Stage set for December 15 awards show | Page 3 | Sunday Observer

Stage set for December 15 awards show

20 November, 2022
The Observer SLT Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year 2014 Sadeera Samarawickrama of St. Joseph’s after receiving to glittering trophy from the chief guest Kumara Dharmasena (who won the same mega award in 1989) and with then ANCL Chairman, late Bandula Padmakumara
The Observer SLT Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year 2014 Sadeera Samarawickrama of St. Joseph’s after receiving to glittering trophy from the chief guest Kumara Dharmasena (who won the same mega award in 1989) and with then ANCL Chairman, late Bandula Padmakumara

The much looked forward to 44th edition of the Observer SLT Mobitel School Cricketers of the Year mega show will be held at the BMICH on December 15.

Nearly 800 schoolchildren from all parts of the country, including the Northern and Eastern Provinces, will gather at the country’s biggest conference hall to see the nation’s next generation cricketers being honoured.

The cream of the most outstaying schoolboy and schoolgirl cricketers in the recently concluded 2021/2022 season will be honoured for their hard work during a strenuous season.

It is no easy task to continue a mega awards show of this magnitude. As the first ever award winner and Chief ICC Match Referee Ranjan Madugalle had pointed out before, the sponsors play a key role in promoting the game and encouraging cricketers.

Credit goes to Haliborange for coming forward to support the Sunday Observer’s initiative to start the first school cricket awards show by becoming the sponsor of the inaugural show. Thereafter the Bata Shoe Company took the baton before SLT Mobitel joined in with a lavish and superior sponsorship package 15 years ago.

The entry of SLT Mobitel as the principal sponsor enabled the organizers to improve the standard of the Mega Show significantly, improving the quality of the event to offer solid trophies and bigger cash awards.

Gracing the 40th anniversary Observer SLT Mobitel School Cricketers of the Year, Madugalle emphasized the value of the show and what it means to him.

“It is an absolute privilege and I am deeply humbled to be in your midst. As I stand before you tonight an obvious sense of nostalgia overcomes me. It was some 40 years ago that I was on your side, sans grey hair and spectacles. More importantly I was single,” Madugalle was quoted as saying.

“I am on this side four decades later, speaking to you as someone who has played the game, someone who has walked the life as a cricketer officially, locally and internationally but more importantly as a father of cricket, really because I have children but they are girls,” he said.

“I never hide my age and I was born in 1959. In a few years time, the Sunday Observer will celebrate its 50th Observer SLT Mobitel School Cricketers of the Year and I promise you if I have any life left in me even in a turbo-charged wheelchair I’ll come to cheer you all on,” Madugalle said.

Those encouraging words depict what type of initial transformation was done in his early life when he stepped into the international arena from school cricket – as the first ever winner of Observer Schoolboy Cricketer in 1979.

Interestingly, Madugalle is still scoring for the game as the ICC Chief Match Referee. Last Sunday’s ICC T20 final between England and Pakistan was his 720th international assignment as a Match Referee and 136th T20I.

Going down memory lane, it is on record that former St. Joseph’s College wicket keeper batsman Sadeera Samarawickrama is yet another highly talented cricketer. He stepped into the big league through the Observer SLT Mobitel School Cricketers of the Year.

Samarawickrama not only won the richest prize in Sri Lanka schools cricket in 2014 but also capitalized on that to enter the Sri Lanka team in next to no time as most of his predecessors have done.

He represented the Sri Lanka Under-19 team in the very same year he kissed the glittering Observer-Mobitel Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year trophy, bringing glory to the Saints of the school at Darley Road.

In the 44-year-old history of Observer School Cricketers of the Year, Samarawickrama became only the second Josephian to win the Mega title. The only other cricketer from St. Joseph’s to be on the victory podium was Rohan Weerakkody who was adjudged Observer Schoolboy Cricketer in 1987.

Young Samarawickrama is considered a dashing wicket keeper-batsman who plays in the middle order in Tests. In ODI and T20I cricket, he has routinely set his teams off to fast starts as an opener.

