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Sunday, 14 July 2013

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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.


Avishka Gunawardena

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 inimitable style.

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 players.

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.

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