans to score half centuries in Test cricket, in the historic match against England played at the Saravanamuttu Stadium in February 1982.

Sri Lanka’s World Cup winning captain Ranatunga was the first player to win the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year award on two occasions. After Madugalle’s initial year, Ranatunga won it in 1980. The left-handed middle order batsman from Ananda College was the runner up to Rohan Buultjens of St. Peter’s College in 1981 before once again winning the title in 1982. Ranatunga’s final year in school cricket was a glorious one as he was able to make it to Sri Lanka’s inaugural Test team that played against England.

Although Ranatunga won the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year titles in 1980 and 1982, Nalanda College’s Roshan Mahanama was the first to win the prestigious title in successive years in 1983 and 1984. He first won the ‘Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year’ title in 1983 with a rich harvest of runs with the willow.

He continued to be the star 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 grand title twice were Thilan Samaraweera (1994 and 1995), Lahiru Peiris (2004 and 2005), Bhanuka Rajapakse (2010 and 2011) and Charith Asalanka (2015 and 2016).

The Sunday Observer’s great partnership with SLT Mobitel has grown from strength to strength due to the untiring efforts of its CEO Nalin Perera.

The entry of Mobitel 13 years ago to provide financial support to the oldest Cricket Awards Show in Sri Lanka has undoubtedly lifted the standard of the contest after its humble beginnings way back in 1978/79. Since then, it has come a long way to set new standards and inspiring other media organizations to have similar contests.

Sri Lanka’s flagship English newspaper - the Sunday Observer, understood the need to recognize the raw talent of the country’s schoolboy cricketers at a time when there had been no organized inter-school cricket tournaments, apart from the traditional first XI matches of the so-called leading schools.

With the introduction of the Show and its expansion to have a separate segment for outstation schoolboy cricketers, it went a long way in inspiring the talented players from remote areas.