Stage set for school cricketers’ most cherished moments | Sunday Observer

Stage set for school cricketers’ most cherished moments

12 December, 2021
Chandana Wickremasinghe Dance Troupe
Chandana Wickremasinghe Dance Troupe

The super powers of SLT Mobitel and the Sunday Observer have been able to build up a super stage once more to reward the country’s outstanding school cricketers this week.

Despite the Covid-19 pandemic threatening to disrupt all events worldwide for almost two years, the Sunday Observer and its principal sponsor SLT Mobitel were extremely lucky to beat all overwhelming odds to host both the 2020 event and now the 2021 extravaganza.

Thus, the stage is set for the 43rd Observer SLT Mobitel Schools Cricketer of the Year grand finale which will be held at the BMICH in Colombo on Tuesday (14) commencing from 5.30 p.m.

Gracing the gala awards ceremony as distinguished chief guest is none other than the person who guided Sri Lanka to its most cherished moment is cricket, Arjuna Ranatunga. It was under his leadership that Sri Lanka beat Australia by seven wickets in the 1996 World Cup final played in Lahore, Pakistan on March, 17, 1996

Ranatunga is only the second winner of the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year - in 1980 after Ranjan Madugalle and the first ever schoolboy to win the grand title twice.

Interestingly, the 1996 World Cup-winning Sri Lanka team was filled with Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year title winners – Ranatunga (1980 and 1982), Roshan Mahamama (1983 and 1984), Asanka Gurusinha (1985), Kumara Dharmasena (1989), Marvan Atapattu (1990) and Muttiah Muralitharan (1991) while Sanath Jayasuriya, the man of the series at the 1996 World Cup tournament, had won the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year Outstation title in 1988.

As a tribute to Ranatunga and his world beating team, the highlights of the 1996 World Cup final will be shown on a super giant screen to an audience of nearly 450 at the BMICH on Tuesday where the Mega Show will be conducted in accordance with strict health guidelines of only 25% of the capacity.

For the first time in the 43-year-old Mega Show history, the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer will be held twice during the same year. It was in April this year that we had the 42nd Observer School Cricketers of the Year awards ceremony that was postponed from 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic. We were extremely lucky to hold it in accordance with all health guidelines.

Although the 2020-21 season inter-school cricket activities were confined to the three divisions of 1, 11 and 111 tournaments plus a few traditional two-day matches and the Royal-Thomian three-day encounter, we thought it is not fair to desert the school cricketers when they needed the motivation the most.


Hence, the SLT Mobitel gave its financial backing for this year too and continues the Observer SLT Mobitel School Cricketers of the Year uninterrupted.

It is a commendable gesture by the SLT Mobitel and full credit must go to its parent company Sri Lanka Telecom headed by its Group Chairman Rohan Fernando, former Vice President of the National Olympic Committee of Sri Lanka (NOC) and ex-President of the Rowing Association of Sri Lanka. An ace rower during his days at S. Thomas’, Fernando has given all the backing for the Mega Show, along with the CEO of Sri Lanka Telecom Group, Lalith Seneviratne and CEO of SLT Mobitel Chandika Vitharana.

The Sri Lanka Schools Cricket Association (SLSCA) and the Sri Lanka Cricket Umpires and Scorers Association have joined hands with the Sunday Observer and SLT Mobitel to ensure nothing is left out.

In fact, the Sunday Observer found the necessity of recognizing the raw talents of schoolboy cricketers way back in the 1970s when the school cricket national body had not even thought of a schools tournament.

When the success story of the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year is spoken about, one cannot forget the lavish contribution made by SLT Mobitel since 2008, especially its role to keep the Mega Show uninterrupted during the Covid-19 pandemic. When almost all other sponsors abandoned their events during the past two years, SLT Mobitel stood firmly with the Sunday Observer to keep the Mega Show going.

As the proud sponsor of the Mega Show for the past 15 years, SLT Mobitel has greatly helped us to improve the standards and quality of the game. It has also helped increase the prize money by a significant amount. Not only for the players but SLT Mobitel has taken a giant leap forward by rewarding the coaches and masters in charge who sacrifice their entire careers to mould and sharpen the skills of the next generation cricketers.

The standard of the Mega Show entered a new era in 2008 with lavish cash incentives and high quality trophies to the outstanding school cricketers. Even their coaches and masters-in-change, who have done a silent job behind the scene too have been richly rewarded.

Today’s schoolboy and schoolgirl cricketers have a lot to gather from a legendary cricketer like Ranatunga who has a proven track record. He was a reliable middle order batsman who had aggregated 5,105 runs including four centuries and 38 fifties and captured 16 wickets in 93 Tests.

“You may go places and win many other Awards at higher levels, but an Award won at the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year event remains the most memorable in any cricketer’s life,” said Ranatunga when he emphasised the impact the Mega Event has on schoolboys.

The highest two innings – both half centuries, in Sri Lanka’s inaugural Test in 1982, had been scored by former Observer Schoolboy Cricketers – Madugalle (65) and Ranatunga (54).

Ranatunga has come a long way since his early days as a junior schoolboy cricketer to go places to end his sporting career as a legend in world cricket. Playing in 269 ODI matches for Sri Lanka, Ranatunga has aggregated 7,456 runs with four centuries and 49 fifties. Although the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer was officially begun in 1979, there were records that the Sunday Observer awards show had originally commenced in 1975. Nalanda cricketer Anura Ranasinghe, the controversial 12th man in Sri Lanka’s inaugural Test squad, has been the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year in 1975 as well as in the following year 1976.

Although the show was not held in 1977, Ranjan Madugalle was adjudged the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year when the awards show resumed in 1978. Madugalle won the title once more in 1979, the first formal year of the competition.



Super Entertainment for Mega Show

The 43rd Observer SLT Mobitel School Cricketers of the Year Mega Night is packed with some eye-catching entertainment provided by leading vocalists Falan Andrea, K. Sujeewa and veteran Saman de Silva backed by leading band Centigradz. There will be many super dance acts by Chandana Wickremasinghe Dance Troupe in the 150-minute action-packed show handled by Funtime of Imran Saibo .