Lions roar, Royal gear for Battle of Blues and Murali’s heroics | Sunday Observer

Lions roar, Royal gear for Battle of Blues and Murali’s heroics

1 May, 2022
Antonian schoolboy Muttiah Muralidaran receiving the 1991 top award from the then Minister of Housing and Construction B. Sirisena Cooray. The then Chief Editor of Sunday Observer HLD Mahindapala is also in the picture
Antonian schoolboy Muttiah Muralidaran receiving the 1991 top award from the then Minister of Housing and Construction B. Sirisena Cooray. The then Chief Editor of Sunday Observer HLD Mahindapala is also in the picture

Trinity’s first innings lead over Nalanda helped them to retain the Mahela-Sanga Challenge trophy while Royal warmed up for the upcoming Battle of the Blues with a good display against Thurstan in two of the key Under-19 Inter-School matches played last week.

In the first match played at Nalanda grounds, Campbell Place, Trinity gained first innings points for their total of 275. The Lions’ innings was boosted with two solid knocks from Ranuda Somaratne (91) and Rahal Amarasinghe (75).

They then restricted the home team to 143 all out in their first essay. Forced to follow on, Nalanda were struggling at 153 for 7 wickets in their second innings at close.

Trinity left-arm medium paceman Manula Kularatne did most of the damage taking 6 for 68 in Nalanda’s first innings while off-spinner Supun Waduge captured 5 for 46 in the second essay.

National youth all-rounder Sadisha Rajapaksa, who won the Observer-SLT Mobitel School Cricketer of the Year most popular contest last year, was once again among the runs, scoring a brilliant century.

Rajapaksa made a handsome 103 off 100 balls with 13 fours and six as Royal scored 206 for 4 wickets declared in the match played at Reid Avenue.

Thurstan who were bowled out for 114 in the first innings, played better and some sensible cricket to score 287 for 9 wickets declared in the second innings with Tharindu Harshana making a match-saving 96. Royal captain cum leg-spinner Gishan Balasooriya, followed his first innings spell of 4 for 33 by claiming 5 for 44.

Meanwhile, the second month of the 44th Observer-SLT Mobitel School Cricketers of the Year most popular contest is in full swing.

Looking back on the proud history of the Observer-SLT School Cricketers of the Year, it has paved the way to produce the world’s highest wicket taker in Test cricket.

This happened in 1991 when the mega show was just 13 years old and Muttiah Muralidaran first came to limelight through the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer contest - some 31 years ago. Murali celebrated his 50th birthday less than a fortnight ago.

Being a highly successful bowler from his school days, Murali was adjudged Observer Schoolboy Cricketer in 1991. That was when he unleashed his early magic, playing for St. Anthony’s College, Katugastota.

The four and half-decade-old history of the Observer-Mobitel Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year contest has given that much-needed inspiration and motivation to the country’s budding schoolboy cricketers to extend their playing careers beyond school level.

There have been many outstanding players who aggregate over 1,000 runs or capture over 100 wickets during a season but only a few have taken such performances to the next level. Playing for a reputed club after ending their school careers and winning the Sri Lanka ‘cap’ thereafter has been the dream of every schoolboy cricketer but only a handful would eventually fulfill that dream.

One such outstanding bowler not only achieved that goal in style but also went on to erase world records in Test cricket. He emerged through the premier school cricket awards show some 31 years ago.

The sensational news in school cricket during that era was about a magical off spinner who had shattered the dreams of all batsmen in inter-school cricket in that period.

Having come to the limelight to enjoy rich harvests of over 100 wickets each in successive seasons, the soft-spoken and publicity-shy young cricketer from St. Anthony’s College, Katugastota ultimately turned out to be the biggest headache to all top batsmen in world cricket. He snared nearly 250 wickets in two successive seasons to signal the early emergence of one of the best bowlers in world cricket.

The stepping stone for the young lad for international cricket was the Observer-SLT School Cricketer of the Year title he held in 1991. After making his Sri Lanka debut soon afterwards, he cemented his place in the national team in next to no time.

He eventually became the highest ever wicket-taker in Test cricket, establishing several other world records in international cricket. Spin wizard Muttiah Muralidaran returned to the Observer-SLT School Cricketers of the Year stage in 2011 as the chief guest, exactly 20 years after his crowning glory.

Speaking at the Observer-Mobitel School Cricketers of the Year awards night as the chief guest, Muralidaran looked emotional as he went down memory lane. “You are the future Sri Lanka players. You must keep the Sri Lanka flag flying wherever you go,” he told the gathering.

“Play hard and dedicate yourself, then success is bound to come. As young cricketers, you must keep in mind that only 11 could play in a team. When you get that rare chance of playing, you must put your heart and soul and give hundred percent to the team, so that success will come your way,” Muralidaran told the gathering, while lauding the Sunday Observer for its role in rewarding the outstanding schoolboy cricketers since 1979.

“Don’t be disappointed if you fail once or twice in the early stages of your career. Keep on trying and success is bound to come your way,” he was quoted as saying.

Muralidaran also advised the schoolboys present at the show. “Keep absolutely cool even when it is not going the way you want. I learnt this from my captain Arjuna Ranatunga (another proud recipient of the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year award in 1980 and 1982) who sported a cool head even when the going was not good. Arjuna used to take pressure off the players when the going was not to his liking. He doesn’t show any anger – that’s why he is called captain cool,” Muralidaran said.

Born on April 17, 1972, Muralidaran has achieved many records which would be hard to emulate. He is the only person to capture 800 wickets in Test cricket. Representing Sri Lanka in 133 Tests, Muralidaran has accounted for 800 scalps at an attractive average of 22.72.

With his deadly off breaks, Muralidaran has bagged ten wickets or more on 22 occasions which too accounts for a world record. No other bowler has captured five wickets or more on 67 occasions in Test cricket. His one day international record too is equally impressive. In 350 ODIs, the master spinner has captured 534 wickets at an average of 23.08.

It is heartening to see the Mega Show marching towards its half a century in six years time. Most importantly, the country’s national mobile service provider has been associated with Sri Lanka’s first-ever school cricket awards show for 15 years. Together with the Sri Lanka Telecom, the SLT Mobitel management is extending the fullest support to make the ‘Mother of all Shows’ a resounding success once again as it continues to remain the dream of every school cricketer.

With the completion of the annual ‘big matches’ and most of the traditional and tournament fixtures next month, the cynosure of all eyes would be the 44th Observer- SLT Mobitel School Cricketers of the Contest.

Meanwhile, the voting for the Observer-Mobitel Most Popular Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year contest is now reaching its peak.

Hence, it’s high time to support your alma mater by voting for your favourite schoolboy cricketer and motivate the next generation cricketers. It will be a morale booster for those outstanding young cricketers as the cream of them prepares to enter the club arena with the hope of proudly wearing that Sri Lanka cap eventually.

It is good to discover that several others have followed the Sunday Observer’s initiative to hold similar awards shows to recognize the achievements of schoolboy cricketers after every season. But the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year remains the ‘Mother of all Shows’.

Needless to say how important it is for schoolboy cricketers to win an award as recognition of their commendable achievements after a strenuous season. It is not just appreciating their achievements but also a big inspiration for them to step into the big league.

All past winners of this prestigious title have repeatedly said what a big inspiration the award had been to their cricket careers. Since its humble beginnings at Nawaragahala in 1979, the Observer-SLT Mobitel School Cricketer of the Year contest has gone from strength to strength.