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Observer-SLT Mobitel School Cricketers launched for 44th time

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First-ever Observer Schoolboy Cricketer, some 44 years ago… Former Royal, NCC and Sri Lanka captain Ranjan Madugalle has come a long way since making his Test debut in Sri Lanka’s inaugural Test against England in 1982. Picture shows the current ICC Chief Match Referee Ranjan Madugalle when he reached yet another milestone by becoming the first to officiate in 200 Test matches last year

The 44th Observer SLT Mobitel School Cricketers of the Year was launched last Sunday with Sri Lanka’s premier English newspaper with the largest circulation and our sister newspaper Sunday Observer once again joining hands with Sri Lanka’s national mobile network SLT Mobitel.

The presentation of the lucrative sponsorship for the 44th Observer-Mobitel Schools Cricketers of the Year 2022 took place at the SLT Mobitel head office at Rotunda Gardens, Colombo 3 last week. This marked the launch of the island-wide voting for the Observer-SLT Mobitel Schools Cricketers of the Year commencing from this week.

Voting coupons for the Observer-SLT Mobitel Most popular Schoolboy Cricketer and Schoolgirl Cricketer of the Year are now 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.

Chief Marketing Officer of Mobitel (Pvt) Ltd, Shashika Senarath presented the sponsorship of the 44th Observer SLT School Cricketers of the Year to the Director, Legal and Administration of ANCL, Attorney-at-Law Rakhitha Abeygoonawardhana. General Manager – Consumer Sales and Distribution of Mobitel, Sugath Abesinghe also graced the occasion.

As the first-ever school cricket awards ceremony, it has continued its legacy uninterrupted for over four and a half decades. Even the Sri Lanka Schools Cricket Association (SLSCA) did not have any tournament for First X1 two-day school cricket when the Mega Show commenced 44 years ago.

Having felt the need to reward the next generation cricketers for their hard work during each season, the Sunday Observer stepped out in 1978. Sri Lanka’s flagship English newspaper understood the need to recognize 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.

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

The Covid-19 pandemic which devastated the world from early 2020 made all sports activities came to a complete standstill in Sri Lanka too. When the Covid-19 pandemic hit Sri Lanka in mid-March 2020, 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.

But the SLT Mobitel did not desert the school cricketers and rallied round the Sunday Observer to continue with the Mega Show. This was when all-competitive school cricket award shows both official and unofficial were forced to cancel their events.

Today, we feel extremely proud to see that we have carried the Observer SLT Mobitel School Cricketers of the Year contest forward without a break, even during the two years suffered by Covid-19. It was not easy to host this type of event during the pandemic but we beat all overwhelming odds. What is unique is that only we staged two events of 2020 and 2021 but did that following all health guidelines.

Though the 2020 Mega Show had to be postponed due to a worldwide pandemic, it was finally held in April 2021. Thus, 2021 had two separate shows. Following the last Mega Show held in April 2021 – the 42nd in the series, another similar awards ceremony to reward last year’s top cricketers was held in December last 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 44th year. Simultaneously, the newly introduced Observer-SLT Mobitel Schoolgirl Cricketer of the Year 2021 will also be conducted for the fifth year, as women’s cricket in Sri Lanka too is reaching new heights.

Winning a title at the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer has been the cherished dream of every schoolboy cricketer for over four and half 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.

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.

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.

However, Nalandian 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).

Thursday, March 31, 2022 – 01:00

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