The Show must go on | Sunday Observer

The Show must go on

26 April, 2020

School cricket fever has dropped as the focus worldwide has been centered on finding a cure for the Covid-19 epidemic. But the sooner we overcome the coronavirus crisis, the big question in sports  would be as to who the top winners of the recently concluded inter-school cricket season are.

Who will win the prestigious Observer-Mobitel Schoolboy and Schoolgirl Cricketers of the Year 2020 titles? The answer to these questions, sought by thousands of schoolboy cricketers and their supporters, would be known in probably a couple of months when the mega awards ceremony will be held for the 42nd successive year, no sooner the Covid-19 fear fades away.

The winner would join the select band of cricketers, of whom the majority have ended up as top world class cricketers. The galaxy of star cricketers who have established their names in world cricket include former Sri Lanka captains Ranjan Madugalle, Arjuna Ranatunga, Roshan Mahanama, Sanath Jayasuriya, Marvan Atapattu and Dinesh Chandimal.

Among the other winners of the most prestigious award in Sri Lanka school cricket are the highest wicket taker in Test cricket Muttiah Muralitharan, one-down batsman Asanka Gurusinha and the ICC elite panel umpire Kumar Dharmasena.

Interestingly, the trio were members of Sri Lanka's World Cup-winning team in 1996 captained by none other than Ranatunga who had won the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year award twice - in 1980 and 1982.

However, the proud recipient of the inaugural Observer Schoolboy Cricketer ceremony held way back in 1978/79 at the Navarangahala, was none other than the then Royal College captain Madugalle who now functions as the Chief ICC Match Referee and who celebrated his birthday last week.

After leading his Alma mater at the prestigious centenary Royal-Thomian cricket encounter in 1979, Madugalle went on to captain NCC and Sri Lanka with distinction.

In fact, he was the second Sri Lankan batsman to score a Test half century just minutes after Ranatunga did so in Sri Lanka's inaugural Test which was against England played at Sara Stadium in 1982.

As the past winners had pointed out, winning the coveted Observer-Mobitel Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year title is the most cherished moment that any schoolboy could ever dream of. Almost all past winners of this glamorous award have gone to win national honours.

The hosts of the mega show - Sri Lanka's flagship English newspaper the Sunday Observer, gave birth to this show more than four decades ago at a time when there hadn't been a single awards show to appreciate and reward the hard work of the country's schoolboy cricketers.

There had not been even an organized inter-school cricket tournament of two-day matches at that time.

Nevertheless, the Sunday Observer had realized the need to reward and inspire the budding cricketers of the nation. Since then, the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year contest has gone from strength to strength, providing an ideal platform for the future stars of Sri Lanka cricket.

Conducting such a prestigious show continuously for more than four decades is not an easy task.

But the Sunday Observer has fulfilled its obligation not only by hosting the event continuously but also improving the standard and the quality of the show year after year.

A few other school cricket awards shows have commenced subsequently, following that great initiative of the Sunday Observer. Yet, the Observer-Mobitel Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year remains the Mother of All Shows, setting new standards in local school cricket. The event has been a great source of encouragement for thousands of schoolboy cricketers.

The entry of Sri Lanka's national mobile telephone network - the SLT Mobitel, as the principal sponsor 12 years ago, has boosted the show, helping the Sunday Observer to further improve the high standards and lavishly reward not only the outstanding schoolboy cricketers but also their coaches and masters-in-charge who have rendered a yeoman service behind the scenes.

Sri Lanka Telecom chairman Rohan Fernando, who also heads the SLT Mobitel, has extended his fullest support to make the event a big success. He has given his fullest blessings to the CEO of Mobitel, Nalin Perera, to make the event more colourful.

Sri Lanka's World Cup-winning captain turned minister, Ranatunga has been a distinguished guest at most of the past awards shows, ever since winning the main award twice some 34 years ago.

"It is the dream of any schoolboy cricketer to win the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year award. It's great for the Sunday Observer in continuing the Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year Contest since 1979 to encourage the budding schoolboy cricketers," was how Ranatunga expressed his views on the show in a recent interview.

"I am happy at the improvement of outstation cricket as the game has spread far and wide in the country. Many Sri Lankan cricketing giants of the past and the present are those who have either won the prestigious and coveted Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year Award or one of the many awards presented at the contest," added Ranatunga who has made an immense contribution to Sri Lanka cricket, ever since leaving Ananda College and captaining SSC and Sri Lanka with success.

Meanwhile, the heat will be on the Observer-Mobitel Most Popular Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year awards once we restart the voting after we resume the print edition of ANCL newspapers.

Since the print editions go only to areas where curfew has been relaxed and while we continue with the ePaper, we will only resume publishing voting coupons for the most popular contests only after the situation returns to normal.