Jura left the country after raw deal | Sunday Observer

Jura left the country after raw deal

27 December, 2020
The 1986 Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year Roshan Jurangpathy - a raw deal from the selectors with only two Tests
The 1986 Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year Roshan Jurangpathy - a raw deal from the selectors with only two Tests

We spoke about one of the promising cricketers of yesteryear who had been unfortunate not to go beyond the top prize of school level - Rohan Buultjens last week. The outstanding cricketer from St. Peter’s College, Colombo, was only the third cricketer to win the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year title after Ranjan Madugalle (1979 in the inaugural year) and Arjuna Ranatunga (second winner in 1980), both went on to captain Sri Lanka with distinction.

Similarly, another top spinner from school level was lost after playing just two Test matches for Sri Lanka. After Ranatunga won the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer for the second time in 1982, it was Nalandian Roshan Mahanama who swept the boards in 1983 and 1984 to become the first schoolboy cricketer in back to back years. Then came yet another star from the Campbell Place school to emerge as Observer Schoolboy Cricketer – Asanka Gurusinha who played and later coached the Sri Lanka team.

After the first few cricketers – Ranjan Madugalle, Arjuna Ranatunga, Rohan Buultjens, Roshan Mahanama and Asanka Gurusinha, yet another champion all-rounder emerged in 1986 – Roshan Jurangpathy. He was only the second cricketer from Royal College after Ranjan Madugalle to emerge the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year. But yet again, Jurangpathy was not able to give out his brilliant best for Sri Lanka, with his international career lasting only for just two Tests.

Jurangpathy went on to represent Sri Lanka mainly as a spinner but the national selectors did not give him a fair deal.

He was the fourth-youngest player to represent Sri Lanka as a supremely gifted all rounder. But the selectors showed little or no interest to persevere with him and discarded him after playing him in two Tests. Born on June 25, 1967, he made his Test debut against India in 1985 at Asgiriya with Indian Mohinder Amarnath becoming his solitary Test wicket.

Although his efforts were below par in the two Tests, considering his age, if the selectors had shown faith and guided him with time he could have developed into an all rounder of international class. He shot into prominence when representing the Sri Lanka Under-23 side against Pakistan with some remarkable performances.

He became the youngest Sri Lankan player to score a first-class hundred when he was 17 years and 342 days.

Unfortunately, he found the transition from schoolboy to Test cricket a difficult one with hardly any opportunity and time to blossom. He was under-bowled in his Test debut and discarded by the selectors and ignored somewhat harshly thereafter Jurangpathy later turned up playing grade cricket in Western Australia.

Jura, as he was affectionately known, was a household name in school cricket during that era and the country lost a cricketer of promise as he later domiciled in Australia.

The Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year contest has produced a group of elite cricketers who have engraved their names in Sri Lanka cricket history in letters of gold. Ranjan Madugalle not only reached the pinnacle of his career as a cricketer by going on to captain Sri Lanka but also reached the very top as an official by becoming the Chief ICC Match Referee.

Ranatunga, who won the title after Madugalle in 1980, is another great Sri Lanka cricketer who marshaled the national team to conquer the ‘Mount Everest’ of world cricket as he captained Sri Lanka’s World Cup winning team in 1996.

The galaxy of stars include the world’s highest Test wicket taker Muttiah Muralidaran, the Most Valuable Player in the 1996 World Cup tournament Sanath Jayasuriya (outstation title), former Sri Lanka captain and ex-national coach Marvan Atapattu (1990), former Sri Lanka captain and ex-ICC Match Referee Roshan Mahanama, former Sri Lanka player cum 1996 World Cup star turned manager of the Sri Lanka team Asanka Gurusinha, former Sri Lanka player and ICC Elite Panel Umpire Kumara Dharmasena and ex Sri Lanka Test batsman turned batting coach of the Bangladesh nation team Thilan Samaraweera (1994 and 1995).

Three members of the current Sri Lanka pool have won the Observer-Mobitel Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year titles during their school careers in recent times. They are former Sri Lanka T20 captain Dinesh Chandimal (Ananda - 2009), Niroshan Dickwella (Trinity – 2012) and Kusal Mendis (Prince of Wales - 2013).

