When award winners became skippers | Sunday Observer

When award winners became skippers

21 June, 2020

Six former Sri Lanka cricket captains, who had showcased exemplary careers at school level and become Observer Schoolboy Cricketers during their time, have commended the great role played by the Observer-Mobitel Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year contest over the past four decades.

They shared identical views on the Observer-Mobitel Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year show which has made a worthy contribution to promote school cricket. They were of the view that the Mega Show has rendered a huge service in recognizing milestone achievements of schoolboy cricketers, even at a time there had not been any official inter-school tournaments.

Paying a glowing tribute to the Observer-Mobitel Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year ceremony and its promoter the Sunday Observer, they said that the first award they had won as schoolboy cricketers had been a great source of encouragement.

Ex-Royal captain who was fortunate to become the first recipient of the award in 1979, Ranjan Madugalle, rated his early days as a schoolboy cricketer at Royal as the best moments in his career as a cricketer. In a recent interview, he  said that he was honoured and privileged to become the first-ever recipient of the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year Award some four decades ago, although he had “never thought of individual glory”.

The former Sri Lanka captain turned Chief ICC Match Referee complimented the Sunday Observer and Lake House for understanding the need to recognize the outstanding performances of schoolboy cricketers during an era which did not have any inter-school tournament structure or an award show to inspire schoolboy cricketers.

“When playing school cricket in that era, we even didn’t know that there was such an award on offer. We played our traditional friendly matches to enjoy the game and not for competition or personal glory. But it was great to feel that your hard work as a schoolboy cricketer was appreciated at the end of the season. It was a great inspiration and satisfaction to feel that your performances are recognized,” he said.

“It is not merely for individual glory but your performances as a team. It was great for the Sunday Observer to recognize the achievements of school teams and their players”, said the first-ever recipient of the prestigious award.

Arjuna Ranatunga, who had won the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year award twice in 1980 and 1982 when he was playing for Ananda College, still feels that being rewarded were the most memorable moments in his early cricketing career.

Despite going places and winning many other awards at the highest level subsequently, Sri Lanka’s World Cup-winning captain strongly feels that an award won at the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year event remains the most memorable and precious moment in any cricketer’s life.

“Winning the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year Award twice remains the most cherished moments in my life. Those titles had given me tremendous inspiration. It also gave me confidence when I made my Test debut in 1982 as a schoolboy cricketer at Ananda”, he said.

Ex-Sri Lanka captain and former ICC Match Referee Roshan Mahanama, the winner of the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer award on successive years 1983 and 1984 said that it was a great feeling to be rewarded with the prestigious title.

“That was a tremendous feeling. Becoming the best schoolboy cricketer was an honor for the hard work put in during the season and it was a great encouragement. I was privileged to fulfill one of my dreams. Winning the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year twice was indeed memorable. It was my stepping stone as an emerging cricketer,” Mahanama said in a recent interview.

“Becoming the best schoolboy cricketer made me more focused and determined, to work harder to reach greater heights as a national player” he added.

Sanath Jayasuriya is another Sri Lanka captain to emerge through the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year contest. At his school St. Servatius College, Matara, he was the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer (Outstation) in 1988. In those years, the competition was run separately for All-Island and Outstation schools.

Eight years later, the batting machine from the South was adjudged the Most Valuable Player of the series when Sri Lanka won the ICC World Cup in 1996.

“Winning that prestigious title was the best thing that had happened in my early cricketing career. It was an immense joy when I was playing for St. Servatius College. Winning the title gave me  tremendous confidence”, Jayasuriya said.

Marvan Atapattu, who had the honor of holding aloft that glittering Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year award in 1990, considers the rare honor he had was a “certification or a guarantee” and a prediction that he would win a place in the national team.

“I had been performing well, scoring constantly as a top order batsman playing for Ananda. That prompted many people to consider me as a future national prospect even from that age. I too felt that I had a good chance of making it to the national team although there was no guarantee,” he said.

“But one glorious moment changed my thinking. Hence almost all previous Observer Schoolboy Cricketers had represented Sri Lanka with distinction I too thought that I am closer to that goal. When I won the title, it gave me the guarantee that I could join that select band”, said Atapattu, the former Sri Lanka captain.

Dinesh Chandimal is the most recent Sri Lanka captain to emerge through the Observer-Mobitel Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year pathway. Chandimal led his school team to 13 outright victories in the 2008/09 season.

His superior batting was one of Ananda’s keys to success as he led from front with lavish contributions with his willow, a staggering 1,580 runs in his final season. He was appointed vice captain of the Sri Lanka Under-19 team during the same year.

Sri Lanka’s national mobile service provider, Sri Lanka Telecom Mobitel continues to provide that ‘smart connection’ to the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year contest.

Under the directions of the Chairman of the Sri Lanka Telecom and SLT Mobitel, Rohan Fernando, the Chief Executive Officer of the SLT Mobitel Nalin Perera, has made a lavish contribution towards the success of the event during the past decade.