Winning Schoolboy cricketer award passport to national honours - Atapattu | Daily News


Winning Schoolboy cricketer award passport to national honours - Atapattu

The battle for the Observer-Mobitel Most Popular Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year Division one title has turned out to be a keenly contested tussle between two players of the same team.

A slim margin of 46 votes separates Peterites Lakshina Rodrigo and Santhush Gunatileka who are engaged in a neck to neck contest. Rodrigo leads at the end of tenth week’s count with 8,993 votes while his fellow teammate Gunatileka is closely following in the second place with 8,947 votes.

But the Peterite due will not have the things easy as they are being followed by Isipathana’s Sanjula Abeywickerma who is placed third with 8,721 votes. Infect, a mere 272 separates first three in the latest division 1 votings.In division two and three the top contestants Piyumal Sinhawansa ( St.Anne’s, Kurunegala) and Charitha Basnayake of (Bandarawela CC) were cruising along.

Meanwhile, former Sri Lanka captain and ex-Sri Lanka national coach Marvan Atapattu said that he considers the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year title he won in 1990 as a ‘certification or a guarantee’ that he would play for Sri Lanka.

“When I had been performing well and scoring constantly for Ananda as a schoolboy cricketer, many considered me as a future Sri Lanka prospect. Although I too had felt that I had a chance, there was no guarantee,” he said.

Atapattu’s crowning glory as the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year 1990 was an assurance that he would play for Sri Lanka. “All those who had won the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year title before me had gone on to play for Sri Lanka with distinction. So, when I won the title, I knew that I too could join that select band, provided I work hard,” Atapattu recalled as the early era of his career.

“I considered it to be a certification and a guarantee that I would play for Sri Lanka, a source of encouragement and inspiration. So I worked harder, dedicated myself and gave 100 per cent to achieve that goal. I finally made it shortly after winning the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year title,” the 46-year-old former Sri Lanka opener said.

Just a few months after winning the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year, young Atapattu was selected to make his Test debut against India in the one-off Test in Chandigarh on November 23, 1990.

“I see schools going all out to win matches, rather than targeting to producing top cricketers to play for Sri Lanka national team. In an inter-school match, or at any level for that matter, one team has to win. But that does not necessarily mean that the standard of that particular school team has improved. In my opinion, what is important for a school is the number of players they produce to play for Sri Lanka,” the veteran former Ananda, SSC and Sri Lanka captain said.

Unlike during his era during which many schoolboy cricketers directly matched into the national team, Atapattu sees a huge gap between the present day school cricket and international level. “You can hardly identify a schoolboy cricketer and say that he would play for Sri Lanka.

When I look at the present Under-19 players, except for one or two, I don’t see future national prospects who have potential to become great Sri Lanka players,” he said.

But Atapattu does not put the blame on players. Instead, he said that wrong guidance and coaching they have got due to undue competition to win matches at any cost, have killed young talent. “I don’t blame players.

It is because of the wrong guidance and coaching they have got. Old boys,principals, school masters and coaches are only interested in winning matches, rather than producing quality cricketers to play for Sri Lanka,” he pointed out.

Atapattu said players switching schools and coaches trying to ‘Import’ outstanding players from outstations to make champion teams has affected school cricket. “Offering a chance to a top player or two from outstations could be approved as an inspiration to outstation cricketers.

But the present trend is far from that. I know a particular instance where top schoolboy cricketer from Kalutara had even been offered cash incentives to change school teams. “This is crazy. School coaches, principals and old boys must act in a responsible manner rather than hiring players from outstations just for the sake of winning,” he said.

Atapattu, famous for his superb technique as a solid opening batsman, said they had a huge respect for their coaches during his era.

“I wonder whether the players have the same respect for their coaches now. Some teams say they have obtained the services of level one coaches but their ability to produce and offer proper guidance and coaching to the players could be questionable,” he said.

He attributed improper guidance and coaching as the reason for school cricket’s faliure to produce enough national level players for the Sri Lanka pool. “I don’t blame schoolboy cricketers. At that young age, they do all what the coaches say.

It is something to do with the wrong or improper advice they get. It is important they change the approach and think of a broader aspect of producing quality players. It is all about the number of players they produce for the national team and not just the number of matches a team wins,” he stressed.

“It is the duty of the coaches, principals, masters and Old Boys to abandon the present practice of merely winning matches. Instead, they should focus on producing top cricketers. Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) and the Sri Lanka Schools Cricket Association (SLSCA) should look at a big picture at the highest level,” he said.

Asked about reasons that had attributed to poor spectator interest, unlike during his school era, Atapattu said the present day school cricket lacks brilliant individuals.

“Why should somebody come to see a match when all 11 players in a team are alike? During our days, spectators, irrespective of their school affiliations, came to see top players in action, respective of their school affiliations. That does not happen now because there are no outstanding players who could woo spectators,” he said.

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