Mahanama: ‘We had role models unlike today’ | Sunday Observer

Mahanama: ‘We had role models unlike today’

28 February, 2021
Roshan Mahanama
Roshan Mahanama

The Observer-Mobitel School Cricketers of the Year 2021 will get greater attention with the commencement of the postponed inter-school matches from early next month.

But only a few two-day matches will be played as non-tournament encounters as this year the Sri Lanka Schools Cricket Association (SLSCA) will confine its matches to a championship decided by one-day matches only.

A team will play up to a maximum eight tournament matches including five in the qualifying round league. The final round matches will be from the quarter final knockout stage.

The Observer-Mobitel School Cricketers of the Year had a humble start in 1979. Even in the previous 1978, there had been a similar event in Galle. In both 1978 and 1979, the present Chief ICC Match Referee Ranjan Madugalle emerged as the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year.

After Arjuna Ranatunga of Ananda won the Observer School Cricketer of the Year for the second time in 1982, another champion cricketer from the adjoining Nalanda created history, winning the back to back Observer School Cricketers of the Year titles in 1983 and 1984.

He is none other than former Nalanda captain Roshan Mahanama who was well popular even from his schoolboy days.

Mahanama was a born star who marked his presence from school level to international world as a former Sri Lanka captain and ex-ICC Match Referee.

Having first made his mark at Nalanda, he is a classic example to all as one of the stylish top order batsmen.

Looking back at school cricket, Mahanama believes that there should be a balance in the number of matches a school team has to play during a season if the quality of the game is to be maintained.

In a recent interview on school cricket, he agreed that more opportunities should be given to outstation teams.

However, it should not be done at the expense of quality.

He said that the country’s first Premier school cricket award - Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year, has always motivated schoolboy cricketers as they look forward to being rewarded and recognized at the end of each season.

“Events of this nature motivated us as emerging cricketers. It is always a great feeling when you know that your achievements are being recognized,” he said.

He said it was a great encouragement to be adjudged the best schoolboy cricketer and be honored for the hard work during the season.

“It was one of my dreams and I was privileged to receive this wonderful award at the end of my school career,” Mahanama recalled.

“Winning the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year in successive years was a memorable occasion. It was a great feeling to win that and step into club cricket and thereafter to the national team. When I was crowned the best Schoolboy Cricketer, it gave me even more determination to work harder at top level,” he added.

“Unlike today, we had packed houses to witness the inter-school matches. I had watched some of the former Nalanda cricketers such as Bandula Warnapura in action. It was a passion and the school authorities too encouraged the boys to watch matches.”

Mahanama said there are no shortcuts to success and one must go through the hard process. “Young schoolboy cricketers must have a genuine willingness and desire to work towards their targets with dedication. They must remember that there are no shortcuts for success”, said Mahanama who was also an exceptionally clever fielder during his days.

“During our era, we did not get many opportunities to play international matches at school level. I had played for Nalanda for five First X1 Seasons, but got only two overseas tours.

“In contrast, the present day players had more and more opportunities until 2019. Players must make full use of these tours,” he said.

Mahanama urged schoolboys to work hard to achieve their targets in a disciplined manner, maintaining the high traditions of the game - instead of being ‘remote-controlled’.

The stylish top order bat, recalling his days as a schoolboy cricketer at Nalanda, said that it was a great feeling to have their names on the team’s fixture card.

Mahanama said even their old boys made it a point to skip all other engagements to watch their school team in action, adding it was a great honour to see their names in the fixture card - first as a player, then as a coloursman and later as vice-captain or captain.

Although former Ananda captain Arjuna Ranatunga won the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year titles in 1980 and 1982, it was Mahanama who became the first schoolboy 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 let his willow to do the talking in the following year too and his superb form won him the title for the second successive year in 1984.

Besides Ranatunga and Mahanama, the others to win the title twice were Thilan Samaraweera (1994 and 1995), Lahiru Peiris (2004 and 2005), Bhanuka Rajapakse (2010 and 2011) and Charith Asalanka (2015 and 2016).

It was his late father Upali Mahanama who had been a tower of strength behind the celebrated cricketer’s success story.

“My late father was a great source of encouragement. He stressed the importance of adding values and discipline to our lives. Then I was lucky to come under the watchful eyes of Lionel Sir (Lionel Mendis)”.

“He set us targets as young players and groomed us well. Most importantly, we were taught to respect the game, its culture and to follow team ethics. Even the coaches and masters in charge during our time conducted themselves in an exemplary manner to earn respect. We also had the highest respect and regard for umpires,” said Mahanama, recalling the early part of his distinguished career.

He said the deteriorating standards in school cricket has prevented youngsters from directly marching into the national team like in the past.

“In the past, there were players such as Ranjan Madugalle who earned their places in the national team directly from school level and even made it to the World Cup. Unfortunately, we do not often find consistent players in school cricket, ready to face that challenge,” he said.

Mahanama is of the view that his crowning glory as the ‘Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year’ in 1983 and 1984 was a major milestone in his career.

“To be adjudged the best schoolboy cricketer and be honored for the hard work during the season was a great encouragement. I was privileged to achieve it as one of my dreams,” he said.

Mahanama, who turns 55 on May 31, represented Sri Lanka in 52 Tests with an aggregate of 2576 runs with four centuries and 11 fifties.

His career-best double century (225) was registered against India in 1997.

In the same match Sri Lanka posted the highest Test innings total as Mahanama shared a record partnership of 576 runs with Sanath Jayasuriya (340) at the Premadasa Stadium in Colombo.

In a creditable move in his last Test for Sri Lanka - against South Africa at Centurion Park in 1998, he scored a half century.

Mahanama played in 213 One Day Internationals for Sri Lanka to enjoy an aggregate of 5,162 runs with four centuries and 35 half centuries.

Meanwhile, Chairman of Sri Lanka Telecom and SLT Mobitel, Rohan Fernando has given every possible assistance to the Mega Show which will march forward with more power and strength.

SLT Mobitel is sponsoring the show for the 14th successive year, at a time when the company is heading towards new horizons under the dynamic leadership of Fernando, the former Thomian ace rower.

The management of Lake House has strongly backed the Mega Show. Its current Chairman, W. Dayaratne and the team of Board of Directors – Dharma Sri Kariyawasam (Editorial), Rakhitha Abeygunawardhana (Legal and Administration), Janaka Ranatunga (Finance) and Canishka Witharana (Operations) have always been a tower of strength to take the Observer-Mobitel School Cricketers of the Year forward.

[email protected]