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Two-time winner points out:

No shortcuts to success-Roshan Mahanama

Former Sri Lanka captain and ICC Match Referee Roshan Mahanama urged schoolboy cricketers to work hard towards their targets in a disciplined manner, maintaining the high traditions of the game - instead of being "remote-controlled". In an exclusive interview with the Sunday Observer, the two-time winner of the prestigious Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year award, said that schoolboy cricketers should be willing to make sacrifices and should not look for short cuts, if they are to progress further. "They need to have a target and willingness to work towards that, with dedication. There are no shortcuts," he said. Commenting on the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year contest, Mahanama said it has always motivated schoolboy cricketers at the end of each season, recognizing their hard work. "These events motivated us as youngsters. It is always a great motivation when you know that your achievements are being recognized," he said.

Values


Roshan Mahanama winner 1983-84

Mahanama said his father (Upali Mahanama) has been a great source of encouragement. "He stressed the importance of adding values and discipline to our lives. Then I was lucky to come under the watchful eyes of Lionel Sir (Lionel Mendis). He set us targets from our young ages and groomed us well," he added.

He stressed the importance of giving adequate rest to schoolboy cricketers between the games. "During our time, we had enough rest between the games. Most importantly, we were taught to respect the game, its culture and follow team ethics. Even the coaches and the masters in charge during our time conducted themselves in an exemplary manner to earn respect. We had the highest respect for the umpires," he said.

According to Mahanama, the heavy load of matches per season, compared to the past, does not give adequate time for schoolboy cricketers to rest or recover between the games. "It is not the quantity but the quality that matters. Most junior cricketers tend to depend totally on the messages sent by their coaches and masters in charge, for in-field decisions. They are being remote-controlled at the middle and as a result they are not in a position to stand on their own and take decisions. Winning at any cost should not be the motto," he pointed out.

Standards

Mahanama said that deteriorating standards in school cricket has prevented producing youngsters who could directly march into the national team, as in the past. "I could remember players such as Ranjan Madugalle earning places in the national squad directly from school level. Unfortunately, we do not often find consistent players in school cricket, geared up to face that challenge, now. We hardly find top schoolboy cricketers who could maintain their standards and stands out from the rest in present day school cricket," he said.

The stylish former Sri Lanka top order batsman said the schoolboy cricketers during his era did not get too many opportunities to play

international matches at under-19 level. "I had played for Nalanda for five seasons but we had only two Under-19 tours. But the youngsters get a better exposure now. However, I am not sure whether the players are making full use of those Under-19 tours," he said.

Commenting on the increase of the number of first X1 matches a school team has to play during a season from 10-12 to 20-23 due to the inter-school tournament structure, Mahanama feels that there should be a balance to maintain the quality of the game. "True that we need to spread the game, giving opportunities to teams in the outstations. But that should not happen at the expense of quality," he said.

"I don't know how they handle it here but counties such as Australia even limit the number of overs a schoolboy cricketer could bowl up to under 14 or 16. The players should be given adequate time to recover between the games. They need scientific advice. Mahanama said winning the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer if the Year title in 1983 for the first time was one of the major milestones in his career.

Encouragement

"Becoming the best schoolboy cricketer and being honoued for our hard work was a great encouragement. I was privileged to achieve one of my dreams. That was my stepping stone. Becoming the best schoolboy cricketer made me even more determined to work harder to reach greater heights," he said. Of the two Observer Schoolboy Cricketer titles he had won in 1983 and 1984, Mahanama feels his first title was of great significance. "I have always been a team player. I always but the team before self! Hence, I value the Schoolboy Cricketer title I won in 1983 more as Nalanda became the best schools team on that year," he explained.

"As a kid, I had watched former Nalanda players such as Bandula Warnapura playing. We had full houses for all those inter-school games. It was a passion. The school authorities too encouraged the boys to watch matches . The inter-school matches then started at 12 noon and the school finished early on Fridays to enable the boys to watch the first session's play on day one," he said.

Recalling his days as a schoolboy cricketer at Nalanda College, Mahanama said it was a great feeling to have their names on the team's fixture card printed and distributed at the beginning of each season. "Even the old boys reserved time to watch those matches.

For us, it was a great honour to have our names on the fixture card - first as a player, then as a coloursman and later as vice-captain or captain. I still have those Nalanda fixture cards with me," he concluded.

Mahanama, who turned 50 last month, has represented Sri Lanka in 52 Tests to aggregate 2,576 runs with four centuries and 11 fifties. His career best innings of 225 was registered against India in 1997, sharing a then record partnership of 576 runs with Sanath Jayasuriya (340) at Premadasa Stadium in Colombo as Sri Lanka recorded the highest team total in a Test. He made a half century in his last Test for Sri Lanka - against South Africa at Centurion Park in 1998. Mahanama has played in 213 One Day Internationals for Sri Lanka to enjoy an aggregate of 5,162 run with four centurie and 35 half tons.

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