Nipun’s stunning entry and the forgotten firebrand Weerakkody | Sunday Observer

Nipun’s stunning entry and the forgotten firebrand Weerakkody

5 June, 2022
Nipun Ransika’s golden moment five years ago-Weerakkody with the glittering trophy in 1987
Nipun Ransika’s golden moment five years ago-Weerakkody with the glittering trophy in 1987

Former Observer SLT Mobitel Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year Nipun Ransika produced a sensational bowling spell to guide Sri Lanka Emerging team to a convincing 67-run win against Gloucestershire in their T-20 cricket match played at Bristol, England last weekend.

The win enabled the Sri Lanka Emerging team to end their month long tour with a winning note. The Sri Lankan team played three four-day games and three T20s on tour but only managed a solitary win over Gloucestershire to end the tour on a winning note.

Gloucestershire chasing a target of 206 were shot out for 138 in 16.3 overs against some penetrative right-arm medium fast bowling by Ransika who did most of the damage in a spell that brought him figures of 4 for 11.

The former schoolboy of S Kularatne MV, Ambalangoda who was adjudged the Observer SLT Mobitel Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year 2017, was in devastating form as he produced a sensational spell.

All-rounder Dhananjaya Lakshan who took a first ball wicket of the innings – that of opener William Naish, finished with 2 for 29 in three overs, well-backed by T20 debutant leg spinner Dilum Sudeera, 19-year-old Dunith Wellalage and Nipun.

Top order batsman Nuwanidu Fernando scored a match winning knock of an unbeaten 126 in 67 balls with 14 fours. Playing an opener’s role for the first time on tour, Nuwanidu Fernando came out with a superb attacking innings to guide the Sri Lankan team to a formidable 205 for 4 wickets in 20 overs.

Having struggled in the last two games against Surrey and Somerset, this was the first time on tour that they put on a match-winning total of over 200 runs.

Meanwhile, Nuwanindu Fernando has been included in the 18-member Sri Lanka T-20 squad for the Australian series which will commence from Tuesday (7).

The 22-year-old who is yet to play for Sri Lanka, cracked a majestic innings of 126 not out against Gloucestershire in their Emerging team England tour which concluded last week.

Among the former Observer-SLT Mobitel Schoolboy Cricketer main award winners in the Sri Lanka T20 squad for the home series against Australia are 2010 and 2011 double winner Bhanuka Rajapakse and Charith Asalanka, who also won the prestigious main award twice in 2015 and 2016. Asalanka has been recalled to the squad after recovering from an injury.

Going down memory lane the only schoolboy cricketer to win five titles in a single Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year show is Rohan Weerakkody.

Despite his glorious school cricket records in 1987, it was unfortunate that he could not go beyond Sri Lanka youth level.

In a recent interview, Weerakkody said he has no regrets on what he has not achieved. He said he was honoured to win those awards in 1987.

“It was a tremendous honour to win five titles including the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year in a single event,” he said. “There is no point in talking about the past and what you have missed. Nevertheless, if I had held on to some more time, I would have been able to paint a different picture,” said Weerakkody.

He played for NCC under Ranjan Madugalle and recalled Madugalle had regretted when he was leaving NCC at that time.

The Observer-Mobitel School Cricketer of the Year, ever since its inception in 1979, has always been producing top Sri Lanka and international cricketers beginning with two great Sri Lanka captains Madugalle and Arjuna Ranatunga.

Yes one of the few Observer-Mobitel School Cricketers of the Year award winners who was not fortunate to play for Sri Lanka was Rohan Weerakkody who won the top award in 1987 after Royalist Jarangpathy in the previous year.

Though he played for Sri Lanka Youth teams, Weerakkody could not walk in to either Test or the ODI team after his brilliant school career at St. Joseph’s College.

Weerakkody, born on April 30, 1968 in Colombo, represented NCC and Air Force SC as a right-hand batsman and right-arm fast medium bowler. Prior to that, he led St. Joseph’s College with distinction though he could play only ten First Class matches during the 1988/89 to 1994/95 seasons when he captured 26 wickets with an innings analysis of five wickets and above twice.

