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Observer/Mobitel cricket contest a source of inspiration - Sanath Jayasuriya

Celebrated Sri Lanka cricketer Sanath Jayasuriya said that the Observer-Mobitel Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year show has been a great source of encouragement to budding schoolboy cricketers, aspiring to step into the big league.


Flashback ..... Sanath Jayasuriya was picked the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year (Outstation) in 1988, who receives the award from Mrs Malini Bodinagoda, wife of then ANCL Chairman Ranapala Bodhinagoda. Late Laddie Hettiarachchi who compered the show is in the background.

The only schools cricket awards show until the last couple of decades, the Observer-Mobitel Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year mega show is now considered the 'Mother of all school cricket award shows'. What is unique in the show is that it had developed a new culture by recognizing the raw talent, at a time when there had not been any organized tournament for first X1 cricket.

The master blaster who graced the Observer-Mobitel Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year show in 2013 as the chief guest, got an opportunity to go down memory lane and recall those great milestones of his cricketing career as a schoolboy at St. Servatious College, Matara. Jayasuriya who later went on to captain Sri Lanka with distinction, says that the inspiration and encouragement he got after receiving the top award was immense.

"It was a great feeling, getting rewarded on conclusion of a strenuous inter-school cricket season. Unlike today, there were hardly any such shows to reward the outstanding schoolboy cricketers," Jayasuriya said.

Winning the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year (Outstation) title as a promising schoolboy from Matara, way back in 1988, was the turning point in Jayasuriya's distinguished career as a cricketer. It was the then Principal of his school , G. L. Galappathy and coach Lionel Munasinghe who had been instrumental in nourishing his school career as a youngster.

Jayasuriya's outstanding contribution for St. Servatius with the willow earned that top award - a dream of any schoolboy cricketer for nearly four decades!In the very next year, Jayasuriya made his ODI debut for Sri Lanka against Australia in Melbourne - on December 26, 1989. Since then, he became a vital ingredient in Sri Lanka team's successful recipe. By the time he retired from ODIs on June 28, 2011, he had aggregated 13,480 runs in 445 matches, cracking 28 centuries and 68 fifties. He had also captured 323 wickets in ODIs. Jayasuriya's contribution was not only confined to ODIs. Though he was branded a limited over cricketer during the early part of his career, his has proved his credentials in the established game beyond reasonable doubts. Jayasuriya's career best 340 against India became the highest individual innings by Lanka batsman in Tests.

He has a rich aggregate if 6,973 runs in 110 Tests inclusive of 14 centuries and 31 fifties at an attractive average of 40.07. His all-round qualities as a Test player include 98 wickets and 78 catches. The dashing opening batsman is one of the six Sri Lanka cricket captains produced through the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year series with others being celebrated cricketers such as Ranjan Madugalle, Arjuna Ranatunga, Roshan Mahanama (ODIs), Marvan Atapattu and Dinesh Chandimal (T20s).

Making his presence at the Observer-Mobitel Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year podium, some 26 years after winning that dream award, Jayasuriya advised the young schoolboy cricketers to be focused on the game so that success would come their way if they play their heart outs. Jayasuriya who had later headed the national selection committee feels that a good cricketer must devote a lot of time and the success would follow thereafter.

Jayasuriya said that when he started playing cricket, he never thought that he would go this far and achieve such success for Sri Lanka cricket.

Besides the loads of trophies that had been added to his rich collection after the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year trophy, Jayasuriya was adjudged the Most Valuable Player of the Series when Sri Lanka won the World Cup in 1996 under another proud recipient of Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year title, Arjuna Ranatunga.

Jayasuriya said that Lake House has done a yeoman service to the young cricketers and promotion of the game in conducting the mega awards show since 1979. "It is a fine gesture on the part of the Lake House and the Sunday Observer to host the show uninterrupted so that the young boys across the country will have something to look for when they end their school career," he observed. He is of the view that sponsorships are vital for game to proceed as conducting a mega show of this magnitude is a costly exercise.

Ever since Sri Lanka Telecom Mobitel's association with the event as the principal sponsor, the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year show has gone from strength to strength.

This will be the ninth successive year that the SLT Mobitel is providing the financial backing to the mega event. Thanks to the untiring efforts of SLT Mobitel's Chief Operative Officer Nalin Perera, father of Sri Lanka youth cricketer Angelo Perera, the mega show has continued to remain the dream of every schoolboy cricketer!

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