Rare honour for ex-winners Madugalle and Dharmasena | Sunday Observer

Rare honour for ex-winners Madugalle and Dharmasena

13 November, 2022
Umesh Karunaratne - first cricketer from Thurstan College to win the Observer SLT Mobitel School Cricketer of the Year in 2008
Umesh Karunaratne - first cricketer from Thurstan College to win the Observer SLT Mobitel School Cricketer of the Year in 2008

Two former Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year – Ranjan Madugalle and Kumar Dharmasena have been picked by the International Cricket Council (ICC) as match officials for today’s ICC T20 World Cup final between England and Pakistan in Melbourne.

ICC Chief Match Referee Madugalle, who stepped out of school as the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year in the inaugural year 1979, will function as the ICC Match Referee in the T20 World Cup final to be played at the MCG.

Dharmasena, the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year in 1989, has been picked by the ICC as one of the two on-field umpires for the 12-nation final. This is the record sixth time he is officiating in a World Cup final.

He will pair off with South African Marais Erasmus for today’s match. Both Madugalle and Dharmasena served in the ICC officials’ panel that stood in the preliminary rounds, final round and semi finals.

Madugalle, the first-ever winner of the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year in 1979, has officiated in 207 Test matches, 377 ODIS and 135 T20 internationals as ICC Match Referee.

Madugalle, who led Royal College in the centenary Battle of the Blues cricket encounter in 1979, was immediately picked to the Sri Lanka team for the World Cup in the same year and went on to captain his club NCC and Sri Lanka with distinction.

Madugalle who celebrated his 63rd birthday last April 22, has represented Sri Lanka in 21 Tests, scoring 1,029 runs which includes a brilliant 103 and seven half centuries. In 63 ODIs, he had aggregated 950 runs with three half centuries.

Dharmasena, who was a member of Sri Lanka’s 1996 World Cup winning team under another Observer Schoolboy Cricketer Arjuna Ranatunga, has reached many great milestones in his distinguished career as an international umpire.

The 51-year old ex-Sri Lanka all-rounder has officiated in 93 Tests, 179 ODIs and 60 T20 internationals. Having made his international debut as an umpire in 2009, officiating in an ODI between India and Sri Lanka at Dambulla, Dharmasena became the youngest ever Sri Lankan to umpire in any form of international match.

He umpired at the 2011 ICC World Cup and in the same year, he had the honour of being appointed to the ICC’s Elite Panel of Umpires. But the greatest achievement in his career as an international umpire was witnessed in 2012 when he was adjudged the ICC’s Umpire of the Year to receive the David Shepherd Trophy.

Dharmasena became the first person to play and umpire in an ICC World Cup final when he officiated at the 2015 ICC World Cup tournament final. As a player, Dharmasena played a notable role in Sri Lanka’s World Cup victory in 1996.

Born on April 24, 1971 in Colombo, he was one of the best all-rounders produced by Nalanda College and had the honour of playing four memorable seasons for the Campbell Place school.

He made his Sri Lanka ODI debut on August 24, 1994 in the fifth ODI against Pakistan at the Premadasa Stadium capturing 2 for 34 off nine overs. Dharmasena aggregated 868 runs in 31 Tests with three half centuries and captured 69 wickets with 6 for 72 as his best innings analysis with his off cutters. He had represented Sri Lanka in 141 ODIs, aggregating 1,222 runs with four half centuries.

Dharmasena has captured 138 wickets in ODIs with his off breaks, delivered with a slightly unorthodox action that had been a blessing to the Sri Lankan team in many ODIs.

Meanwhile, Umesh Karunarantne became the first cricketer from Thurstan College to win the Observer SLT Mobitel School Cricketer of the Year, some 14 years ago. Karunaratne won the Mega Award in 2008. It was 30 years after the launch of Sri Lanka’s first ever schools cricket awards show in 1978/79.

What is unique in Karunaratne becoming the first and only Thurstanite so far to win the Observer SLT Mobitel Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year crown is that he received the Mega Award from ICC Chief Match Referee Ranjan Madugalle, exactly 30 years after the Royalist had won the first ever title.

When the Observer SLT Mobitel School Cricketers of the Year celebrated its 40th anniversary four years ago, Madugalle was the chief guest once more to encourage the country’s budding schoolboy cricketers.

