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Thilan Samaraweera won the Observer/Mobitel Cricket Contest in consecutive years

The Sunday Observer/Mobitel Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year Contest is a much looked forward to event and Thilan Samaraweera was a another player who won the contest in consecutive years. He blossomed out as a top all-rounder with his tantalising off spin bowling and steady batting in both years. He won the contest in the years 1994 and 1995.


Thilan Samaraweera - winner in 1994 and 1995

While Samaraweera was making his mark as an all-rounder for Ananda, in the same year Mahela Jayawardene was a prolific scorer for Nalanda, winning the Best Batsman’s award .

Jayawardene and Samaraweera began their race for national honours together, but Mahela found himself making his Test debut very much earlier (1997) than Samaraweera because of his matured batting. Jayawardene made his Test debut against India under Arjuna Ranatunga in the Test where Sanath Jayasuriya scored a triple hundred (340) and Roshan Mahanama got a double hundred (225). This two set a record second wicket stand of 576 in a gigantic Sri Lankan total of 952 for 6 declared. Jayawardene’s contribution was a half century (66) and made his Test debut on a sound footing.

Both, Samaraweera and Jayewardene were selected to play in South Africa as the two most promising schoolboy batsmen. They were two players earmarked as potential Sri Lankan players as both went to gain their Test ‘caps’.

The steady Samaraweera made his Test debut against India in 2001 at the SSC grounds. He has played in 81 Test matches and has scored 5,462 runs with a highest score of 231. In the 53 ODI’s, Samaraweera has represented the country, he has a top score of 105. He was essentially classed as a Test player and was not considered for ODI because of his sedate style of batting.

Later, Samaraweera adjusted his batting style to suit the limited overs style and fared remarkably well in the shorter version of the game too. Samaraweera was a fighting cricketer who never gave up. He was one of those players who was badly affected in the Lahore terrorist attack when Sri Lanka last toured Pakistan. But he fought back his way amidst adversaries..

Originally dropped from the Sri Lanka team, he proved his class when he was included in the team to tour South Africa and batted exceptionally well to silence his detractors. However, Samaraweera lost his place in the national side after a tour to Australia where he couldn’t live up to expectations and was not included in the Sri Lankan squad to meet Bangladesh in a home series early this year. Disappointed, Samaraweera was not hesitant to ‘call it a day’ and announced his retirement from International cricket and thereafter he played in the English county circuit .

The champion cricketer from Ananda who twice won the award said that the Sunday Observer Schoolboy Cricketer Award is the stepping stone for any youngster who wants to pursue in his cricketing career. It was the contest looked forward to in the school cricket season. Looking back, there are many award winners who have ended up representing the country at the highest level. This contest will provide more young cricketers with opportunities in the future. It gives a lot of confidence for the number of recipients in all categories to forge ahead.

 

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