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Sunday, 16 January 2011

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Observer Schoolboy cricketer of the year:

Bhanuka going great for Sri Lanka U-19

Last yearís Observer-Mobitel Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year and former Royal captain Bhanuka Rajapaksa once again lived out to expectations by making a marathon knock of 149 runs for Sri Lanka Under-19 in the first youth Test against the touring England Under-19 team now in progress at Galle International Stadium.

Rajapaksa, who is leading the Sri Lanka youth team, played a truly captainís innings, hitting the English bowlers to all corners of the picturesque Galle International Stadium. The aggressive top order batsman had four huge sixes and 16 fours during his magnificent innings which led Sri Lanka Under-19 team to a healthy first innings total.

It was nice to see young Bhanuka Rajapaksa in full cry, maintaining the high traditions of the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year awards ceremony which has produced champion Sri Lanka cricketers for over three decades.

Rajapaksa will continue to play for Royal in the new inter-school season too under the leadership of Ramith Rambukwella. Both these explosive Royal batsmen, who are playing for the Reid Avenue boys in the 2011 inter-school season too, are currently playing for Sri Lanka Under-19 in the home series against England Under-19. Incidentally, both Rajapaksa and Rambukwella have secured places within the top ten after the first round voting for the Most Popular Observer-Mobitel Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year All-Island contest.

Meanwhile, votes continued to pour in for the Most Popular Observer-Mobitel Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year All-Island and Outstation contests.

As Sri Lankaís World Cup winning captain Arjuna Ranatunga has pointed out,it is the dream of any schoolboy cricketer to win the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year award. Ranatunga, who won the coveted title twice in 1980 and 1982 before making it to Sri Lanka team for the inaugural Test against England at Sara Stadium, commended the role played by the Sunday Observer at the previous ceremony and noted that the show continues to encourage the budding schoolboy cricketers.

Many Sri Lankan cricketing giants of the past and the present are those who have either won the prestigious and coveted Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year Award or one of the many awards presented at the contest.

Born on December 1st, 1963 Arjuna Ranatunga led Sri Lanka to World Cup glory in 1996, 14 years after he won the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year for a record second time. At a time the World Cup returns to Sri Lanka after 1996 and our national team is looking forward to regain the title, its worth having a look at that champion side which humbled Australia by seven wickets in the final played in Lahore on March 17, 1996. Sri Lankaís team on that historic day comprised Arjuna Ranatunga (Capt), Sanath Jayasuriya, Romesh Kaluwitharana, Asanka Gurusinha, Aravinda de Silva, Hashan Tillekeratne, Roshan Mahanama, Kumar Dharmasena, Chaminda Vaas, Muttiah Muralitharan and Promodaya Wickremasinghe.

Out of that team, six members - Ranatunga, Gurusinha, Mahanama, Dharmasena, Muralitharan and Jayasuriya had been previous award winners at the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year. That alone speaks volumes of rich traditions the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year has maintained for over three decades.

Ranatungaís first international century came just two years after winning the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year title. The stylish left-handerís maiden international century was recorded in February, 1984 against Central Zone in Faisalabad. Ranatunga was a member of the Sri Lanka under-23 team that played against Pakistan under-23 team in two Unofficial Tests (new Series). He scored a delightful century, 114 not out. Ranatunga took only 89 minutes to compile his century which was the first for Sri Lanka on the tour. He had sixteen fours in his knock. With skipper Brendon Kuruppu, he added an unfinished second wicket partnership of 164 runs.

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