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OBSERVER-MOBITEL Schoolboy Cricketer Contests have grown from strength to strength

The Observer-Mobitel Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year, is one of the most looked forward event of the year. Most of the Observer Schoolboy contest winners have represented the country. In the schools cricket scene, the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer competition, is one of the best organised events in the country, where most cricket lovers look forward.


Muttiah Muralitharan - the star bowler from St. Anthony's Katugastota

Year by year it has become popular, and Kandy has produced many cricketers to win this title and the first to do so from Kandy, is Muttiah Muralitharan, won the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer Award from Kandy, in 1991 that same year, he won the best bowling award too. Murali, as we all know is the World's Champion spinner. He started his career in cricket at St. Anthony's College, Katugastota from the junior level under coach Sunil Fernando who spotted him as a skilled spin bowler.

In that year 1991, Antonian batsman, Sajith Fernando won the Best Batsman's award, and their captain Nuwan Kalpage was chosen as the Best Captain. The team was chosen as the Best Team in that year, and in the following year 1992, Sajith Fernando won the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer Award.

Kandy is one of the most ancient cities in Sri Lanka, rich with its history, culture, art, crafts, skills, traditions and sports. Kandy is known all over the world as an heritage city. The game of cricket is extremely popular and has produced the World's Best Spinner.

Premaratne - first winner

The first schoolboy cricketer to come out of Kandy, to win a Lake House sponsored contest was also an Antonian, W. Premaratne. He won it in 1956, at that time the contest was organized by Ceylon Daily News and sponsored by the Hemachandra Brothers.

The format was somewhat different from what it is at present. The panel of judges from the Umpires Association comprising Dodwell de Soysa, Harry Jayasundera, Laddie E. Bakelman, Emilion E.V. Elias, R.S. Wickrematilleka and J.M.C. Jayasinghe, picked W. Premaratne that year for the coveted award. In 1991, the year Murali won, he stood above all others. It was evident in the matches that a class spin bowler was grooming from Kandy who took 100 wickets for the second time. His record was a haul of 127 wickets.

At that time cricket lovers, travelled from long distances to see Murali bowling, more than the number of wickets he took. He performed his task really well. So, the umpires who were in the selection panel, picked him as the Best Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year in 1991.

Murali started as a medium pacer

Murali was born in the village of Nattarampotha in Kundasale, in Kandy. He is the eldest of the four. When he was nine years old Muralitharan was sent to St. Anthony's College, Kandy, at that time it was a private Christian school. He began his cricket as a medium pace bowler, but his first coach, Sunil Fernando advised him to take up off-spin when he was fourteen years old. It was Sunil who picked Murali, after seeing him playing softball cricket at the juniors grounds, behind the main hall. He played in all age group teams, and went on to play for four years in the school senior team.

After leaving school he first joined Kandy Cricket Club, and played one game after that the club was suspended for not playing a match, then he joined Tamil Union Cricket and Athletic Club.

After joining this club he played in five games but failed to pocket a single wicket. Murali's bowling was judged and seen by most of the cricketers who were involved with the controlling body. Due to his performances, the selectors seeing his superb bowling performance against Australian Academy team and England 'A' in 1992, picked Murali for the tour of England.

He was in the 16 squad with players like Roshan Mahanama (CCC), Chandika Hathurusinghe (Tamil Union), Brendon Kuruppu (BRC), Aravinda de Silva - Capt. (NCC), Asanka Gurusinha Vice Capt. (SSC), Marvan Atapattu (SSC), Sanath Jayasuriya (CCC), Rumesh Ratnayake (NCC), Champaka Ramanayake (Tamil Union), Kapila Wijegunawardena (NCC) and Saliya Ahangama (SSC). Ranjith Madurasinghe (Kurunegala YCC), S. Don Anurasiri (Panadura SC), Muttiah Muralitharan (Tamil Union), Hashan Tillekeratne (NCC) and Romesh Kaluwitharana (BRC).

Most winners don Lanka colours

Most of the Observer Schoolboy Cricket Contest winners have represented the country. It was Royal's Ranjan Madugalle who was adjudged as the first Observer Schoolboy Cricketer in 1979, he led the country, and today he is one of the Best and ICC's Chief Match Referee. Then in 1980 it was Arjuna Ranathunga, he went on to lead the country to win the World Cup, he was also adjudged for the same award in 1982. The others who have won from Kandy are: 1992 Sajith Fernando, the first Trinitian to win was Kavushalya Weeraratne in the year 2000, the next Trinitian to win was Akila Jayasundara in 2011, that year they won the All Island Championship and also won the Best Team Award, Best Captain's Award went to Akila. 2012 it was Niroshan Dickwella who won the main award, Best Captain and Best Fielder.

With so much talent in the field, one would like to think as to who is going to be the next winner and so on.

 

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