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No obstacle to launch of 43rd school cricketer awards

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The sponsorship for the 43rd Observer-SLT Mobitel Schools Cricketers of the Year 2021 was presented by Chief Marketing Officer, SLT Mobitel (Pvt) Ltd, Shashika Senerath to Director, Legal and Administration of ANCL, Attorney-at-Law Rakhitha Abeygunawardhana at the SLT Mobitel office at Rotunda Gardens on Friday. Here they are pictured after the sponsorship presentation. (from left) Editor-in-Chief of Sunday Observer Dinesh Weerawansa, Attorney-at-Law Abeygunawardhana, CMO of SLT Mobitel Shashika Senarath, Senior Manager, Channel Publicity of Mobitel Jude Silva and Manager, Channel Publicity of ANCL Chanaka Liyanage (Pic by Chinthaka Kumarasinghe)

Sri Lanka’s premier English newspaper with the largest circulation the Sunday Observer and the national mobile service network SLT Mobitel has once again joined hands to organize the oldest and biggest schools cricket awards show – the Observer-SLT Mobitel Schools Cricketers of the Year!

The sponsorship presentation of the 43rd Observer-Mobitel Schools Cricketers of the Year 2021 took place at the SLT Mobitel office at Rotunda Gardens, Colombo 3 on Friday.

This would mark the launch of the island-wide voting for the Observer-SLT Mobitel Schools Cricketers of the Year commencing from today.

What is remarkable in the Mega Show, which began in 1978/79 as the first-ever school cricket awards ceremony, is that it has continued its legacy uninterrupted for over four decades.

When the Mega Show commenced 43 years ago, even the Sri Lanka Schools Cricket Association (SLSCA) did not have any tournament for First X1 two-day school cricket but the Sunday Observer felt the need to reward the next generation cricketers for their hard work during each season.

Sri Lanka’s flagship English newspaper – the Sunday Observer, understood the need to recognise the raw talent of the country’s schoolboy cricketers at a time when there had been no organized inter-school cricket tournaments, apart from the traditional First XI matches of the so-called leading schools.

But the introduction of the Show and its expansion to have a separate segment for outstation schoolboy cricketers went a long way in inspiring the talented players in far flung areas.

Most importantly, it stood strong even during the global pandemic period which began in March last year.

When the Covid-19 pandemic hit Sri Lanka in mid-March last year, immediately after the 2020 Royal-Thomian Battle of the Blues encounter, all activities in Sri Lanka and the world over came to a complete standstill. When the all-competitive school cricket awards shows both official and unofficial shows by competitors were forced to cancel, SLT Mobitel did not desert the school cricketers and rallied round the Sunday Observer to continue with the Mega Show.

Though the 2020 Mega Show had to be postponed due to a worldwide pandemic, it was finally held last April. Thus, 2021 will technically have two separate shows. Following the last Mega Show held in April – the 42nd in the series, another similar awards ceremony to reward this year’s top cricketers is on the cards by later this year.

As a leading sports promoter in Sri Lanka, the commitment of SLT Mobitel towards the country’s school cricket is commendable. Especially during a dull period for all activities globally, be it sports or otherwise, the SLT Mobitel stood firm with the school cricketers and gave them the much needed confidence.

Thus, the Sunday Observer and SLT Mobitel go down in history as the only combination which continuously held its annual mega awards show in the two years which was badly affected by the pandemic – 2020 and 2021. Even when official sponsors of the school cricket governing body deserted their principals, SLT Mobitel did not forget their commitments as a true corporate citizen.

The Observer-SLT Mobitel Schoolboy Cricketer contest, Sri Lanka’s oldest and premier school cricket awards show, is now on for the 43rd year. Simultaneously, the newly introduced Observer-SLT Mobitel Schoolgirl Cricketer of the Year 2021 will also be conducted for the fourth year, as women’s cricket in Sri Lanka too is reaching new heights.

Voting coupons for the Observer-SLT Mobitel Most Popular Schoolboy Cricketer and Schoolgirl Cricketers of the Year will be published in the Lake House national newspapers – Sunday Observer, Daily News, Dinamina, Silumina and Thinakaran. Apart from those national newspapers, the voting coupons will be carried in our popular weekly women’s newspaper Tharuni.

Winning a title at the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer has been the cherished dream of every schoolboy cricketer for over four decades. It all began in 1978/79 when the then captain of Royal College, Ranjan Madugalle was chosen the first ever Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year.

It eventually became a highly successful beginning for Sri Lanka’s first ever school cricket awards show but also gave birth to a new generation of cricketers who took Sri Lanka cricket to new horizons.

Madugalle, who led Royal in the centenary Battle of the Blues cricket encounter in 1979, was immediately picked to the Sri Lanka team for the World Cup in the same year and went on to captain his club NCC and Sri Lanka with distinction.

The Observer Schoolboy Cricketer has produced a galaxy of stars who have marked Sri Lanka’s position prominently on the world cricketing map. Among them are Madugalle, Arjuna Ranatunga, Roshan Mahanama, Asanka Gurusinha, Sanath Jayasuriya, Muttiah Muralideran, Marvan Atapattu and Kumar Dharmasena to name a few from the old era.

ICC Chief Match Referee Madugalle who celebrated his 62nd birthday last April 22, has represented Sri Lanka in 21 Tests, scoring 1,029 runs which includes a brilliant 103 and seven half centuries. In 63 ODIs, he had aggregated 950 runs with three half centuries.

Madugalle (65) and another Observer Schoolboy Cricketer Arjuna Ranatunga (54) were the first Sri Lankans to score half centuries in Test cricket, in the historic match against England played at the Saravanamuttu Stadium in February 1982.

Sri Lanka’s World Cup winning captain Ranatunga was the first player to win the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year award on two occasions. Ranatunga won it in 1980 and in 1982 while Peterite Rohan Buultjens, who won the glamour award in 1981, prevented Ranatunga going for a hat-trick of wins.

Ranatunga’s final year in school cricket was a glorious one as he was able to make it to Sri Lanka’s inaugural Test team that played against England.

But Nalanda’s Roshan Mahanama was the first to win the prestigious title in successive years in 1983 and 1984. Apart from Ranatunga and Mahanama, the others to win the grand title twice were Thilan Samaraweera (1994 and 1995), Lahiru Peiris (2004 and 2005), Bhanuka Rajapakse (2010 and 2011) and Charith Asalanka (2015 and 2016).

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