Memories that made the 'Mother of all Shows'
None even in their best of dreams would have thought that the then
Royal College captain Ranjan Madugalle would go places in such grand
fashion when he was adjudged the first-ever Observer Schoolboy Cricketer
of the Year some four decades ago.
Since then, the stylish middle order batsman who led the Reid Avenue
school at the centenary Royal-Thomian cricket encounter way back in
1979, had achieved what a schoolboy cricketer could ever dream of -
captaining his club NCC and Sri Lanka with distinction and finally
serving as the Chief Match Referee of the ICC.
This is merely just one of the many classic examples of the world
class star cricketers brought to the limelight by Sri Lanka's first-ever
school cricket awards show. The galaxy of Observer Schoolboy cricketers
include some of the greatest cricketers produced by the country - Arjuna
Ranatunga, Muttiah Muralitharan, Sidat Wettimuny, Sanath Jayasuriya,
Roshan Mahanama, Asanka Gurusinha, Marvan Atapattu, Kumara Dharmasena
and Dinesh Chandimal to name a few.
But the entry of Sri Lanka Telecom Mobitel about a decade ago to
boost the 'show of all shows' with a lavish sponsorship package took
this great show towards new horizons. Since then, the Observer-Mobitel
Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year contest has gone from strength to
strength, inspiring the country's budding schoolboy cricketers to aim
for the big league.
Sri Lanka's flagship English newspaper - the Sunday Observer, felt
the need of recognizing the raw talent of the country's schoolboy
cricketers at a time when there had been no organized inter-school
cricket tournaments, other than the traditional first X1 matches of the
so-called leading schools.
But the introduction of the show and its expansion to have a separate
segment for the outstation schoolboy cricketers went a long way in
inspiring the talented cricketers in the far flung areas.
The selection of one of Sri Lanka's greatest cricketers and the
winner of the Most Valuable Player award in the country's 1996 World Cup
triumph Sanath Jayasuriya as the Observer Outstation Schoolboy Cricketer
of the Year in the late 80s turned out to be a tremendous boost for
players in the outstations.
During his last interview with the Sunday Observer on the event which
initially brought him to the limelight at an awards show, ICC Chief
Match Referee and former Sri Lanka captain Ranjan Madugalle said that it
was a great source of encouragement for youngsters who aspire to become
"The Sunday Observer should be complemented for keeping the show
going for all these years. Sponsors are essential to keep the show
going. May the show continue for many years to come.
'In the past, most of the winners of the top awards came from Colombo
and its suburbs, but now, the outstation schools have come in a big way
and it is a positive sign for the game," he was quoted as saying.
Sri Lanka's World Cup-winning captain turned Minister Arjuna
Ranatunga has been a regular guest at the event, since he had won the
prestigious award on two occasions in 1980 and 1982.
"It is the dream of any schoolboy cricketer to win the Observer
Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year award. It's great for the Sunday
Observer to conduct the Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year Contest for over
three-and-a-half decades to encourage the budding schoolboy cricketers,"
says Captain Cool.
Year after year, the standard of the show and the enthusiasm it
generates have gone from strength to strength. Its 'connection' with SLT
Mobitel has been the key to the overwhelming response the show has
attracted over the years. Chief Operating Officer of SLT Mobitel Nalin
Perera has played a key role in supporting the Sunday Observer to take
the show towards greater heights.
Based on the past success and tremendous response it has received
from thousands of schoolboy cricketers across the country, voting for
the 38th Observer-Mobitel Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year most popular
contests began a fortnight ago and is expected to reach its climax
towards the end of the on-going First X1 season.
The Sunday Observer's initiative to recognize the achievements of
schoolboy cricketers some four decades ago have brought rich dividends.
The paper has been extremely happy to see several other awards shows
following her example to reward outstanding schoolboy cricketers at the
end of each season.
Yet, the Observer-Mobitel Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year remains the
'Mother of all Shows' and would continue to foster the country's next