Royal-Thomian maiden T20 show on May 10 | Sunday Observer

Royal-Thomian maiden T20 show on May 10

7 March, 2021
Former winner as chief guest! Gurusinha addressing the 39th Observer-Mobitel Cricketer of the Year as the Chief Guest
Former winner as chief guest! Gurusinha addressing the 39th Observer-Mobitel Cricketer of the Year as the Chief Guest

The inaugural Mustangs trophy Royal-Thomian T20 limited over cricket encounter will be played at the Mahinda Rajapaksa International Cricket Stadium (MRICS) in Sooriyawewa, Hambantota on May 10.

Though the Royal-Thomian cricket history goes back to 1879, this will be the first time the two teams are meeting in a T20 day-night match commencing at 7 pm on May 10.

The Battle of the Blues three-day encounter between Royal and S. Thomas’ will be played at the MRICS prior to the T20 game on May 6, 7 and 8.

However, the Royal-Thomain 50 over game for the Mustangs trophy will not be played this year too.

Even last year, the proposed 45th Mustangs trophy match between Royal and S. Thomas’ was cancelled due to Covid-19 pandemic which had its first wave in Sri Lanka on the third day of the big match.

Ever since then, not only Sri Lanka’s school cricket but all other regular events worldwide were stopped due Covid-19 as people across the globe battled it out to find out a steady answer.

Though a long lasting solution has not been found yet, with the global pandemic claiming around 2.6 million lives, some type of a relief has been found with the ongoing vaccination programs.

The big matches always gave a new rhythm until last year as the schoolboys and their old boys get proactive with excitement and renewed loyalty with true feelings for their schools.

Venues of the big matches eventually turn out as the annual meeting places for old boys of the respective schools to meet, greet and swap yarns, especially those who have domiciled abroad flying down for the big occasion.

Those living overseas make their annual cricketing pilgrimage to Sri Lanka in March to meet their school friends to go down memory lane. But the pandemic which hit the globe has turned everything upside down.

There were individuals who had created big names in the game right from their junior school cricket level in the good old days. Winning a Sri Lanka national cap at the age of 18 years is something unique, admirable and memorable. Only a few cricketers, including World Cup winning captain Arjuna Ranatunga, have had the distinction of achieving that rare feat. Former Nalanda captain Asanka Gurusinha is another of those superb cricketers who has shown his might and achieved that distinction. He is only the second from the Campbell Place school to be adjudged the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year after Roshan Mahanama.

Immediately after Mahanama’s Observer Schoolboy Cricketer glory in back to back glory in 1983 and 1984, yet another Nalandian, Gurusinha won the coveted title in 1985.

The 54-year-old former Sri Lanka top order batsman and ex-cricket manager of the Sri Lanka national team, Gurusinha feels that the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year’ title he won in 1985 was the turning point in his cricket career. The 1996 Sri Lanka World Cup winning star, in a recent interview, said the year 1985 was a memorable year for him after winning the covered title.

“I truly felt how prestigious and unique it is to win the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year award when my school senior Roshan Mahanama won this award twice in 1983 and 1984. It was a rare honour and a rich award that not every schoolboy cricketer had the fortune to win,” he said.

“One has to be outstanding and be consistent right throughout a season to win that. You have to work really hard to reach the pinnacle of school cricket. I was hungry to win that title after watching the proud moment when Mahanama won the award which was also an honour for Nalanda,” Gurusinha said.

“I knew similar hard work and dedication with exceptional performance could take a schoolboy cricketer towards that goal. I successfully achieved my dream as a schoolboy the following year.”

Gurusinha was adjudged the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year in 1985 after an outstanding 1984/85 season for Nalanda, with a rich harvest of over 1,000 runs.

“The title gave me tremendous confidence and I started believing in myself more. In less than five months after that I made my Test debut for Sri Lanka,” he added.

The technically enriched left-handed top order bat, who eventually turned out to be one of the most dependable one-drop batsmen ever produced by Sri Lanka, made his ODI debut on November 3, 1985 in Sri Lanka’s fourth ODI against Pakistan in Hyderabad.

Gurusinha was called up at 19 years as a wicket-keeper, a role he performed in a further two ODIs and one Test. He gradually established himself as a one-drop batsman in the national team with many responsible innings that was taken notice of by the selectors.

Gura paid a rich tribute to the Sunday Observer and Lake House for holding the event for over four decades. “I am extremely happy that the Sunday Observer is hosting the awards show uninterrupted, thus encouraging the budding schoolboy cricketers. This was the only school cricket awards show during our school days - by the Observer, and we were eagerly looking forward to it,” he recalled.

In 147 ODIs for Sri Lanka, Gurusinha aggregated 3,902 runs inclusive of two centuries and 22 fifties to average 28.27.

Just four days after making his ODI debut, Gurusinha won his Test cap on November 7, 1985 to play for Sri Lanka in the third Test against Pakistan in Karachi.

The rock-solid reliable batsman has represented Sri Lanka in 41 Tests and scored 2,453 runs with seven centuries and eight half tons. Not every star batsman showed his true colours until the finish but Gura was brilliant until the end, scoring a magnificent 88 off 239 balls against Zimbabwe at the SSC ground in September 1996 in his farewell Test innings. He finished with a Test average of 38.92 and a career-best score of 143.

He was worried about the dying spectator interest in school cricket, which had been at its best during his era. “There is too much cricket being played now and that could be the main reason. Live television coverage also discourages them from going to the grounds. In my school days, the grounds were house full for all key school matches. I could well remember our 1983 game against Royal. We were after five wins and Royal after seven wins. The Reid Avenue ground was packed,” he said.

But he said that there is a vast gap between the present day school cricket standard and that of the Sri Lanka ‘A’ or national team. “There is a big gap now and you need to come out with an exceptional performance to make it to the national team. Fitness and sharp fielding play an important role and these aspects should be looked into from school level,” he said.

“We must set one goal and work towards achieving that at all levels. High performance culture should work from school level with intense training and high fitness levels,” he added.

Physical fitness is a key area that helps make a complete cricketer, Gurusinha pointed out. “Fitness is very important, not only to play school cricket but even excel in studies with a sound mind. They must work hard with dedication. Just because one takes 50 wickets, he should not expect a direct place in the national team. Instead, he should keep on performing and maintaining consistency,” he said.

Gurusinha was a key ingredient in Sri Lanka’s 1996 World Cup recipe, aggregating 307 runs – the sixth highest among all teams, with three half centuries in six matches to average 51.16.

“The Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year show has not only produced top cricketers but also an international level umpire such as Kumar Dharmasena who serves in the ICC elite panel,” he said while paying a tribute to his former Sri Lanka team mate.

“We must not forget but also appreciate the tireless roles played by coaches and masters-in-charge, who render yeoman service,” Gurusinha added.

The Observer-Mobitel School Cricketers of the Year 2021 will be launched shortly with the commencement of the inter-school matches from next week.

The Observer-Mobitel School Cricketers of the Year 2020 awards ceremony which has been postponed due to Covid-19 pandemic is likely to be held later next month after the Sinhala and Tamil New Year.

The few two-day matches played as non-tournament encounters are now in progress. But the Sri Lanka Schools Cricket Association (SLSCA) will confine its matches to a championship decided by one-day matches only.

Up to a maximum eight tournament matches including five in the qualifying round league will be played by a team. 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 year 1978, there had been a similar event in Galle.

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.