Avishka worried about poor schools cricket standard
The Sunday Observer/Mobitel Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year
competition is no doubt a great inspiration for the young schoolboy who
is looking to climb to the top of the cricketing ladder. Itís an event
eagerly looked forward to at the end of season as the player who
deserves will be rewarded.
The contest has lasted over three and a half decades which is a
remarkable effort done by the Sunday Observer and the sponsors Mobitel.
Looking back, the bulk of the top Sri Lankan cricketers including the
first winner Ranjan Madugalle, Arjuna Ranatunga and a whole lot of
talented and famed cricketers have come through the process. Two
recipients, namely Ranjan Madugalle and Kumara Dharmasena have gone
beyond the status as players and now Madugalle is the ICC Chief Match
Referee and Dharmasena, an elite panel umpire.
Both are now engaged in the on going Ashes Test series between
England and Australia as Match Referee and umpire respectively. These
were the sentiments of former Sri Lanka Test and ODI opener Avishka
Gunawardena who won the Best Captainís Award leading an unbeaten Ananda
College cricket team in 1994 and before that winning the Most Popular
Schoolboy Cricketer Of The Year award in 1993. Gunawardena an aggressive
left-handed opening batsman, was a bowlers nightmare batting in his own
Avishka Gunawardena Ė Youngest to captain Ananda
Avishka Gunawardena was the youngest player to captain Ananda College
in 1994 after winning a place in the school 1stXI team in 1991. He
played till 1996. After captaining the side in 1994, he also played for
two more years. He also had the privilege of captaining the Sri Lanka
Under 19 team when their English counterparts toured the Island 1993
under Michael Vaughn.
The English team had players of the calibre of Marcus Trescothick and
Richard Johnson. He led the side for 1-0 win in the Test series and a
2-1 One day series.
In 1995 Gunawardena led a Schools Under 19 team to India and emerged
victorious 3-2 in the one day games. The Test matches were not played
due to a plague in India.
Gunawardena wished all success for the show for more years and
expressed his concern about the drastically dropping standards of school
cricket and cricket in general.
He thought that the dropping of the standard is due to the lack of
quality in the school games. In the past and during his playing days,
many players could be picked as potential Test players.
However today the case is quite different. The coaches are focused
only on winning games and have no intension in producing quality
True! the motive should be to win, but the quality has dropped so
badly, that most of the schools even after playing 18 to 20 matches in
the season, cannot find a player who has topped the 1000 run mark for
the season against quality opponents.
Quality players were found
There was a time when three or four good players from different
schools in the race for the 1000 run mark. Likewise there were bowlers
too vying tirelessly to capture 100 wickets in the season and some of
them succeeded. Now, the picture is different. The players lacked the
cricketing knowledge and the coach has to guide them from outside the
boundary line during a match.
He further said that if the country wants to be on course with the
rest of the top Test playing nations, they will have to make drastic
changes. Once the seniors like Mahela Jayawardene, Kumar Sangakkara and
T.M. Dilshan leave the cricketing scenario there should be suitable
replacements to meet the demands of competitive cricket.