The rise of Samarawickrama | Sunday Observer

The rise of Samarawickrama

4 August, 2019
Sadeera Samarawickrama
Sadeera Samarawickrama

Former St. Joseph’s College wicket keeper batsman Sadeera Samarawickrama is yet another highly talented cricketer who stepped in to the big league through the Observer-Mobitel Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year, Sri Lanka’s first ever schools cricket awards which began in 1978.

Samarawickrama not only won the richest prize in Sri Lanka’s 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’ school at Darley Road.

In the 41-year-old history of Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year, Samarawickrama became only the second Josephian to win the Mega title. The only other cricketer from St. Joseph’s to join 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 limited over 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, 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-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 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 same year for the Tests against Pakistan.

Born August 30, 1995, Samarawickrama has represented the Sri Lanka national team in all formats of the game before 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 total 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.

He had a successful stint for the Galle squad at the 2017–18 Super Four Provincial Tournament. His blistering from 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 2018 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 Twenty20 tournament for Colts Cricket Club against Police Sports Club.

Samarawickrama had the honour of being a 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 Sri Lanka’s Twenty20 International (T20I) against Pakistan, he made his T20I debut on October 26, 2017, as the wicket-keeper batsman.

Samarawickrama, who celebrates his 24th birthday on the 30th this month, has played only four Test matches, six ODIs and an equal number of T20 internationals. Meanwhile, the stage is set for the 41st Observer-Mobitel Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year contest which is scheduled to be held shortly. Prior to that, the special selection panel will meet this month to name the prospective winners.

This will be the 12th consecutive year that Sri Lanka Telecom Mobitel will be sponsoring the Mega Show, the country’s first schools cricket awards show which had started in an era in which there had not been even an inter-school tournament.

Winning the Observer-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 Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year. Thanks to the untiring efforts of Sri Lanka Telecom Chairman Kumarasinghe Sirisena and SLT Mobitel Chief Executive Officer Nalin Perera who has played a dynamic role in promoting school cricket in a big way.

The unique vision of Lake House Chairman, Krishantha Cooray has always helped this event to go that extra mile.