Madugalle’s words should echo for school players | Sunday Observer

Madugalle’s words should echo for school players

6 December, 2020
Chairman of the ICC Cricket Committee, Clive Lloyd (left),  in conversation with ICC Chief Match Referee Ranjan Madugalle at Lord’s 2009
Chairman of the ICC Cricket Committee, Clive Lloyd (left), in conversation with ICC Chief Match Referee Ranjan Madugalle at Lord’s 2009

When the Observer-Mobitel School Cricketer series history is talked about, we cannot forget one great cricketer who has been a part of it, be it as a school batsman or a school captain.

Most importantly, his gentlemanly qualities have been proved beyond doubt in every stage of his half a century contribution to the gentleman’s game. As a player and captain at school, club and at national level, his enormous qualities have been widely displayed for almost 50 years.

He is none other than the ICC’s Chief Match Referee Ranjan Madugalle, the former Sri Lanka, NCC and Royal captain. He is also the first-ever recipient of the prestigious Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year in 1979, the year he represented Sri Lanka at the World Cup as a schoolboy. Since 1993, he has been a match referee of the ICC.

Despite going to the pinnacle of his careers as a player and official, Madugalle still admires his school cricket career. He recalled the cherished moments of his career when he graced the 40th Observer-Mobitel School Cricketer of the Year grand finale two years ago as the chief guest.

Unlike preset day undue pressure from all corners including the home front, players were able to keep cool in the good old days. “Your son can be the best player of all time and what I would advise you is to encourage them and spur them onto greater achievements but also create an environment where they can come to a home,” Madugalle told the invitees. “Cricket is a game of pressure. So whether they do well or whether they do not so well, welcome them home. That is the greatest gift my parents ever gave me. My mother didn’t know a single thing, whether I scored or not, all she did when I came home was ask “putha kanda monavada oney (son, what do you want to eat)?”.

He further advised parents with his home experience. “Hence, I knew whether I scored a 100 or a duck or missed three catches I could go to a home peacefully. I would encourage parents to be that but surely while doing that don’t forget to correct them when they are wrong. As a parent our duty is not to produce world class cricketers alone but more importantly produce quality citizens of great value to our nation,”.

Madugalle had simple advice for school cricket officials too. “What I like to ask you as officials of SLSCA is, it’s a tremendous honour for you to have control over the nursery the cradle of our cricketing talent. To me that’s the most valuable asset in Sri Lanka’s cricket armour,” he said.

“Your vision, your dedication and your organized capacity now and into the future will basically provide the cricket talent that our country would produce at a national level. When I look back over the last 40 years I like to reflect and see what we do in a cricketing way and a structure is relevant to the needs of today. When we played 30 years ago we would have played 10-11 matches, today we play 22 plus games - almost double the amount we had. Does that mean that our quality has increased at the same percentage?” Madugalle asked.

“Why I ask you this question is just before I came here I did research the last time Sri Lanka entered the final of an under-19 tournament was in 2000 where we became runners-up to India in Colombo. Does that not give you an indication as to where we are relevant in terms of world cricket? I urge all of you stakeholders you play a very valuable role. There is no point in someone coming here and saying things which are hunky-dory. As I emphasized before, these boys are not all 18-year-olds, some are as young as 15 and their minds need to grow, their bodies need to recover, more importantly, they need to have time to study. When you play 22 odd games are we doing the right thing?,” he questioned.

“Do we have time between games to work on our skills, to recover from injuries, to work on our bodies? I don’t know. I am an ageing man. You guys are the ones that control cricket and that’s a thought that I want to leave you with. One of the joys of my job is travelling the world over and when I go to every country the first thing I do is study their under-19 structure and when I do that I know who will be the market leader or in this case the world cricket leader in the years to come. It’s time to pause, reflect, stop, check and come to grips and say should we have a post correction? If the answer is no, then move on. But if the answer is yes, let’s do a brainstorm because I believe that we have the talent and we have the resources to be market leaders or trailblazers as opposed to being followers.

“That comment I make with the best of intention because when we started the ceremony you saw plenty of great faces that came up who have been recipients of this wonderful award. All I can say is that we are grateful and thankful to the system for having brought us here. We are just servants of this game and it is in that spirit that you should focus your attention in trying to make us a better cricketing nation and the cradle is with you all. That’s a plea, that’s a request I make as a very average cricketer,” Madugalle pointed out.

Addressing the school cricketers present, Madugalle said it’s their night, the night that they are rewarded for a year of hard work. “When you come up to receive those glittering awards as some of you have done don’t forget some of the team members that are not here, they are the ones who helped you to score that additional run, they are the ones who built pressure that led to a catch or a run-out that helped your side win. Hence, when you come to the podium to receive your award, recall those cherished moments and thank your teammates. Cricket is a team game, one man alone cannot win a match but one man alone can lose a match,” he said.

He recalled the glorious moments in the game. “They say cricket is not only a sport but a way of life. One is that cricket teaches you to play the game not only according to the laws but in the spirit it is intended to be played. The best, the finest and most respected cricketers are those who have competed against the best and come out on top by keeping well within those parameters.

Madugalle pointed out how respect should be a part of cricket. “The other aspect that is fast diminishing from the world of cricket is respect. Not respect for your own team mates but more importantly respect for your opponents. Opponents are just not ordinary people they are fellow human beings who strive as much as you strive to bring honour and dignity to the team they play for and the school they represent. Please treat your opponents with the same level of respect that you would respect your own team mates. That’s fundamentally important if cricket is to remain a gentleman’s game for which it is known,” he said.

“It is not the winning or losing but how one played the game,” Madugalle explained that as the chief guest: “Remember cricket like in any other sport there will always be winners. There will always be losers, that is sure as day and night in life. Hence, you must be big enough and mature enough to moderate the joys of victory and empathize with those who lose, for tomorrow can be a day where the roles are reversed and then you will understand why you need to moderate.

“The other point that I would like to pass on to the younger generation is that there are two aspects that you need to look after – one is your mind and the other is your body. We live in an unfriendly world and if you go out of your way to contaminate the mind and abuse your body I am afraid your life for the next phase would be much shorter than what you would expect. “Remember that the mind and body does not come with a warranty. You cannot go to a supermarket and buy spare parts for it. So do look after all what you have got,” was his final advice.

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.

Under the directions of the Chairman of Sri Lanka Telecom and SLT Mobitel Rohan Fernando, the Chief Executive Officer of the SLT Mobitel Nalin Perera has made a lavish contribution towards the success of the event during the past decade.