Schoolgirl makes history as Dharmasena rues the present | Sunday Observer

Schoolgirl makes history as Dharmasena rues the present

24 April, 2022
Kumara Dharmasena the former Sri Lanka all-rounder is now going great guns as an ICC Elite panel umpire
Kumara Dharmasena the former Sri Lanka all-rounder is now going great guns as an ICC Elite panel umpire

The highest individual innings by a local batswoman was registered by 16-year-old Vishmi Gunaratne of Ratnaweli Balika when she smashed an unbeaten 417 against Jayasiripura Junior School in Negombo last Thursday.

Most importantly, the marathon knock came in a limited over match. In an almost single handed effort, Gunaratne’s 417 not out enabled her team to score 567 for 2 in 30 overs. She was given a good helping hand by Sandali Weerasinghe who made 78.

Jayasiripura were bowled out for 35 runs in 14.3 overs, giving Ratnaweli a thumping win in their Under-19 girls limited overs match.

Gunaratne’s record breaking innings easily erased the previous best individual innings of 374 not out by Kaushini Nuthyangana of Anula Vidyalaya, Nugegoda.

Gunaratna was associated in two vital partnerships during her invincible innings,151 for first wicket in 62 balls with Kavya Pinsith (15) and 352 for the second wicket in 109 balls with Sandali Weerasinghe. Umaya Ratnayake bagged 5 for 11 to signal a completely one sided win.

Gunaratne, who will celebrate her 17th birthday on August 22, has already shown great promise representing Sri Lanka in the World Cup qualifier tournament in Malaysia last January.

Meanwhile St. Joseph’s remained Schools Under-19 Division One top tier champions when they won the title last week by beating Richmond in the final. A blistering 80 off 88 balls by captain Shevon Daniel and a useful double of 42 runs and 3 for 18 by Dunith Wellalage made St. Joseph’s register a thumping 106-run victory over Richmond to retain their Under 19 Division One Tier ‘A’ Championship title at Police Park.

St. Joseph’s, batting first after losing 45 minutes of play due to rain, made 257 for 9 wickets in 47 overs. In reply, Richmond were bowled out for 151 in 41.3 overs.

Sadeesh Jayawardena (46 in 78 balls) and skipper Daniel shared a 57-run partnership for the second wicket.

Wellalage became the highest wicket-taker of the tournament with 19 wickets while Daniel scored 352 runs in eight matches to become the highest run scorer of the tournament.

St. Joseph’s received a Rs. 300,000 award presented by Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC). The runner-up Richmond received Rs. 250,000.

Meanwhile, the 1989 Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year Kumara Dharmasena, is now serving as ICC Elite Panel of umpire for many years.

Dharmasena, who was a member of Sri Lanka’s 1996 World Cup winning team under another Observer Schoolboy Cricketer Arjuna Ranatunga, has reached many great milestones in his distinguished career as an international umpire.

The ex-Sri Lanka all-rounder, who celebrates his 51st birthday today (April 24), has now officiated in over 70 Tests, 115 ODIs and 35 T20 Internationals.

In his last interview with the Sunday Observer, Dharmasena said that the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year title he won in 1989 inspired him to excel in the international arena.

KD is better known for his inspiring acts as a team man, motivating his fellow players even at difficult times. Hence, he was nicknamed ‘Unanduwa’ by his teammates.

“Winning the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year title was a great moment in my life. It was one of the proudest moments in my cricket career,” he said.

“It was a big inspiration for me to win the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year title. It helped and encouraged me to work hard to win my place in the Sri Lanka team,” he said.

Dharmasena feels that winning a Mega Award such as the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year gives a huge image and great confidence for a schoolboy cricketer to go places.

“That would definitely make young schoolboy cricketers more determined to reach the top of the ladder. That gave me tremendous confidence to transform from school cricket to international cricket,” he said.

Dharmasena said he was looking forward to many milestones as an international umpire. “I do not have too many future plans as we are getting older. I take it year by year. For as long as the ICC recognizes my work I will work and I am happy with it”, he said.

Dharmasena took to umpiring after his retirement from international cricket in November 2006. Having made his international debut as an umpire in 2009, officiating in an ODI between India and Sri Lanka at Dambulla, Dharmasena became the youngest ever Sri Lankan to umpire in any form of international cricket.

He umpired at the 2011 ICC World Cup and in the same year he had the honour of being appointed to the ICC’s Elite Panel of Umpires. But the greatest achievement in his career as an international umpire was witnessed in 2012 when he was adjudged the ICC’s Umpire of the Year to receive the David Shepherd Trophy.

Dharmasena became the first person to complete a unique double of playing and umpiring in an ICC World Cup final when he officiated at the 2015 ICC World Cup tournament final. As a player, Dharmasena played a notable role in Sri Lanka’s World Cup victory in 1996.

He feels that outstanding cricketers with exceptional performances and milestones are hard to find nowadays, compared to his era and contends that the present day challenge for schoolboy cricketers is greater. “As a result, only a few outstanding cricketers would remain in the game once they complete school level,” he said.

“When I ended by school career and left Nalanda College, I was fortunate to be offered employment at Hatton National Bank (HNB). They gave me all the support to pursue my career as a club cricketer and then as an international cricketer. However, the present day schoolboy cricketers hardly get that sort of support, especially in a difficult period like this,” he added.

Born on April 24, 1971 in Colombo, he was one of the best all-rounders produced by Nalanda College and had the honour of playing four memorable seasons for the Campbell Place school.

He was in fine form as a school cricketer but narrowly missed the chance of becoming the first to win the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer in four successive years.

Apart from winning the prestigious title in 1989, he had been adjudged runner up thrice - to Sanjeewa Ranatunga of Ananda College in 1988, Marvan Atapattu also of Ananda College in 1990 and to Muttiah Muralithan of St. Anthony’s College, Katugastota in 1991.

After finishing his school cricket career on a high note, Dharmasena became a permanent member of Bloomfield in the domestic inter-club premier league season. Merely three years after winning the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year title, young Dharmasena made his Test debut in Sri Lanka’s second Test against South Africa at the SSC ground in September, 1993.

He made his Sri Lanka ODI debut on August 24, 1994 in the fifth ODI against Pakistan at the Premadasa Stadium capturing 2 for 34 off nine overs.

Dharmasena aggregated 868 runs in 31 Tests with three half centuries and captured 69 wickets with 6 for 72 as his best innings analysis with his off cutters. He represented Sri Lanka in 141 ODIs, aggregating 1,222 runs with four half centuries.

Dharmasena captured 138 wickets in ODIs with his off breaks, delivered with a slightly unorthodox action that had been a blessing to the Sri Lankan team in many ODIs.

As a top former cricketer and present umpire at the highest level, Dharmasena had his own advice to the emerging schoolboy cricketers who keep dreaming of a Sri Lanka cap.

“You won’t be successful if you don’t enjoy the game and dedicate yourself towards it. You have to be focused on your goal. Work hard with dedication while believing in you. Then, success will automatically come your way”, he concluded.