By Ranjan ANANDAPPA
Observer-Mobitel Selections: After a lot of deliberation, a panel of twelve officials connected to the school cricket fraternity, selected the award winners at the Sunday Observer/Mobitel Schoolboy Cricketer of The Year 2011 final selection. Among the official were J.H.M.W. Ranjith (President Sri Lanka Schools Cricket Association and Principal, Nalanda College), Nishan Dhanasinghe (President of the Association of Cricket Umpires Sri Lanka), Carlton Bernadus (Manager School Cricket Development, SLC), S.A.K.S. Indrajith (Tournament Secretary Ladies Cricket) Keerthie Gunaratne (Under 13 Tournament Secretary and Master-in-Charge, Coach Anuradhapura CC), G.W.J.Senaratne (Vice-President, SLSCA), Y.Nishantha Kumara (Under 19, Tournament Secretary, SLCA), Sisira Weerasinghe (Junior Selector, SLSCA), Kapila Jayalath (Treasurer SLSCA), M.T.A.Rauf (General Secretary, SLSCA) Nihal Fernando (SLSCA), Dilshan de Silva (Chairman, Selection Commitee, SLSCA)
There were also umpires from the Association of Cricket Umpires who have officiated in school cricket matches during the season who could be considered the closest to a player while in the playing field.
The award winners of the Observer/Mobitel Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year 2011 Contest will be announced shortly and the Show will take place soon.
Most of the Masters in Charge of schools take a keen interest in their requirements of the school cricketers as many came from humble backgrounds. They not only encouraged the winners in taking part in sports, they also gave preference to studies, adding credence to the adage of ‘Studies and Sports Should Go Hand in Hand’.
It is a known fact that in Sri Lanka, school cricket is the cradle for the future cricketers. Sri Lanka’s school cricket has maintained a very high standard from early days, much earlier than then the country gained full Test status. Latent talent could be spotted very early in a youngster and from that point it is difficult to stop him from his forward journey.
During this journey and specially at school with the assistance of the school authorities, the youngster starts developing to be a future prospect. So there is no doubt that school cricket provides the stepping stone to a youngster’s career in this country.
So,in whichever era the school cricket authories came into existence, they could put their heads up and be proud of the service that they rendered for the development of cricket in the country.
For example in the present lot of officials, there were dedicated officials and President’s (SLSCA) in the past as well, in the calibre of Bertie Wijesinha (St.Benedict’s) Angelo Rayer (St.Joseph’s), Christie Gunasekera (Royal), M.W.Karunanada (Trinity/Ananda), Orville Abeynaike (S.Thomas’), Bede Puvimanasingham (St.Benedict’s), Mr.Kandasamy, Gerry Gooneratne (Nalanda), Trevor Nugegoda (Nalanda) Brian Seneviratne (St.Peter’s) and Frank Cooray to name a few.
The Principals of fame P.M.Jayatileka (Thurstan), Neville de Alwis (S.Thomas’), H.L.B.Gomes (Royal), are some school heads of yester-year who spent their time, energy and money travelling the length and breath of the Island to hunt for talented cricketers who went on to represent the Under 19 National Cricket Team.
Due to their untiring efforts, Sri Lanka were able to discover players from all parts of the Island. Finally most of these players went on to represent the country in cricket at the highest level.
During the above mentioned gentlemen’s era in their respective schools, specially in the year 1971, then Ceylon, the country produced probabaly the best Under 19 Schools Cricket Team for a tour of India. Ceylon, although not a full member with Test status, made a stunning impact and the schoolboys by their performaces beat their strong Indian counterparts in a ‘Test’ match in India.
This team was led by Mithra Wettimuny (Ananda) and had a strong combination of players that included Asitha Jayaweera, Jagath Fernando and Lakshman Thalaysingham (Royal), Duleep Mendis (S.Thomas’), Bandula Warnapura, Leslie Narangoda (Nalanda), Ananda Jayatilleka (Ananda), Rory Inman (St.Peter’s), Wendell Kelaart, Manik de S. Wijeratne, (St.Joseph’s), Ajith de Silva (Dharmasoka, Ambalangoda), Priyantha Jayasekera, Ajith Mendis (Prince of Wales) and late Dinesh Rajaratnam (Thurstan).
Eleven years later, in 1982, Bandula Warnapura was elected to captain the first ever official Test match against England. Duleep Mendis who joined S.Thomas’ from St.Sebastian’s and Ajith de Silva who joined Ananda from Dharmasoka College Ambalangoda after his successful Indian tour, were also members in that team.
With more schools playing the game in a big way in many formats, the school cricket authorities have a bigger task in the organising capacity, and the present lot of officials seem capable of handling the situation.
An efficient and dedicated set of school cricket officials were responsible in selecting the award winners of the 33rd Sunday Observer/ Mobitel Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year Contest.
There have been no stones turned around during the selection process. In fact, the responsibility of the selection of winners in a competition of this nature has always been done by the umpires who have seen the schoolboys at play. The selection was done strictly on merit without taking into consideration school or club loyalty.