When Nimesh Perera performed the unthinkable against Muralidaran | Sunday Observer

When Nimesh Perera performed the unthinkable against Muralidaran

21 August, 2022
Nimesh Perera – when he won the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year in1996
Nimesh Perera – when he won the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year in1996

When spin wizard Muttiah Muralidaran as a promising schoolboy cricketer from St. Anthony’s College, Katugastota completed back to back years capturing over 100 wickets each in the1989-1990 and 1990-1991 seasons, it always seemed a tough record to better.

But within the next five years, yet another spinner emerged – this time from St. Sebastian’s College, Moratuwa, bettered those schools records by capturing a total of 264 wickets in two seasons.

Modara Muthugalage Don Nimesh Randika Gayan Perera, born September 5 in 1977 in Colombo, was a genuine all-rounder - an aggressive left-handed middle to lower order batsman and a leg spinner.

Having made his first class debut in 1995-96, Perera captained the Sri Lankan Under-19 side in a three-Test youth series against India the following season.

He was elevated to tour England with the Sri Lankan A team in 1999. In the tour opener against England Cricket Board XI, he made 110 not out and took 4 wickets for 25 runs. He made his Twenty20 debut on August 17, 2004 for Chilaw Marians Cricket Club in the 2004 SLC Twenty20 Tournament.

When former Sri Lanka cricketer Thilan Samaraweera of Ananda was well set to become the first ever to win the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year for three successive years – something which no schoolboy cricketer has done in its 44-year-old history, Nimesh Perera sprang the surprise pushing Samaraweera to the second place in 1996.

Samaraweera won back to back titles in 1994 and 1995 and it was Nimesh Perera of St. Sebastian’s College, Moratuwa who was unanimously picked as Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year 1996, with Samaraweera becoming the runner up.

When Nimesh Perera won the title in 1996, Sri Piyaratne Maha Vidyalaya, Padukka skipper Chandana Samarasinghe took away the Outstation Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year adjudged by the panel of umpires from the three umpiring associations - Association of Cricket Umpires Association (Sri Lanka), Central Province Cricket Umpires Association and Southern Province Cricket Umpires Association.

Besides winning the top award, Nimesh Perera, who had a haul of over 100 wickets for the second successive year, also won the awards for the best bowler and was runner-up in the best all-rounder category.

Nimesh troubled schoolboy batsmen in successive years – capturing 130 wickets in the 1994-95 season and bagging 134 wickets in the following 1995-96 season. He had a haul of 134 wickets for 1,605 runs which gave him an average of 11.97 a piece. He also excelled as a batsman aggregating 764 runs.

In 1995, Nimesh was runner-up in the Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year award to Tilan Samaraweera of Ananda for the second time. However, Samaraweera’s dream of becoming the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year which would have been for the third successive year was shattered by Nimesh.

In 1996, Nimesh Perera became the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year while Tilan Samaraweera became the runner-up. Samaraweera however kept the title of best all-rounder which he won in 1995 and Nimesh was runner-up in the previous year.

It was nice to see Trinity College and St. Benedict’s College among the winners in that year. Kumar Sangakkara of Trinity, who went on to captain Sri Lanka with distinction, was picked as the best batsman while Benedictine Pradeep Hewage was picked as the best fielder in the All-Island contest. Trinity was also picked as the best team in the Central Province.

Nimesh Perera, who was the first cricketer from St. Sebastian’s to become the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year, is another player to gain recognition for his performances on the Sri Lanka ‘A’ team tour of England in 1999. In 1996 he had shattered all inter-school bowling records held by Muralidaran in the 1990 and 1991 seasons.

He was an aggressive and adventurous left handed batsman in the middle-lower order and a capable leg spin bowler. He was a member of Upal Chandana’s Sri Lanka squad for the Aiwa Cup tournament but he was not given a chance to play a single match.

His performances in the following tour matches against the Australians were a let-down culminating in him being excluded from the pool of players for the upcoming Sharjah tournament.

The excitement of school cricket will reach its climax when the country’s top schoolboy cricketers will be rewarded for their efforts after a strenuous 2021-2022 season.

That’s when the 44th Observer-SLT Mobitel School Cricketers of the Year gala awards night will be held in Colombo shortly. School cricket’s premier and the first inter-school awards show will be sponsored by the country’s national mobile communication provider SLT Mobitel, under its dynamic Group Chairman Rohan Fernando.

The rich four decade old history of the Observer-Mobitel Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year contest has given that much-needed inspiration and motivation to the country’s budding schoolboy cricketers to extend their playing careers beyond school level.

There have been many outstanding players who aggregated over 1,000 runs or captured over 100 wickets during a season but only a few have taken such performances to the next level. Playing for a reputed club after ending their school careers and winning the Sri Lanka cap thereafter has been the dream of every schoolboy cricketer but only a handful would eventually fulfill that dream.

It is heartening to see the Mega Show marching towards its fifth decade in six years time. Most importantly, the country’s national mobile service provider has been associated with Sri Lanka’s first-ever school cricket awards show for 15 years.

Together with Sri Lanka Telecom and SLT Mobitel management, SLT Group Chairman Fernando has extended the fullest support to make the ‘Mother of all Shows’ a resounding success once again as it continues to remain the dream of every schoolboy and schoolgirl cricketers.

Meanwhile, voting for the Observer-Mobitel Most Popular Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year contest is moving at a brisk pace as it is due to end by the end of this month.

It’s high time to support your alma mater by voting for your favorite school cricketer and motivate the next generation of cricketers. It will be a morale booster for those outstanding young cricketers as the cream of players are preparing to enter the club arena with the hope of proudly wearing that Sri Lanka cap eventually.

It is good to discover that several others too have followed the Sunday Observer’s initiative to hold similar awards shows to reward the achievements of schoolboy cricketers after every season. But all other similar shows failed to survive in the last two years during the Covid-19 pandemic. Thus, the Observer SLT School Cricketers of the Year’ remains the ‘Mother of all Shows’.

Needless to say how important it is for school cricketers to win an award as recognition for their commendable achievements after a strenuous season. It is not just appreciating their achievements but also a big inspiration for them to step into the big league.

All past winners of this prestigious title have repeatedly said what a big inspiration the award had been to their cricketing careers. Since its humble beginnings at the Nawaragahala in 1978/79, the ‘Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year’ contest has gone from strength to strength and will continue to prosper.