Down memory lane with the best

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It is interesting to go down memory lane and find out what some of the Sri Lanka cricketers of yesteryear feel about the Observer-Mobitel Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year contest. ICC Chief Match Referee and former Sri Lanka captain Ranjan Madugalle said the Associated Newspapers of Ceylon Limited and Sunday Observer should be complimented for keeping the show going for all these years. “Sponsors are essential. May the show continue for many years” he said.

He said that in the past most of the winners of the top awards came from Colombo and its suburbs, but now the outstation schools have come in a big way and it is a good sign for the game.

Former Sri Lanka captain and ex-Chairman of Selectors Sarth Jayasuriya said that it was one of the best things that happened to him in 1988 when he won the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year in the Outstation section. Jayasuriya said playing for St. Servatius’ College, Matara brought him immense joy.

He said that school cricketers must be motivated. He added that school cricket has helped him a great deal and the much needed push ahead was at St. Servatius’ College, Matara. ‘I must thank the observer for giving Matara schools and school cricketers the push’.

He said that the Schoolboy Cricketer of the year Contest should not be the end, but the foundation laid for better things to be got from the cricketers.

Thilan Samaraweera, twice winner of the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year Award 1994-1995, said he owes his climb to the top in cricket due to the encouragement given by the contest of this nature. Thilan who won the contest in 1994 and 1995, also won the Best Batsman and Best Allrounder on both occasions. He endorsed this long-standing contest as the best for schoolboy cricketers.

Muttiah Muralitharan, the world’s leading Test wicket taker had this to say: “A contest of this nature means a lot to young cricketers. When I was picked as the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year in 1991, it gave me lot of satisfaction and spurred me on and I am now where I am because of inter-school cricket and the encouragement it gave me.” He said that ANCL and the Observer should continue for the benefit of the budding school cricketers.

Kumar Dharmasena, member of 1996 World Cup winning team, presently ICC Test umpire said that he must congratulate ANCL and the Sunday Observer for keeping the show going for over 30 years.

Dharmasena who won the contest in 1989 while playing for Nalanda, added that sponsors are vital for the progress of sports in any country and ANCL has taken the lead that helps the authorities to build up the youth.

Development of youth is very important as the youth are the ones who will take the country forward, he said.

Sajith Fernando scored five centuries for his school and fully endorsed his batting status to win the Best batsman award. In 1992, the following year, Sajith Fernando did better scoring 1000 runs for the season with four centuries and took 100 wickets to make himself eligible for the top award in school cricket.

However he was unable to win the Sri Lanka cap although he was good enough to lead strong ‘A’ teams and Board XIs whenever a Test or representative team visited Sri Lanka or whenever a Sri Lanka ‘A’ or under-23 team toured overseas.

The left-hand opening batsman scored over 10,000 first class runs and at one time was the head coach of S. Thomas’ College, Mount Lavinia.

In 1992 Sajith Fernando was a member of the Sri Lanka Under-19 team led by Anandian Sachithra Alexander that toured England.

The team included players of the calibre of Chaminda Vaas and Russel Arnold and Sajith was awarded the most outstanding contributor on the tour. The same year he was a member of the Sri Lanka ‘A’ team which took part in the SAARC cricket tournament. He toured South Africa with the Sri Lanka Under-24 team which was led by Sanath Jayasuriya in 1993.

This was to be the first ever official tour made by a Sri Lanka team. He was also the deputy skipper of the Under-24 team against South Africa and later led the team in the final Test match and two ODI matches. He was a member of the Sri Lanka cricket team led by Marvan Atapattu that took part in the Hong Kong Sixes and the TNT Worldwide Cricket Sixes held in Singapore where they emerged champions in both tournaments in 1995.

In the same year he represented the Central Province in the Inter-Provincial Cricket Tournament and was judged the most promising player and the player of the province in this tournament. He went on to lead the Colts Under-24 cricket team and guided them to victory.

He also represented the Beenleigh Logan CC in Brisbane and on his return he was given the responsibility of leading the Sri Lanka ‘A’ side against the South African counterparts.

He was adjudged the man of the series in the Premier limited over tournament in 1998 when Colts emerged champions and was a member of the champion Colts team which emerged Premier League champions in the year 2000 and 2002.

After a stint with Colts CC and Tamil Union, he was successful in guiding his side to become the Premier limited over champions of the 2009/10 cricket season.

He also played for various clubs overseas in Australia, England and Bangladesh. His stint in these countries gave him an opportunity to qualify as a Level One coach of Cricket Australia and Level II coach of the English Cricket Board.

(under the courtesy of sundayobserver.lk news web)