Saturday, 24 September 2011


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Show to beat all shows on Monday

Sri Lanka's first and premier schools cricket awards ceremony - the Observer-Mobitel Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year Mega Show will be held at the Grand Ballroom of the Galadari Hotel, Colombo commencing at 5.30 p.m. on Monday.

Former Royal College captain Ramith Rambukwella has already been voted the Most Popular Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year (All-Island) but the person who will carry away the most prestigious award in school cricket - the Observer-Mobitel Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year 2011 would only be known when the selection panel decision would be disclosed as the final event of the glamorous evening.

Hence, the stage is set for the Mega Show which will recognise the latent talents of the most outstanding schoolboy cricketers. Some of the top, present and past Sri Lanka cricketers will also be present at this year's awards ceremony which will richly reward the top performers of the recently concluded 2010/11 Inter-School First X1 cricket season.

Ramith Rambukwella Most Popular Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year 2011

Adding colour to the Observer-Mobitel Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year show will be the evergreen Bhathiya and Santhush and several other seasoned performers. The first ever Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year show was held in 1979 at a time when there were no inter-school cricket tournaments or an award ceremony of this nature to recognise the talents of schoolboy cricketers and inspire them to the big league.

Ever since, it has turned out to be 'The awards ceremony in school cricket'. The event hosted by the Sunday Observer is sponsored by Sri Lanka Telecom Mobitel. It was none other than Ranjan Madugalle who had the honour of becoming the first ever Observer Schoolboy Cricketer in 1979 as Royal College captain and another Royalist could well become the winner of this prestigious award on Monday.

The Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year show has gone from strength to strength, producing many champion cricketers who had excelled for Sri Lanka in the international arena. Among them are Sri Lanka's world cup winning captain Arjuna Ranatunga, ex-national captain and present batting coach of the Sri Lanka team Marvan Atapattu, Sri Lanka's first Test centurion Sidath Wettimuny, Asanka Gurusinha, Roshan Mahanama and Sri Lanka's world record holder for most number of wickets Muttiah Muralitharan. Master blaster Sanath Jayasuriya had the honour of winning the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year (Outstation) award when he represented St. Servatious' College, Matara.

Over the years, the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year has gone from strength to strength, producing a breeding shade for outstanding young cricketers. More importantly, Observer Schoolboy Cricketer was organized by our sister paper - the Sunday Observer, at a time when there was no single school cricket tournament or an awards ceremony. Understanding the need to reward the most outstanding schoolboy cricketers and inspiring them, the Sunday Observer came out with the novel concept of Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year awards ceremony.

Ever since, it has turned out to be the premier awards ceremony in school cricket. Subsequently, few other awards ceremonies have emerged to reward schoolboy cricketers. The Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year is happy that their concept has been accepted by all and that several others are following its great footsteps.

Only Arjuna Ranatunga and Roshan Mahanama, two former Sri Lanka captains, have won this coveted award twice each. Ranatunga first won this award in 1980 after Madugalle became the first ever recipient in 1979. Then it was Rohan Buultjens of St.Peter's who won the title in 1981. But 1982 turned out to be a memorable one for Ranatunga, who won the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year award for the second time and also played for Sri Lanka in the inaugural Test against England and made a debut half century.

The only other cricketer to emulate Ranatunga and win the prestigious Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year award twice is Roshan Mahanama of Nalanda. He achieved this rare feat in 1983 and 1984.

The million dollar question is whether Royalist Bhanuka Rajapaksa could emulate those great feats of Ranatunga and Mahanama and win the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year award for the second time? He won this title last year and is a front runner for this year's title as well. But he will face an acid test from some of the other outstanding schoolboy cricketers of the 2010/11 inter-school season. Among them are his teammate and fellow Royal captain Rambukwella who has already pocketed the most popular title with a record number of votes.

Rambukwella the ultimate winner of the Most Popular Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year 2011 (All-Island) received 248,702 votes and the second and third place competitors Sachitra Perera (Ananda) and Bhanuka Rajapakse (Royal) also came close to the 200,000 vote mark - Perera got 199,235 votes in coming second and Rajapakse got 197,474 votes in coming third.

The run for the top places in the All-Island Contest and the Outstation category has also been by a Panadura Royalist Dushan Vimukthi, closely challenged by Vidyartha's Keeshan Gamage who finally emerged winner in the Outstation segment with 112,872 votes 2,390 votes, more than Dushan Vimukthi who polled in 110,482 to win the second place.

The unsurpassed interest shown by the schoolboys and all the others who have shown keen interest in running the inter-school matches should be duly commended, and in the end, the winners of the annual Observer/Mobitel Cricket Show will get a tremendous boost for their future endeavours in representing the country at the highest level. The competition has provided the right platform for many cricketers who have reached the ultimate goal of representing the country.

The 2009 winner of the contest Dinesh Chandimal first represented the country at the World T20 Championship held in the West Indies last year, soon after he was crowned as the Schoolboy Cricketer 2009.

The competition this year has been a right Royal battle, the two Colombo Royalists Ramith Rambukwella and Bhanuka Rajapakse and the Panadura Royalist Dushan Vimukthi have been in the contest from the first coupon published this year. They have always been among the top three at some time or other and the support rendered to these players have been excellent by the cricket loving public.

Rambukwella, a sturdy lad who represented the Sri Lanka Under-19 team on the tour of England led by colleague Bhanuka Rajapakse. These two players need to be watched for the future. Rambukwella although missing a good part of the school cricket season due to his commitment with the Sri Lanka Under-19 team, fared well in the fewer number of school matches. On the other hand, Bhanuka Rajapakse who became the Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year last year (2010), did not live up to expectations during the school cricket season, but fared very impressively against the England Under-19 team as an all-rounder. Besides taking wickets, he struck two centuries.

Winning an award in a show of this nature is something of a new experience for the Most Popular Schoolboy Cricketer Outstation Keeshan Gamage. Dushan Vimukthi who is placed runner-up won the prize for the Best Bowler Outstation last year. Vimukthi, playing for the fifth year for his school is, another balanced all-rounder who is the captain of Royal College, Panadura.

Winner of the Outstation competition Keeshan Gamage of Vidyartha College, Kandy entered the contest later and has given a monies worth run to Vimukthi by taking the Outstation Most Popular Schoolboy Cricketer award. He too, is a budding all-rounder, and a player who has excelled for his school in all three departments of the game.

This year too, there has been some sterling performances with bat and ball. Besides Rambukwella's efforts, two more players Sachitra Perera (Ananda) completed the school cricket season taking over 100 wickets. He was extremely unlucky not be selected for the Under-19 England tour and the subsequent tour of England to the Island early in the year. Dananjaya de Silva of Richmond College, Galle, is another player who represented the country at youth level and fared exceptionally well. So, the foursome of Rambukwella, Rajapakse, Dananjaya de Silva and Sachitra Perera are undoubtedly the future players for the country and this was quite evident from the voting pattern in this popular contest.

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