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Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year title :

A lasting memory for Madugalle

The 2015/2016 Inter-school cricket season is gradually coming to an end with the completion of the traditional 'big matches' and the Sri Lanka Schools Cricket Association (SLSCA) conducted limited over tournament for the most outstanding teams of the season.

As the curtain of another inter-school cricket season comes down, the heat is on as the final lap for the Observer-Mobitel Most Popular Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year 'crown' begins. There has been tremendous enthusiasm among schoolboys as well as the young old boys in supporting the outstanding cricketers of their alma mater.


Ranjan Madugalle as a Schoolboy at Royal College

Hence, the tussle for the Observer-Mobitel Most Popular Schoolboy Cricketers in Platinum, Gold and Silver categories has become extremely keen as we approach the end of the inter-school season and with it the school vacation for the Sinhala and Tamil New Year season.

Ever since its inception almost four decades ago, the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year contest has remained the most prestigious event in the school cricket calendar, producing a galaxy of Sri Lanka cricketers who have engraved their names in the golden books of Sri Lanka cricket.

Most members of the country's world cup winning team in 1996, including captain Arjuna Ranatunga, are proud recipients of the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer awards. In fact, Ranatunga had won the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year title twice - in1980 and 1982 before he became the first Sri Lanka to score a half century in Test cricket. He achieved this unique feat, still as a schoolboy cricketer from Ananda, in Sri Lanka's inaugural Test against England way back in 1982.

Prior to Ranatunga, it was Ranjan Madugalle, the then Royal College captain, who became the first recipient of the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year title in 1979. Since then, he has come a long way, captaining NCC and Sri Lanka teams with distinction before finally holding his current position as the Chief Match Referee of the ICC. It was a singular honour to Sri Lanka as a country to have one of its greatest cricketers in that elite position. In a previous interview with the Sunday Observer, Madugalle has lavishly praised the Associated Newspapers of Ceylon Limited (ANCL - Lake House) and the country's flagship English newspaper for fostering school cricket. "The ANCL and 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 more years," he was quoted as saying.

"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," adds Madugalle who had the honour of leading Reid Avenue boys in their centenary Royal-Thomian big match in the same year. Madugalle, who turns 57 on the 22nd of this month, has represented Sri Lanka in 21 Tests, aggregating 1,029 runs with a top score of 103 against India. He has played in 63 ODIs to aggregate 950 runs. He made a debut half century in Test cricket, scoring 65 runs against England in Sri Lanka's inaugural Test, minutes after Ranatunga had become the country's first ever half centurion in Tests.

Exactly 29 years after winning the coveted title, Madugalle returned to the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer victory podium in 2008 to grace the big occasion as the chief guest. "I stand in great sense of nostalgia and I can still remember the day I received the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year award in the inaugural show hosted by the Sunday Observer. The award is a lasting memory and I will treasure that moment forever." Madugalle said in his special address as the chief guest.

It was on his suggestion that the award for the best behaved team was introduced to the mega show from the following year (2009). "I would like to make a suggestion to introduce a special award for the Best Behaved team so that we would encourage the boys to play the game within the laws," he said in suggesting the special award which has now become a part of the show.

"I request all concerned to treasure the game, behave and be dedicated and then success will eventually follow" Madugalle told the distinguish gathering eight years ago. "Cricket is a noble game.

It moulds one's character and makes a way of life to the individual concerned. The great game of cricket is governed by laws. Although the laws have change time to time to suit modern demands, one has to play the game within the laws because no one is greater than the laws of cricket," he said. "While playing the game within the laws of the game, the players must respect their opponents. All are human beings and we must learn to take victory and defeat in the same spirit. In cricket what I have learnt all these years is to treat the opposite side players not as opponents, but as friends. There are many things that one has got to learn from the game. Team strategy and leadership will ultimately bring success and rejoicing must discipline mind and body" were Madugalle's special advice to the schoolboy cricketers present at that occasion.

"People will remember and have a lasting impression of the cricketer who conducts himself in an exemplary manner. When you play the game, you learn many things and all good things will ultimately benefit the country," Madugalle reiterated. He said that he was able to climb the ladder of success because he strongly believed in respecting the coaches and masters-in-charge from his early school days. When the success story of the mega event is spoken, one can not the lavish contribution made by Sri Lanka Telecom Mobitel which has been the proud sponsor of the Observer-Mobitel Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year show since 2008. With Mobitel's support, the standard of the event entered a new elevation with lavish cash incentives and high quality trophies to the outstanding schoolboy cricketers. Even their coaches and masters-in-change, who have done a silent job behind the scenes, too have been richly rewarded.

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