The stage is set for the greatest extravaganza in local school cricket – the 43rd Observer SLT Mobitel Schools Cricketers of the Year 2021 which will be held at the BMICH, Colombo 7 commencing from 5.15 pm today.
Prior to the commencement of the official program this evening, the super giant screen erected at the BMICH centre will screen the highlights of the 1996 ICC World Cup final between Sri Lanka and Australia won by the Lions.
This will be in honour of Sri Lanka’s world cup-winning captain Arjuna Ranatunga who will grace the Mega Show as the chief guest. Minister of Mass Media Dallas Alahapperuma will be the guest of honour.
After Ranjan Madugalle in 1979, Ranatunga is only the second winner of the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year and the first to win it twice in 1980 and 1982.
The 1996 World Cup-winning Sri Lanka team was filled with Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year title winners – Ranatunga (1980 and 1982), Roshan Mahamama (1983 and 1984), Asanka Gurusinha (1985), Kumara Dharmasena (1989), Marvan Atapattu (1990) and Muttiah Muralitharan (1991) while Sanath Jayasuriya, the man of the series at the 1996 World Cup tournament, had won the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year Outstation title in 1988.
Today’s Mega Night is packed with some eye-catching entertainment provided by leading vocalists Falan Andrea, K. Sujeewa and veteran Saman de Silva backed by leading band Centigradz. Once again, evergreen Clifford Richards and Sonali Perera will be comperes of the show.
There will be many super dance acts by Chandana Wickremasinghe Dance Troupe in the 150-minute action-packed show handled by Funtime of Imran Saibo
For the first time in its 43-year-old history, this is only the first time that a calendar year is hosting two Mega Shows as the postponed 42nd Observer SLT Mobitel Schools Cricketers of the Year 2020 was held last April.
Despite the Covid-19 pandemic threatening to disrupt all events worldwide for almost two years, the Sunday Observer and its principal sponsor SLT Mobitel were extremely lucky to beat all overwhelming odds to host both the shows. Hence, the SLT Mobitel gave its financial backing for the 15th successive year, the Sunday Observer continues its SLT Mobitel School Cricketers of the Year uninterrupted.
Today’s Mega Show will be conducted in accordance with strict health guidelines of only 25% of the capacity. We were extremely fortunate to hold it in accordance with all health guidelines.
Although the 2020-21 season inter-school cricket activities were confined to the three divisions of 1, 11 and 111 tournaments plus a few traditional two-day matches and the Royal-Thomian three-day encounter, we thought it is not fair to desert the school cricketers when they needed the motivation the most.
Sri Lanka Telecom, headed by its Group Chairman Rohan Fernando, former Vice President of the National Olympic Committee of Sri Lanka (NOC) and ex-President of the Rowing Association of Sri Lanka has always given the fullest backing for the event. Chairman of the ANCL W. Dayaratne and his board of directors has been a tower of strength to move forward with the Mega Show.
The Sri Lanka Schools Cricket Association (SLSCA) and the Sri Lanka Cricket Umpires and Scorers Association have joined hands with the Sunday Observer and SLT Mobitel to ensure nothing is left out.
Our sister paper – the Sunday Observer found the necessity of recognizing the raw talents of schoolboy cricketers way back in the 1970s when the school cricket national body had not even thought of a schools tournament.
When the success story of the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year is spoken about, one cannot forget the lavish contribution made by SLT Mobitel since 2008, especially its role to keep the Mega Show uninterrupted during the Covid-19 pandemic.
When almost all other sponsors abandoned their events during the past two years, SLT Mobitel stood firmly with the Sunday Observer to keep the Mega Show going.
As the proud sponsor for the past 15 years, SLT Mobitel has greatly helped us to improve the standards and quality of the game. It has also helped increase the prize money by a significant amount.
Not only for the players but SLT Mobitel has taken a giant leap forward by rewarding the coaches and masters in charge who sacrifice their entire careers to mould and sharpen the skills of the next generation cricketers.
The standard of the Mega Show entered a new era in 2008 with lavish cash incentives and high quality trophies to the outstanding school cricketers. Even their coaches and masters-in-change, who have done a silent job behind the scene too have been richly rewarded.
Today’s schoolboy and schoolgirl cricketers have a lot to gather from a legendary cricketer like Ranatunga who has a proven track record. He was a reliable middle order batsman who had aggregated 5,105 runs including four centuries and 38 fifties and captured 16 wickets in 93 Tests.
The highest two innings – both half centuries, in Sri Lanka’s inaugural Test in 1982, had been scored by former Observer Schoolboy Cricketers – Madugalle (65) and Ranatunga (54).
Ranatunga has come a long way since his early days as a junior schoolboy cricketer to go places to end his sporting career as a legend in world cricket. Playing in 269 ODI matches for Sri Lanka, Ranatunga has aggregated 7,456 runs with four centuries and 49 fifties.
Although the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer was officially begun in 1979, there were records that the Sunday Observer awards show had originally commenced in 1975. Nalanda cricketer Anura Ranasinghe, the controversial 12th man in Sri Lanka’s inaugural Test squad, has been the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year in 1975 as well as in the following year 1976.
Although the show was not held in 1977, Ranjan Madugalle was adjudged the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year when the awards show resumed in 1978. Madugalle won the title once more in 1979, the first formal year of the competition.