School cricket to resume as season commences in March | Daily News
42nd Sunday Observer-Mobitel School Cricketer of the Year

School cricket to resume as season commences in March

SLSCA president Thilak Waththuhewa
SLSCA president Thilak Waththuhewa

Royal, Trinity, D.S. Senenayake, De Mazenod, Wesley and Gurukula MV have been drawn in division 1 Group ‘A’ section ‘X’ in the Inter-school Under-19 limited over tournament to be played from later next month.

The Division 1 Group ‘A’ section ‘Y’ will comprise St. Benedict’s, St. Joseph’s, Mahanama, St. Thomas’, Matara, St. Sebastian’s and St. Anne’s, Kurunegala while section ‘Z’ of the same group will have Nalanda, S. Thomas’, St. Anthony’s Katugastota, Prince of Wales, Richmond and Maliyadeva.

The long awaited 2020-2021 Under-19 inter-school cricket season will begin on March 20, after the completion of the postponed GCE Ordinary Level 2020 examination.

However, there will be no two-day tournament this year due to limited time left after the Covid-19 pandemic. Hence, the official 2020-2021 Under-19 tournament will only be confined to a limited-over affair.

Division 1 Group ‘B’ section ‘X’ will have St. Peter’s, Thurstan, Mahinda, Dharmaraja, St. Aloysius’ and Moratu MV while section ‘Y’ will comprise Ananda, Isipatana, Zahira, Joseph Vaz, Dharmapala and Maris Stella. The section ‘Z’ of division 1 Group will comprise St. Sylvester’s, Dharmasoka, St. Servetius’, Devapathiraja, Lumbini and St. Anthony’s, Wattala.

Similarly, another 36 school teams will battle in the Division 1 tournament drawn under three groups A, B and C. All in all, there will be 72 teams competing in the Under-19 division 1 and division 11 tournaments.

President of the Sri Lanka Schools Cricket Association (SLSCA) Thilak Waththuhewa said they plan to commence the new inter-school Under-19 season after the conclusion of the GCE O/L examination.

“We have already drafted the SLSCA plan to conduct the Under-19 tournament from March 20. We have sent the tournament schedule to the Education Ministry to get the clearance from the health authorities,” said Waththuhewa, the former Nalanda Principal who is now the Principal of Richmond College, Galle.

“Unfortunately, there will not be any two-day tournament matches. Instead, we plan to conduct the one day limited over tournament this time from March 20 to April 30. We plan to conduct the finals and finish the tournaments by April 30,” said the SLSCA President.

The one-day limited over tournament will be conducted under two divisions with each team drawn to play five qualifying round league matches.

“There will be 32 teams competing in division one – 16 in tier ‘A’ and another 16 in tier ‘B’. Similarly, there will be another 32 teams in the division two. There again in division two, 16 teams will be in tier ‘A’ and another 16 in tier ‘B’,” Waththuhewa said.

He said the teams will get 40 days to complete their matches including the finals by April 30.

“All these 32 teams each in divisions one and two will get five qualifying round matches each. After the qualifying league round, eight teams each will be selected to play in the final rounds from quarter final onwards.

“The maximum number of tournament matches a team has to honour is eight, including the five qualifying round games,” the Sri Lanka Schools Cricket chief explained.

The SLSCA President said apart from these tournament matches, schools may play their traditional two-day matches such as big matches, subject to clearance from the health authorities due to the prevailing Covid-19 pandemic threat.

The world’s only uninterrupted big match – the Battle of the Blues between Royal and S. Thomas’ is likely to be played in Hambantota at the Mahinda Rajapaksa International Cricket Stadium in April. Negotiations are already underway to play the Royal-Thomain without spectators.

But there will be live television coverage of the three-day affair, similar to the recently conducted Sri Lanka Premier League T20. The idea is mooted to maintain the 142-year-old traditions since 1879.

The Mahinda Rajapaksa International Cricket Stadium will be the ninth ground and the first outside Colombo to host the prestigious Royal-Thomian cricket encounter. When the Covid-19 pandemic first hit Sri Lanka badly in mid-March, last year’s Battle of the Blues had just been concluded. Luckily, almost all First X1 matches of the 2019/20 season were completed by then.