Niroshan Dickwella and Kusal Mendis are two youngsters who have stepped into the national team after winning the Observer-Mobitel Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year award in successive years (2012 and 2013 respectively) and cemented their places in quick time.

Apart from those popular figures, there was Rohan Buultjens (1981), Rohan Weerakkody (St. Joseph’s - 1987), Sanjeeva Ranatunga (Ananda - 1988), Sajith Fernando (St. Anthony’s, Katugastota - 1992), Naveed Nawaz (DS. Senanayake - 1993), Nimesh Perera (St Sebastian’s, Moratuwa - 1996), Chinthaka Jayasinghe (Dharmapala -1997), Pradeep Hewage (St. Benedict’s - 1998), Muthumudalige Pushpakumara (Ananda - 1999), Kaushalya Weeraratne (Trinity - 2000), Kaushal Lokuarachchi (St. Peter’s - 2001), Sahan Wijeratne (Prince Of Wales - 2002), Farveez Maharoof (Wesley - 2003), Lahiru Peiris (St. Peter’s – 2004 and 2005), Gihan Rupasinghe (Nalanda - 2006), Malith Gunatilleka (Ananda - 2007), Umesh Karunaratne (Thurstan - 2008), Bhanuka Rajapakse (Royal – 2010 and 2011), Sadeera Samarawickrema (St. Joseph’s - 2014) , Charith Asalanka (Richmond – 2015 and 2016), Nipun Ransika (P. de S Kularatne MV - 2017), Hasitha Boyagoda (Trinity - 2018) and Kamil Mishara (Royal – 2019)

Among the other former Observer Schoolboy Cricketers of the Year award winners who had represented Sri Lanka at the highest level were Farveez Maharoof (22 Tests and 109 ODIs), Muthumudalige Pushpakumara (three ODIs), Naweed Nawaz (one Test, three ODIs), Kausal Lokuarachchi (four Tests and 21 ODIs) and Kaushalya Weeraratne (15 ODIs and five T20I).

The Observer-Mobitel Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year contest has produced a group of elite cricketers who have engraved their names in Sri Lanka cricket history in letters of gold.

The contest, which began as an unofficial one in 1978, was made official the following year and is getting bigger and broader yearly as it has explored the talent in the rural areas which has given those cricketers the opportunities to be on par, or even become better than the players representing Colombo schools judging by the number of players emerging from the rural schools who have stamped their class as top players.

The 1978 Sunday Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of The Year Contest was a significant one, though it was held in the outstation and not counted in the series. The contest was held at the Galle Esplanade for the first time with a view to promoting the game in the outstation. It was quite appropriate in having the show in Galle as the Outstation Schoolboy Cricketer of that year was Upul Sumathipala from Mahinda College, Galle.

Senior officials of the Sri Lanka Schools Cricket Association (SLSCA) and the Umpires Association met for the selections held under the patronage of a senior national selector of the Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) which is extending its fullest support. Principal of Nalanda Thilak Waththuhewa led the SLSCA delegation.

Under the directions of the Chairman of Sri Lanka Telecom and SLT Mobitel Rohan Fernando has made a lavish contribution towards the success of the event.

Nevertheless, the sponsor of the Observer-Mobitel School Cricketers of the Year show – SLT Mobitel played a straight bat with the Sunday Observer to maintain the uninterrupted run of the event for the 42nd year.

Thus, the 42nd Observer-Mobitel School Cricketer of the Year will be the only formal school cricket awards show for the year 2020.

Hence, this event has turned out to become the showpiece of Sri Lanka school cricket that has given birth to legendary cricketers from Asia Cup winners to World champs, man of the series winners at ICC World Cup tournaments, highest wicket taker in Test cricket, Chief ICC Match Referee and the best umpire in the ICC elite panel.

These are some of the memorable happenings among many that tell how the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year contest has been associated with Sri Lanka cricket history.

It has been the feeder pool for the national team, providing an ideal opportunity for the next generation of cricketers once they graduate from the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year ‘cricketing university’.