Out of 22 Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year events before the new millennium, Thurstan could not produce a single champion and had to wait eight more years in the new millennium before they finally produced a champion at the Mega Show.

Kaushalya Weeraratne of Trinity College became the first Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year in the new millennium in 2000 before Kaushal Lokuarachchi of St. Peter’s College won it in the following year.

Sahan Wijeratne of Prince of Wales won the richest prize in school cricket in 2002, followed by Farveez Maharoof of Wesley in 2003. Then came one of the rare moments when Lahiru Peiris of St. Peter’s College won back-to-back titles in 2004 and 2005.

The dominance of Ananda and Nalanda was witnessed in the next two years with Gihan Rupasinghe winning the 2006 crown for the Campbell Place school followed by their rival school’s Malith Gunatilleke in 2007.

Then came the most cherished moment for Thurstan College when Karunaratne was declared the winner.

Tennakoon Mudiyanselage Umesh Samantha Karunaratne was born on January 19, 1989 in Sri Jayawardenepura and had represented Bloomfield Cricket and Athletic Club, the Chilaw Marians Cricket Club and the Seeduwa Raddoluwa Cricket Club in inter-club tournaments. Prior to that, he represented the Sri Lanka Under-19 team but was unfortunate not to go beyond that.

An off spinner, Karunaratne made his first Sri Lanka Under-19 appearance in the 2005-2026 season. Recalled for the tri-nation tournament at home in 2007, he was included in the U-19 World Cup squad the following year.

At the annual awards night of Sri Lanka Cricket in 2005, young Karunaratne won the best all-rounder prize in the domestic tournaments in 2004.

It was a double celebration for Thurstan as they produced the runner up in the Observer SLT Mobitel Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year – Geeth Kumara. In addition to his crowning glory, Karunaratne was also adjudged runner up in best bowler and best all-rounder categories.

The first to win the prestigious Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year in successive years (in 1983 and 1984) was Roshan Mahanama who is one of the greatest stars who had emerged through the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year contest.

A proud product of Nalanda College, Mahanama was a household name in school cricket during the early 80s. He first won the ‘Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year’ title in 1983 with a rich harvest with the willow. He continued to let his willow do the talking in the following year too and his superb form won him the title for the second successive year in 1984.

Although former Ananda captain Arjuna Ranatunga too has won the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year title twice prior to Mahanama. Ranatunga did not win the crown in successive years. Ranatunga first won the coveted title in 1980 after Ranjan Madugalle but failed to repeat it in the following year in which Rohan Buultjens of St. Peter’s won the prestigious title.

However, Ranatunga, in his final inter-school first XI season for Ananda was crowned Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year once again in 1982.

Following Ranatunga and Mahanama to join the select band of schoolboy cricketers to win the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year title twice each were Thilan Samaraweera (1994 and 1995), Lahiru Peiris (2004 and 2005), Bhanuka Rajapakse (2010 and 2011), Charith Asalanka (2015 and 2016) and Navod Paranavithana (2020 and 2021).

The last of those seven rare occasions was witnessed two years ago when Mahinda College’s Navod Paranavithana won back to back titles in 2020 and 2021.

In his last interview with the Sunday Observer, Mahanama urged schoolboy cricketers to work hard to achieve their targets in a disciplined manner, maintaining the high traditions of the game instead of being ‘remote-controlled’.

Meanwhile, the 44th chapter of the Observer SLT Mobitel School Cricketers of the Year contest is scheduled to be held mid next month. Incidentally, this will be the 15th consecutive year that SLT Mobitel will be sponsoring the Mega Show.

Winning the Observer-Mobitel Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year title has been the dream of every schoolboy cricketer as they generally believe that the prestigious title would take them closer to sporting the Sri Lanka ‘cap’. Most past winners of the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year title had made their Sri Lanka debut in double quick time.

SLT Mobitel has played a key role in the promotion of School Cricketers of the Year during the past 15 years. Thanks to the leadership of Sri Lanka Telecom Group Chairman Rohan Fernando who played a dynamic role in promoting school cricket in a big way and the untiring efforts of Chairman of Lake House and Secretary to the Ministry of Mass Media, Anusha Palpita the Mega Show has gone from strength to strength.