Making his debut for the Sri Lankan Young Cricketers side, he went on to captain the team on seven occasions during the 1987/88 Youth World Cup, winning three matches. But his Sri Lanka Youth side failed to go beyond.

The climax of Weerakkody’s school career was the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year in 1987 where he was called for the honours on five occasions, including the top most one. He brought tremendous honour for the Darley Road school winning awards for the Best Bowler, Best All-rounder and Best Captain. After winning the runner up award for the Best Batsman, he was ultimately adjudged the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year for 1987.

In his first season for St. Joseph’s in 1984, he was on the reserve list for the big match, playing only a single match against St. Benedict’s. But within two years, he rose to lead his school, winning five awards at the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year awards ceremony in 1987, including the most important one.

Making his debut for St. Joseph’s in February 1984, Weerakkody taught an unforgettable lesson to Royal’s batsmen, finishing with a match bag of nine wickets, the architect of a superb nine wicket win. In reply to the Joes’ 255 for 6 declared, Royal were bowled out for 118 runs after lunch on day two.

He finished with figures of 15.8-8-32-5 with his victims being Dinesh Wijewardena, Heshan de Silva, Roshan Jurangpathy, Nalinda Premachandra and H. Amarasekera.

Royal could make 165 in the second essay after the Joes enforced the follow-on. Once again, it was Weerakkody who troubled the Royal batsmen the most, with his vicious second innings spell being 19-8-41-4. It was his match bag of 9 for 73 that gave the Joes a well deserved win after 32 years. Prior to the 1984 win, their last win against Royal was in 1952 under Kenneth Serpanchy.

Even in the very next outing played in mid-February, Weerakkody’s magic worked again, this time against Wesley. He produced a penetrative spell of 12.3-8-6-8 as Wesley were shot out for 48. St. Joseph’s made 154 for 4 declared and restricted Wesley for 42 in the second innings to register a runaway innings and 64 runs victory.

Weerakkody had figures of 8-5-12-2, thus completing a match bag of 10 wickets for only 18 runs. In his first two matches, he had 19 wickets for 91 runs.

Having represented St. Joseph’s in 1985 under Jonathan Alles, 1986 under Rohitha Tillekeratne, Weerakkody was given the captaincy for the 1986-87 season as a fourth-year Coloursman. He became the first Joes player to win the Observer-Mobitel Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year. It took another 27 years to see another cricketer from St. Joseph’s win this glory - Sadheera Samarawickrema in 2014.

Weerakkody was picked to lead the Sri Lanka Schools Cricket Association President’s X1 in a two-day match against the visiting England Youth Cricket team. It was the first time that a Josephian was selected to lead a School’s XI against a foreign team since 1974.

Weerakkody was also made vice captain of the Sri Lanka Youth team against the England Youth Cricket team. He was an architect of Sri Lanka’s victory over England in the first Youth ODI, with a highly economical spell of 2 for 14 in nine overs and scored 27 not out which earned him the man of the match award.

St. Joseph’s remained unbeaten under Weerakkody’s captaincy in 1987 enjoying a rich harvest with five outright wins - four of those by an innings.

St. Joseph’s beat Carey by an innings and 133 runs, beat Mahinda College by an innings and seven runs (Weerakkody 6 for 30 in second innings), beat Prince of Wales College by an innings and 41runs (Weerakkody 4 for 25 and 5 for 31), beat St. Benedict’s College by an innings and 30 runs and beat Isipatana by six wickets (Weerakkody 5 for 13 in the second innings).

In the 1987 Coca-Cola trophy limited over knockouts, St. Joseph’s College were declared joint champs with DS Senanayake College after the final was washed out due to rain.

Back to the present, under the direction of the Chairman of Sri Lanka Telecom and SLT Mobitel, Rohan Fernando, a lavish contribution towards the success of the event was made.

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 44th year.