All systems point to tension-filled climax | Sunday Observer

All systems point to tension-filled climax

24 May, 2020

The deadly Covid-19 pandemic seems to be slowly but steadily fading away and people’s lifestyles, which came to an almost standstill, is just beginning to restart.

With the commencement of the people’s day-to-day work, some people have even begun their physical training. Even during the corona lock down, the highly interested sports-minded people used their backyards to do some light workouts.

Now with the Government gradually opening lifestyles of the people, they have now been given an opportunity to use walking paths and other similar facilities that are around.

This gradually paves the way for the commencement of other sports facilities shortly. Hence, the Observer-Mobitel Schoolboy and Schoolgirl Cricketers of the Year 2020 most popular contests too would reach its peak in the months to come.

It’s about a couple of months away from the 42nd Observer-Mobitel Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year Mega Show – Sri Lanka’s first-ever school cricket awards show, organized by the country’s flagship English newspaper Sunday Observer and sponsored by the national mobile service provider Sri Lanka Telecom Mobitel.

Incidentally, this will be the 13th consecutive year that SLT Mobitel will be sponsoring the Mega Show, which has a rich history of producing legendary cricketers, including Sri Lanka’s World Cup-winning captain Arjuna Ranatunga, world’s highest Test wicket taker Muttiah Muralitharan and the Chief ICC Match Referee Ranjan Madugalle.

The inaugural show was held way back in 1979 with the then Royal College captain Ranjan Madugalle winning the prestigious title.

The launch of the Mega Show was a new experience for local school cricket at a time there wasn’t any school cricket awards show in that era.

As the country’s leading national English newspaper, the Sunday Observer had correctly identified the need to reward the country’s next generation cricketers after each strenuous season.

Moreover, there had not been any organized inter-school under-19 tournament structure, apart from traditional school fixtures. Hence, the launch of the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year contest at the Navarangahala, Royal College, Colombo 7 in 1979 opened a new chapter in Sri Lanka cricket, giving a tremendous boost for local school cricket. The novel concept was a big inspiration to schoolboy cricketers and in next to no time, the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year contest became the most sought-after event in the school cricket calendar.

The second recipient of the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year title after Madugalle was the then Ananda College captain Arjuna Ranatunga. Incidentally, both Madugalle and Ranatunga were chosen to play for Sri Lanka in the country’s inaugural Test against England at the Saravanamuttu Stadium, Colombo in February 1982.

The duo made it a memorable occasion by scoring debut half centuries, Sri Lanka’s first ever, in the inaugural Test against England.

When the experienced players failed to impress, both Ranatunga and Madugalle faced the England attack bravely to score half centuries on their Test debut.

Ranatunga, who made 54, was the first to do so while Madugalle followed minutes later with a sparkling knock of 65.

SLT Mobitel has greatly contributed towards the resounding success of the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year contest during the past 12 years. Its rich sponsorship package has enabled the organizers to improve the standard of the contest.

Apart from bigger cash incentives even the quality of the trophies that are on offer, too have improved to meet the high standards.

When the lavish contribution of SLT Mobitel is spoken about, we cannot forget the keenness shown by the CEO of the SLT Mobitel Nalin Perera who has been a tower of strength in the success of the Observer-Mobitel Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year contest.

SLT Mobitel’s financial backing has not only enabled the organizers to boost prize money but also to reward coaches and masters-in-charge of champion teams.

Needless to say that these officials and coaches render yeomen service but are often a forgotten lot.

Hence, the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year contest has been appreciating the silent service of coaches and masters-in-charge and rewarding them.

The last to win the prestigious Observer-Mobitel Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year in back to back years was Charith Asalanka of Richmond College, Galle who won the main titles in 2015 and 2016.

Ranatunga was the first to win the coveted title twice for the first time in the series when he accounted for the mega title in 1980 and 1982.

Meanwhile, the race for the Observer-Mobitel Most Popular Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year tiles has turned out to be a closely contested affair.

There has been heavy voting with more and more votes pouring in for the front runners but the trend has stopped due to Covid-19 global pandemic.

Nevertheless, the voting started last week and is now slowly gathering momentum.

But anything could happen in the last leg of voting and there could be a close tussle at the end to determine the winners.

Talking about the past winners of the prestigious title for outstation cricketers, one cannot forget the emergence of Sanath Jayasuriya through this contest.

During his final year in cricket at St. Servatius College, Matara, young Jayasuriya was adjudged Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year in the Outstation Segment in 1988.

He made a clean sweep by accounting for the Best Batsman and Best All-rounder awards in the Outstation category.

Born in Matara on June 30, 1969, Jayasuriya mastered his basics in cricket at St. Servatius’ College where his cricketing talents were nourished by the then Principal, GL Galappathy and coach Lionel Munasinghe.

Jayasuriya was one of the main architects of Sri Lanka’s victory at the 1996 World Cup.

His explosive batting earned him the Most Valuable Player of the Series (Man of the Tournament) title.