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Winning a title at the ‘Mega Show’ is a dream of every school cricketer

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Sri Lanka’s premier English newspaper with the largest circulation the Sunday Observer, the sister newspaper of the Daily News, and the national mobile service network SLT Mobitel are planning to host the 44th Observer SLT Mobitel School Cricketers of the Year in November.

The two giants in their respective fields, has once again joined hands to organize the oldest and biggest schools cricket awards show – the Observer-SLT Mobitel Schools Cricketers of the Year!

What is the most 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 44 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 2020. 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. Hence, for the first time in the four decade old history, two awards ceremonies to reward the top cricketers were held in last April (for 2020) and December (for 2021).

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 went 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 2022 will also be conducted for the fifth year, as women’s cricket in Sri Lanka too is reaching new heights.

Over the years, winning a title at the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer has been the cherished dream of every schoolboy. 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).

Meanwhile, Dunith Wellalage of St. Joseph’s College, Colombo and Chushadi Kaushalya of Dharmapala College Pannipitiya emerged Observer SLT Mobitel Most Popular School Cricketers of the Year 2022.

When the voting for the most popular contests concluded last week, Wellalage and Kaushalya headed the respective Observer SLT Mobitel Most Popular Schoolboy and Schoolgirl Cricketers of the Year 2022 with convincing margins.

Sri Lanka Under-19 skipper Wellalage polled 44,564 votes to head the Observer SLT Mobitel Most Popular Schoolboy of the Year 2022 – 4,567 votes ahead of his closest contender Rusanda Gamage of St. Peter’s College, Colombo with 39,997 votes. Sri Lanka Under-19 cricketer Sadisha Rajapakse of Royal College who emerged the Observer SLT Mobitel Most Popular Schoolboy of the Year 2021 last December, had to be satisfied with the third place with 31,404 votes.

Finishing fourth was Vishara Fernando of Richmond College, Galle polling 28,703 votes, followed by Pasan Suwahas (St. Benedict’s – 28,238), Caniston Karunaratne (S. Thomas’ – 18,993), Raveen de Silva (Nalanda – 14,109), Ramesh Madhubasana (Mahinda – 10,845), Pasindu Ratnayake (Thurstan – 10,056) and Theeraka Ranatunga (Trinity – 9,406).

Chushadi Kaushalya of Dharmapala polled 40,077 votes to emerge the Observer SLT Mobitel Most Popular Schoolgirl Cricketer of the Year 2022, 3,965 votes ahead of Manudi Nanayakkara of Princess of Wales College Moratuwa. Nanayakkara polled 36,112 votes.

Kaushini Nuthyanga of Anula Vidyalaya, Nugegoda finished third with 23,055 votes, followed by Navodya Nethmini (Wadduwa MMV – 15,348), Tharushi Rajakaruna (Nugawela Central – 10,899), Imesha Dulani (Devapathiraja – 8,404), Vishmi Guneratne (Rathnavali BV, Gampaha – 7,236), Hirushi Nimanthi (Jayasiripura KV, Bakamuna – 6,989), Nimsara Dissanayake (Sri Siddhartha Central – 5,909) and Hashini Liyanage (Anula Vidyalaya, Nugegoda – 5,403).

The Observer-Mobitel Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year was the first inter-school awards ceremony in Sri Lanka which commenced some 44 years ago even when the Sri Lanka Schools Cricket Association had not even thought of rewarding outstanding school cricketers.

In fact, the SLSCA had not even thought of a First XI tournament structure for two-day games at that time, more than four decades ago.

That is precisely why the Observer-Mobitel Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year remains the Mother of All Shows.

That is precisely why winning an award at the Observer SLT Mobitel School Cricketers of the Year show remains the cherished dream of thousands of school cricketers.

Thursday, September 29, 2022 – 01:00

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