With the commencement of the new First X1 under-19 cricket season next month, the 43rd Observer-Mobitel School Cricketer of the Year will also be launched with the most popular contests.

The Observer-Mobitel School Cricketer of the Year contest has been held annually for 41 successive years since 1979, except for the last year due to the Covid-19 pandemic. But the postponed awards ceremony for 2020 will be held next month.

The Observer-Mobitel School Cricketer of the Year is conducted by Sri Lanka’s number one English newspaper, the Sunday Observer and sponsored by Sri Lanka Telecom Mobitel.

Thanks to the longstanding association of the Sri Lanka Schools Cricket Association (SLSCA), the Sri Lanka Cricket Umpires and Scorers Association and Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC), headed by Shammi Silva, the Observer-Mobitel Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year contest has gone from strength to strength.

With Sri Lanka Telecom Mobitel coming forward to add more power and energy to the Observer School Cricketer of the Year show 13 years ago, the quality of the event has been drastically improved.

In addition to giving away rich cash awards to the schoolboy and schoolgirl cricketers, the coaches and masters in charge who put a lot of effort behind the scene have been rewarded.

The Mega Show’s expansion to have a separate segment for outstation schoolboy cricketers went a long way in inspiring the talented players in far flung areas.

Under the directions of the chairman of Sri Lanka Telecom and SLT Mobitel, Rohan Fernando the Mega Show will march forward with more power and strength.

This is the 14th successive year that SLT Mobitel is sponsoring the show, at a time when the company is heading towards new horizons under the dynamic leadership of SLT and Mobitel, Fernando, the former Thomian ace rower.

It has been enjoyable working with Fernando who has a tremendous sporting record, including being the President of the Sri Lanka Sailing Association and ex-Vice President of the National Olympic Committee of Sri Lanka.

It is encouraging to see more and more school cricket award shows emerging, following that great initiative of Sri Lanka’s flagship English newspaper – the Sunday Observer way back in 1978/79. It was the ANCL which inaugurated the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year contest at a time when there wasn’t a single awards ceremony to recognize the talent of schoolboy cricketers.

Neither the school cricket governing body - Sri Lanka Schools Cricket Association, nor the national governing body for cricket - Sri Lanka Cricket or then BCCSL, had a program to reward outstanding schoolboy cricketers.

There were no inter-school tournaments for First X1 cricket either. But 42 years ago, the Sunday Observer, as the country’s undisputed English newspaper since 1928, realized the need to recognize talent of budding schoolboy cricketers who could step into Sri Lankan teams and become international stars by organizing this show of shows.

This initiative has proved fruitful as the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer show winners have gone on to hit the top as international cricketers.

It was the then Royal College captain Ranjan Madugalle who was adjudged Observer Schoolboy Cricketer in 1978 and 1979.

That inspired Madugalle to go places, captaining NCC in club cricket, leading Sri Lanka with distinction and currently holding the top post in international cricket as the ICC Chief Match Referee.

Sri Lanka’s 1996 World Cup winning captain Arjuna Ranatunga had the honour of winning the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year title twice – in 1980 and 1982.

During the past four decades and more, the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year contest has gone from strength to strength, producing some of the best Sri Lanka cricketers – Asanka Gurusinha, Roshan Mahanama, Muttiah Muralidaran, Kumara Dharmasena, Marvan Atapattu, Sanath Jayasuriya, Thilan Samaraweera, Dinesh Chandimal, Niroshan Dickwella and Kusal Mendis, to name a few.

All these cricketers have entered the big league after their ‘graduation’ as Observer-Mobitel Schoolboy Cricketers.

The success and immense popularity of the Observer-Mobitel Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year contest has persuaded some to follow our great initiative and conduct schoolboy cricketer awards shows but none of them would ever be able to emulate the Observer-Mobitel Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year contest which continues to maintain its rich traditions.

We are delighted and honoured to see more school cricket award shows emerging because that eventually meets our initial goal.

We are happy to see others following the Sunday Observer example because it helps the country’s budding schoolboy cricketers who would ultimately benefit from all these shows.

Hence, the Mother of all Shows – the Observer-Mobitel Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year contest continues for the 43rd time, breaking new ground and serves as a talent search for tomorrow’s cricketing heroes.