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Dharmasena wants schoolboys to enjoy the game for success

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When Dharmasena returned to the Observer SLT Mobitel School Cricketer stage as the chief guest in 2014 …… (from left) then ANCL Chairman Bandula Padmakumara, wife of the chief guest Dushyanthi Gunawardena, Kumar Dharmasena, Minister Keheliya Rambukwella (partly covered), Minister Bandula Gunawardena, former schoolboy cricketer winner cum world cup winning captain Arjuna Ranatunga and Editor-in-Chief Dinesh Weerawansa.

Charith Asalanka, who won back to back Observer SLT Mobitel Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year awards in 2015 and 2016 as a promising star from Richmond College, Galle, became Sri Lanka’s find at the ICC T20 World Cup tournament which will concludes on Sunday (14).

Though Sri Lanka had a first round exit along with India, South Africa and the West Indies, Asalanka is one of the exciting players who made his presence felt in the semi-league stage qualifying round.

Besides Asalanka, four other Sri Lankans who had won the Observer SLT Mobitel Schoolboy Cricketer of Year awards are featuring in the ICC T20 World Cup tournament now in progress in the UAE.

Among them, three are representing the Sri Lanka team while the other two are representing the ICC as the Chief Match Referee and an elite panel international umpire.Dharmasena wants schoolboys  to enjoy the game for success

Dinesh Chandimal (2009), Bhanuka Rajapakse (2010 and 2011) and Charith Asalanka (2015 and 2016) are the current Sri Lanka players who have won the top most award.

Two-time winner Observer SLT Mobitel Schoolboy Cricketer of Year Asalanka has been a real find for Sri Lanka in the T20 World Cup 2021, judging from his early performances. Right from the first Super 12s game against Bangladesh, left-hander Asalanka performed with the bat.

Coming in at one down, he brings a refreshingly positive approach that calms Sri Lanka at No 3. It’s similar to the calmness that Asanka Gurusinha brought to bear at the crease. But Asalanka plays far more strokes than Observer Schoolboy Cricketer Gurusinha and is a fearless stroke player.

Dharmasena wants schoolboys  to enjoy the game for success
Kumar Dharmasena in action as an ICC Elite Panel Umpire

The first-ever winner of the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year in 1979, Ranjan Madugalle is officiating as the ICC Chief Match Referee while the 1989 Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year Kumara Dharmasena is in the ICC Elite Panel of umpires.

Dharmasena, who was a member of Sri Lanka’s 1996 World Cup winning team under another Observer Schoolboy Cricketer Arjuna Ranatunga, has reached many great milestones in his distinguished career as an international umpire.

The 50-year-old ex-Sri Lanka all-rounder, who is now on duty as an elite panel international umpire in the T20 World Cup in the UAE, has now officiated in 69 Tests, 111 ODIs and 31 T20 Internationals.

In his last interview with the Sunday Observer, Dharmasena said he was looking forward to any milestones as an international umpire. “I do not have too many future plans as we are getting older. I take it year by year. For as long as the ICC recognizes my work I will work and I am happy with it”, he said.

Dharmasena took to umpiring after his retirement from international cricket in November 2006.

Having made his international debut as an umpire in 2009, officiating in an ODI between India and Sri Lanka at Dambulla, Dharmasena became the youngest ever Sri Lankan to umpire in any form of international cricket.

He umpired at the 2011 ICC World Cup and in the same year, he had the honour of being appointed to the ICC’s Elite Panel of Umpires. But the greatest achievement in his career as an international umpire was witnessed in 2012 when he was adjudged the ICC’s Umpire of the Year to receive the David Shepherd Trophy.

Dharmasena became the first person to complete a unique double of playing and umpiring in an ICC World Cup final when he officiated at the 2015 ICC World Cup tournament final. As a player, Dharmasena played a notable role in Sri Lanka’s World Cup victory in 1996.

Dharmasena said that the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year title he won in 1989 inspired him to excel in the international arena.

“It was a great moment in my life and one of the proudest moments in my cricket career. It was a big inspiration for me to win the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year title. It helped and encouraged me to work hard to win my place in the Sri Lanka team,” he said.

Dharmasena believes that winning a Mega Award such as the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year gives a huge image and great confidence for a schoolboy cricketer to go places.

“That would definitely make young schoolboy cricketers more determined to reach the top of the ladder. That gave me tremendous confidence to transform from school cricket to international cricket,” he said.

Dharmasena feels that outstanding cricketers with exceptional performances and milestones are hard to find nowadays, compared to his era. He said that could be the reason that prevented schoolboy cricketers matching directly to the Sri Lanka team in recent times, unlike his playing days.

He is of the view that the present day challenge for schoolboy cricketers is greater in their future careers. As a result, only a few outstanding cricketers would remain in the game once they complete school level.

“When I left Nalanda College, luckily Hatton National Bank (HNB) offered me employment and gave all the support to pursue my career as a club cricketer and then as an international cricketer. However, the present day schoolboy cricketers hardly get that sort of support, especially in a difficult period like this,” he added.

Born on April 24, 1971 in Colombo, he was one of the best all-rounders produced by Nalanda College. Dharmasena had the honour of playing four memorable seasons for the Campbell Place school.

Dharmasena was in fine form as a school cricketer but narrowly missed the chance of becoming the first to win the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer in four successive years.

Apart from winning the prestigious title in 1989, he had been adjudged runner up thrice – to Sanjeewa Ranatunga of Ananda College in 1988, Marvan Atapattu also of Ananda College in 1990 and to Muttiah Muralithan of St. Anthony’s College, Katugastota in 1991.

After finishing his school cricket career on a high note, Dharmasena became a permanent member of Bloomfield in the domestic inter-club premier league season. Merely three years after winning the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year title, young Dharmasena made his Test debut in Sri Lanka’s second Test against South Africa at the SSC ground in September, 1993.

He made his Sri Lanka ODI debut on August 24, 1994 in the fifth ODI against Pakistan at the Premadasa Stadium capturing 2 for 34 off nine overs.

Dharmasena aggregated 868 runs in 31 Tests with three half centuries and captured 69 wickets with 6 for 72 as his best innings analysis with his off cutters. He had represented Sri Lanka in 141 ODIs, aggregating 1,222 runs with four half centuries.

Dharmasena has captured 138 wickets in ODIs with his off breaks, delivered with a slightly unorthodox action that had been a blessing to the Sri Lankan team in many ODIs.

KD is better known for his inspiring acts as a team man, motivating his fellow players even at difficult times. Hence, he was nicknamed ‘Unanduwa’ by his teammates.

As a top former cricketer and present umpire at the highest level, Dharmasena had his own advice to the emerging schoolboy cricketers who keep dreaming of a Sri Lanka cap.

“You won’t be successful if you don’t enjoy the game and dedicate yourself towards it. You have to be focused on your goal. Believe in yourself, work hard with dedication and you will find success”, he said.

Voting coupons are being published in the Lake House national newspapers – Sunday Observer, Daily News, Dinamina, Thinakaran and Tharuni. The Observer – SLT Mobitel School Cricketers of the Year Mega Show is sponsored by SLT Mobitel.

Thursday, November 11, 2021 – 01:00

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