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Sunday, 17 July 2016

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The contest makes dreams come true

Every schoolboy cricketer has a common dream, right from the day they hold the bat or ball at junior under-13 level - to play for the national team one fine day! By the time they end their school career after their final year in first X1 team under-19 cricket, they will get one common signal about their destiny.

There is a common belief among schoolboy cricketers that if they could end their school career with the top award at the Observer-Mobitel Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year mega show, they are only a step away from winning the Sri Lanka cap. There is a solid reason for that common belief as most of the top award winners at the Mega Show in the past had straightaway walked into the national team, just months after they had won the top award. The best example is none other than Sri Lanka's World Cup-winning captain Arjuna Ranatunga, now a Cabinet Minister. Ranatunga first won the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year All-Island award in 1980. He became the first schoolboy cricketer to win the main award for the second time in 1982.


Ranjan Madugalle

But about six months before winning the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year award for the second time and while playing in his final first X1 season for Ananda College, Colombo, Ranatunga was picked to play for the national team in Sri Lanka's inaugural Test against England in February 1982. He made it a dream Test debut by cracking a blistering half century, thus becoming the first-ever Lankan half centurion in Test cricket.

Apart from Ranatunga, there are enough and more examples on securing a place in the national team, months after winning a key award at the Observer-Mobitel Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year show.Sri Lanka gained Test status three years after the inauguration of the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year show way back in 1979. But the first winner of the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year title - Ranjan Madugalle of Royal College, too made it to the Sri Lanka team for the country's inaugural Test. Madugalle too scored a half century, just minutes after Ranatunga had scored the country's first-ever half ton in Sri Lanka's first innings.

As the proud host of the three-decade old prestigious school cricket awards show, the first of its kind in Sri Lanka, the Sunday Observer is honoured to see the distinguish achievements of Madugalle - first as Royal captain, then as NCC and Sri Lanka skipper and now as the Chief Match Referee of the ICC. When talking about proud achievements of past Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year top award winners, it should be mentioned that it was one of those proud award winners - Ranatunga marshalled the national team to win the ICC World Cup 20 years ago. Besides Ranatunga, Observer SchoolboyCricketer main award winners Roshan Mahanama, Asanka Gurusinha, Muttiah Muralitharan, Sanath Jayasuriya, Marvan Atapattu and Kumar Dharmasena had been members of that world champion team.

If we are to talk about the most recent achievements by the Observer-Mobitel Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year award winners, Dinesh Chandimal would undoubtedly come to our minds.

The Sri Lanka vice-captain, who had won the top award in 2009, has been a shining example.

Although the national team failed to post a single victory during their recent tour of England, which included three Tests, five One Day Internationals and a one-off T20 International, Chandimal often let his willow to do the talking under English conditions.

The Mega Awards Show which recognises talents of schoolboycricketers is organized by Sri Lanka's flagship English newspaper - the Sunday Observer, in association with Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC), Sri Lanka Schools Cricket Association (SLSCA) and Sri Lanka Cricket Umpires & Sorcerers' Association (SLCUSA).

As Madugalle had pointed out before, most of the top award winners had come from Colombo and its suburbs in the past, but the outstation schools have now come in a big way to shatter the dominancy of the so-called big schools. That alone is a positive sign for the game.

The mega show, now considered the 'Mother of all school cricket award shows', has produced six Sri Lanka captains, one World Cup-winning captain, a world record holder, two ICC Match Referees, one ICC Chief Match Referee, one ICC elite panel international umpire, a Sri Lanka national coach, a Chief Selector and many Sri Lanka cricketers.

Those milestones do not include numerous other achievements by the other award winners. Sri Lanka Telecom Mobitel is the proud sponsor of the event which had started nearly four decades ago.

SLT Mobitel, supporting the show for the ninth consecutive year, is the third official sponsor in the history of the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year series after Warner-Hudnut (Haliborange) and Bata. Mobitel's presence as the sponsor of the much looked forward to event in the school cricket calendar, has further strengthened the original show which has recognised schoolboy talent over the past 38 years.

SLT Mobitel, the national mobile service provider, continues to provide that 'smart connection' to the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year Contest.

Apart from the support extended by Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC), the Observer-Mobitel Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year continues to enjoy the usual backing of the Sri Lanka Schools Cricket Association (SLSCA) and the Sri Lanka Cricket Umpires and Scorers Association.

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