Mahanama has best advice for present day schoolboys
Former Observer SLT Mobitel Schoolboy Cricketers in the current Sri Lanka team have shown remarkable performances so far in the four matches Sri Lanka team has won in the T20 World Cup tournament in the United Arab Emirates.
The ICC Twenty 20 World Cup tournament is in full swing with its first round matches in the UAE. After the qualifying round matches among the minnows to pick four teams that would join eight direct qualifiers, which ended last Friday, the main tournament matches got underway last Saturday. So far, 21 semi league matches have been completed up to yesterday.
Sri Lanka, after a pathetic pre-tournament form, was compelled to play in the qualifiers with Bangladesh and six other lesser-known teams. However, Sri Lanka managed to win all three matches against Namibia, Ireland and the Netherlands to join the bigwigs in the main tournament which will run until November 14.
Since Royal College cricket captain Ranjan Madugalle made his way to the 1979 World Cup tournament as a schoolboy, we have seen many past Observer Schoolboy Cricketers in almost every Sri Lanka cricket team. There is no exception this time around as three top past Observer SLT Mobitel Schoolboy Cricketers are in the UAE representing the Sri Lanka team. They are Dinesh Chandimal, Bhanuka Rajapakse and Charith Asalanka.
Former Sri Lanka captain Chandimal, who has led Sri Lanka in all three formats, first came to the limelight by emerging the Observer SLT Mobitel Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year in 2009. Though the other two have not played much for Sri Lanka, both of them have achieved the unique feat of winning the Observer SLT Mobitel Schoolboy Cricketer of Year on two occasions each.
In the two immediate years after Anandian Chandimal featured, Royalist Rajapakse became the Observer SLT Mobitel Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year in 2010 and 2011. Rajapakse showed some early form in last week’s qualifier against Namibia where he made an unbeaten 42 off just 27 balls including two sixes and four fours.
Meanwhile, Asalanka, a product of Richmod, also had the rare opportunity of winning the glorious title in 2015 and 2016 with rich back to back harvests with his willow.
Sri Lanka made an auspicious start in the main T20 Word Cup tournament with a convincing five-wicket win over Bangladesh with seven balls to spare. Most importantly, two-time winners of the Observer SLT Mobitel Schoolboy Cricketer Asalanka (80 not out in 49 balls) and Bhanuka Rajapaksa (53 in 31 balls) were associated in an 86-run partnership for the fifth wicket.
When talking about former cricketers who had won the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year in two successive years, the former Sri Lanka captain and ex-ICC Match Referee Roshan Mahanama takes pride of place.
He is one such hero who has contributed to the game lavishly and has left his mark from his days at Nalanda. He went on to become a classic example to all young cricketers aspiring to reach the top in the game. Mahanama, who turned 55 last May, played 52 Tests for Sri Lanka with an aggregate of 2,576 runs with four centuries and 11 fifties.
Mahanama, who emerged the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year in 1983 and 1984, strongly believes that there should be a balance in the number of matches a school team has to play during a season, if the quality of the game is to be maintained.
“We need to give opportunities to outstation teams, but at the same time we should not do it at the expense of quality,” Mahanama said in a recent interview.
The former Nalanda captain said that the country’s first and the premier school cricket award – Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year, has always motivated schoolboy cricketers as they look forward to being rewarded at the end of each season for their hard work.
“It was a great motivation for us in school cricket through this type of award ceremonies. It was a big boost for us and motivation for the emerging cricketers. It is always a great feeling when you know that your achievements are being recognized at the end of each season,” he said.
Despite going places in the big league with many milestone achievements, Mahanama rates his crowning moments as the ‘Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year’ in successive years as a major milestone in his career.
“It gives a great feeling when you emerge as the best schoolboy cricketer. To be honoured for the hard work at the end of the season was a great feeling and encouragement. I was privileged and honoured to receive this award as it was one of my dreams,” he said.
“It was a memorable occasion and a stepping stone to club level and to international cricket thereafter. Being crowned the best Schoolboy Cricketer made me even more determined to work harder to reach greater heights and get the taste of international cricket,” he said.
“There were full houses for all those inter-school games from the days of the late Bandula Warnapura. It was a great passion. On the other hand, the school authorities too encouraged the boys to come in their numbers to watch matches,” he added.
Mahanama gave some great advice to some of the present day cricketers who look for instant success. He said that there are no shortcuts to reach the pinnacle. “School cricketers should be willing to make sacrifices rather than looking for short cuts for success. The young schoolboy cricketers must have a genuine willingness and desire to work towards their targets with dedication. They must always keep in mind that there are no shortcuts for success,” he said.
Mahanama said there are more and more opportunities for schoolboy cricketers, compared to his school and club days. He said the schoolboy cricketers during his era did not get many opportunities to play international matches at under-19 level.
“I had played for Nalanda for five seasons but during the entire period, we had only two foreign tours. But the present day players get more and more opportunities.
Recalling his days as a schoolboy cricketer at Nalanda, Mahanama said that it was a great feeling for them to have their names on the fixture card.
“Even the old boys made it a point to forgo all other engagements to watch their school team in action. It was a great honour to see our names in the fixture card – first as a player, then as a coloursman and later as vice-captain or captain,” he went down the memory lane.
Mahanama was the first ever schoolboy to win the prestigious Observer Schoolboy Cricketer title in successive years – in 1983 and 1984. Though Sri Lanka’s World Cup winning captain Arjuna Ranatunga won the titles before Mahanama in 1980 and 1982, it was not in successive years.
He first won the ‘Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year’ title in 1983 scoring a rich harvest of runs. He continued to let his willow do the talking in the following year too and his superb form won him the title for the second successive year in 1984.
Apart from Ranatunga and Mahanama, the others to win the title twice were Thilan Samaraweera (1994 and 1995), Lahiru Peiris (2004 and 2005), Bhanuka Rajapakse (2010 and 2011) and Charith Asalanka (2015 and 2016).
Mahanama urged school cricketers to work hard to achieve their targets in a disciplined manner, maintaining the high traditions of the game – instead of being ‘remote-controlled’.
“We were taught to respect the game, its culture and to follow team ethics. Even the coaches and masters in charge during our time conducted themselves in an exemplary manner to earn respect. We also had the highest respect and regard for umpires,” he said.
He pointed out that deteriorating standards in school cricket has prevented youngsters from directly marching into the national team like in the past.
“In the past players such as Ranjan Madugalle earned his place in the national squad directly from school level. Unfortunately, we do not often find consistent players in school cricket, ready to face that challenge,” he said.
“It was a great encouragement to be adjudged the best schoolboy cricketer and be honoured for the hard work during the season. I was privileged to achieve it as one of my dreams,” he said.
Mahanama’s career-best Test innings of 225 was made against India in 1997. He was associated in a record partnership of 576 runs with Sanath Jayasuriya (340) in that record-breaking match at the Premadasa Stadium in Colombo and Sri Lanka team eventually recorded the highest team total in a Test. Not many international cricketers perform well in their farewell innings but Mahanama made a half century in his last Test for Sri Lanka against South Africa at Centurion Park in 1998.
In 213 One Day Internationals for Sri Lanka, Mahanama aggregated 5,162 runs with four centuries and 35 half centuries.