Having learnt his basics in cricket at Thurstan College, Samarawickrama moved to St Joseph’s in his final years. His most memorable innings of 126 came in St Joseph’s biggest fixture. That performance gave him a passage to Sri Lanka’s Under-19 squad.

He became the Observer SLT Mobitel Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year in 2014 after two of the big names in school cricket won it in the previous years and marched into the Sri Lanka team – ex-Trinity Lion Niroshan Dickwella in 2012 and former Cambrian Kusal Mendis in 2013.

While Mendis, his ex-teammate in the Sri Lanka Under-19 side made it direct to the national team, Samarawickrama had to toil hard to earn his place in the national team through impressive first-class performances.

He had a modest first season with Colts Cricket Club but his second was good and his third even better. Samarawickrama topped the Tier-A run charts with 1,016 runs at 59.76 in the 2016-17 season. Making his debut for Sri Lanka ‘A’ in February 2017, he cracked 185 runs off 223 balls against a strong England Lions attack. This outstanding performance earned him a maiden Sri Lanka call-up in September of the same year for the Tests against Pakistan.

Born August 30, 1995, Wedagedara Sadeera Rashen Samarawickrama has represented the Sri Lanka team in all formats of the game. Prior to that, he played for Sri Lanka’s squad at the 2014 ICC Under-19 Cricket World Cup tournament. He aggregated 265 runs at an average of 44.17 in the 2014 Youth World Cup.

His willow kept on talking in the 2016–17 Premier League Tournament, producing the highest aggregate of 1,016 from 10 matches in 19 innings. He was the best batsman in domestic cricket for the 2016–17 season at Sri Lanka Cricket’s annual awards ceremony.

He had a successful stint for the Galle squad at the 2017–18 Super Four Provincial Tournament. His blistering form enabled him to find a place in the Galle’s squad for the 2018 Super Provincial One Day Tournament.

He played for Dambulla in the Sri Lanka Cricket T20 League in August 2018. One of the most memorable moments in his domestic career came in February 2019, scoring an unbeaten century in the 2018–19 SLC T20 tournament for Colts Cricket Club against Police Sports Club.

Samarawickrama had the honour of being part of the Sri Lankan team in the Asian Cricket Council Emerging Teams Asia Cup 2017 tournament. He scored 45 runs to win the low-scoring final against Pakistan. It was the first time that Sri Lanka won the Asian tournament.

He made his Test debut for Sri Lanka against Pakistan in October 2017, taking part in Sri Lanka’s first day-night Test match. He made 38 runs in the first innings and had a superb 68-run stand with centurion Dimuth Karunaratne. Many described his inside-out drives to the perfection of maestro Mahela Jayawardena.

He was selected in Sri Lanka’s ODI squad for their series against Pakistan in the United Arab Emirates in October 2017 to make his ODI debut on October 20, 2017. In the ensuing T/20 International against Pakistan, he made his debut in the format on October 26, 2017, as a wicket-keeper batsman.

Samarawickrama has played only four Test matches, six ODIs and an equal number of T20 Internationals.

Winning the Observer SLT Mobitel Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year title has remained the dream of every schoolboy cricketer. Moreover, there is a common belief among schoolboy cricketers that the prestigious title would take them closer to sporting the Sri Lanka ‘cap’.

Most past winners of the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the title had made their Sri Lanka debut in double quick time.

SLT Mobitel has played a praiseworthy role in the promotion of the Observer SLT Mobitel School Cricketers of the Year. Thanks to the untiring efforts of Sri Lanka Telecom Group Chairman Rohan Fernando and SLT Mobitel Chief Executive Officer Chandika Vitharana who have played a dynamic role in promoting school cricket in a big way.

The unique vision of Lake House Chairman, Anusha Palpita, who is also the Secretary to the Ministry of Mass Media, has always helped this event to go that extra mile –along with the ANCL Editorial Director Sisira Paranathantri.