Final selections tomorrow | Daily News
42nd Observer-Mobitel School Cricketers of the Year:

Final selections tomorrow

Chairman of Sri Lanka's national selectors Ashantha de Mel will head the Observer-Mobitel Schoolboy and Schoolgirl Cricketers selection panel as well.
Chairman of Sri Lanka's national selectors Ashantha de Mel will head the Observer-Mobitel Schoolboy and Schoolgirl Cricketers selection panel as well.

The Chairman of the national selection committee, Ashantha de Mel will head the high powered panel that will pick the winners of the 42nd Observer-Mobitel Schoolboy and Schoolgirl Cricketers of the Year at Galadari Hotel, Colombo tomorrow (18).

De Mel, who had the honour of capturing the country’s first Test wicket, that of Geoff Cook in the inaugural Test against England in 1982, is currently heading the Sri Lanka national selection panel. Hence, it will be a fitting tribute to have De Mel chairing the 2020 Observer-Mobitel Schoolboy and Schoolgirl Cricketers of the Year selection panel.

Joining the selection process with the former Sri Lanka ace fast bowler are the officials of the Sri Lanka Schools Cricket Association (SLSCA) and Cricket Umpires Association.

The SLSCA delegation will be led by its President Thilak Waththuhewa, Principal of Nalanda Vidyalaya. Apart from the SLSCA top officials, several umpires and batsman.lk officials will also support the panel with their statistical data in picking the winners.

Based on the outcome of the selections, the top players who will carry away the big awards will be decided. The 42nd Observer-Mobitel Schoolboy and Schoolgirl Cricketers of the Year 2020 Mega Show is likely to be held no sooner the postponed GCE Advanced Level examination is over.

The concept of rewarding schoolboy cricketers at the end of each season was introduced to Sri Lanka by Lake House and the prestigious event was first held in 1978/79.

From its humble beginnings at Nawarangahala to the posh Grand Ballroom of the Colombo Hilton, the Observer-Mobitel Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year contest has gone from strength to strength via BMICH and Galadari Hotel. But for a longer duration the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer has been associated with the BMICH and it is likely that we return to the same original venue this year.

The show has improved in every aspect to become the best in rewarding the champion of champions. Even the initial sponsor Haliborange to Bata Shoe Company and current sponsor SLT Mobitel, the quality and standards of the contest has improved every year since Sri Lanka’s first school cricket awards show.

Undoubtedly, this has turned out to become the showpiece of Sri Lanka school cricket that has given birth to legendary cricketers from world champions to Asia Cup winners, man of the series winners at ICC World Cup tournaments, highest wicket taker in Test cricket, Chief ICC Match Referee and the best umpire in the ICC elite panel. Moreover, the Mega Show has produced several other Sri Lanka captains, record number of double centurions in Tests and the most number of players in a world champion team.

Every year, there is a packed house to enjoy the glitz and the glamour of the Mother of all Shows, which is going great guns, producing hundreds of top cricketers as a feeding centre for the Sri Lanka national team.

The Observer-Mobitel Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year has remained the most sought after and looked forward to event in the local schools calendar and there is a general belief that winning this richest award would inspire the winners to have a tilt of making it to the Sri Lanka national team in double quick time.

There are plenty of genuine reasons to have such a common belief as from the very first winner Ranjan Madugalle, the Observer Schoolboy Cricketers have produced many records in Sri Lanka cricket.

In any given Sri Lanka team from the inaugural Test team in 1982, there have been former Observer Schoolboy Cricketer winners playing for the national side.

For example, Sri Lanka’s first Test half centurion Arjuna Ranatunga who made it to the Sri Lanka team as a schoolboy. Madugalle who scored the second fifty ever in Tests minutes later also in the inaugural match against England in February 1982, made another first.

Madugalle, still being a schoolboy in his final year at Royal College, made it to the Sri Lanka’s ICC World Cup team in 1979 in the pre-Test era.

Sri Lanka’s world champion team in 1996, which beat Australia by seven wickets in the final in Lahore, had no less than seven players, including the captain Ranatunga, who had won the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year award.

When it came to captaincy, six top former Sri Lanka captains produced have been winners at the Observer Cricketer of the Year show.

This year’s selections will be made by a special panel. It will comprise some Ex-Co members of the Sri Lanka Schools Cricket Association and members of the umpires association. Hence, we had the blessings of Sri Lanka Cricket and SLSCA as well as umpires.

These are some of the memorable happenings among many that would tell how the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year contest has been associated with Sri Lanka cricket history.

It has been the feeder pool for the national team, providing an ideal opportunity for the next generation of cricketers once they graduate from Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year ‘cricketing university’.

Organized by the Associated Newspapers of Ceylon Limited (ANCL), the event is sponsored by the country’s national mobile service provider Sri Lanka Telecom Mobitel for the 13th successive year. Chairman of Sri Lanka Telecom and SLT Mobitel Rohan Fernando and SLT Mobitel CEO Nalin Perera have given their maximum financial backing to keep the Mega Show alive.

The Sunday Observer realized the need to reward the raw talent of the country’s schoolboy cricketers way back in 1978-79 at a time when there had been no organized inter-school cricket tournaments, apart from the traditional first XI matches between the so-called leading schools.

With the introduction of the Show and its expansion it has a separate segment for outstation schoolboy cricketers and it went a long way in inspiring the talented players from remote areas.

Lake House Chairman and board of management have always given their best support to keep the Mega Show alive. Chairman/CEO W. Dayaratne, President’s Counsel, together with Director Editorial Dharma Sri Kariyawasam, Director Legal and Administration Rakhitha Abeygunawardhana, Director Finance Janaka Ranatunga and Director Operations Canishka Witharana have helped this show to go from strength to strength.