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.
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.
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.
"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
"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
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.