Muralitharan had words of wisdom for schoolboys | Daily News

Muralitharan had words of wisdom for schoolboys

Muttiah Muralitharan received the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year in 1991 from then Housing and Construction Minister B. Sirisena Cooray while Editor-in-Chief H.L.D. Mahindapala looks on.
Muttiah Muralitharan received the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year in 1991 from then Housing and Construction Minister B. Sirisena Cooray while Editor-in-Chief H.L.D. Mahindapala looks on.

The 43rd Observer-SLT Mobitel School Cricketers of the Year mega show will be held at the BMICH in Colombo mid-next month.

The tentative clearance of the health authorities to host the Mega Show, have already been granted. However, the final green light and the number of participants – whether it will be increase or decrease from the current figure, will be decided next month, depending on the Covid-19 situation at that time.

Despite the global pandemic striking the world early last year and still continuing to disrupt day to day activities, we were fortunate in 2020 to host the 42nd Observer-SLT Mobitel School Cricketers of the Year contest last April.

With the Sunday Observer and SLT Mobitel showing their continuous support towards schools cricket as true corporate citizens, we were able to hold the Observer-SLT Mobitel School Cricketers of the Year without interruption. This was when all sporting activities came to a standstill, including similar events.

Even the SLSCA, the school’s cricket governing body, could not hold its annual awards ceremony in the last two years. That too is understandable as the Observer School Cricketers of the Year began 43 years ago, long before the SLSCA began their own awards ceremony for schools cricket.

Needless to say how important it is for school cricketers to win an award as recognition for their commendable achievements after a strenuous season. It is not just appreciating their achievements but also a big inspiration for them to step into the big league.

All past winners of this prestigious title have repeatedly said what a big inspiration the award had been to their cricket careers. Since its humble beginnings at the Nawarangahala in 1979, the Observer Schools Cricketers of the Year contest has gone from strength to strength.

Meanwhile, the most popular segment of the 43rd Observer-SLT Mobitel School Cricketers of the Year has reached its final lap. With less than a month to go for the closure of the most popular cricketers of the year voting, there has been a keen tussle for supremacy in both the Most Popular schoolboy and schoolgirl contests.

Asen Bandara of St. Anthony’s College, Kandy and W.P. Nimesha Tharuni of Marapola MV continue to maintain their lead in the 43rd Observer-SLT Mobitel Most Popular School Cricketers of the Year contest. However, both contests are still wide open.

Though Bandara enjoyed his slim lead in the latest round of voting, there was a vital change in the second position. Shadisha Rajapakse of Royal College advanced to second place displacing Dunith Wellalage of St. Joseph’s College to third place.

However, there has not been any major positional change in the Most Popular Schoolgirl Cricketer of the Year contest. Nimesha Tharuni extended her lead with D. Chushadi Kaushalya of Dharmapala Vidyalaya, Pannipitiya and Nethmi Poorna of Wadduwa Central in the second and third places respectively.

In the last few weeks, we had a close look at some of the past winners of the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year contest starting with the first ever winner in 1979, Ranjan Madugalle, the former Sri Lanka captain now serving as the Chief Match Referee of the ICC. Today, we focus on the best bowler that Sri Lanka has ever produced, Muttiah Muralitharan.

The world record holder for the highest wicket-taker in Test cricket, Muralitharan first came to the limelight through the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer contest exactly 30 years ago.

Even at that tender age, Muralitharan was a highly successful bowler in school cricket. He was adjudged Observer Schoolboy Cricketer in 1991 as a promising off-spinner from St. Anthony’s College, Katugastota.

Over the four-decade-old history of the Observer-Mobitel Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year, the contest has given that much-needed inspiration and motivation to the country’s budding schoolboy cricketers to extend their playing careers beyond school level.

There have been many outstanding players who aggregated over 1,000 runs or captured over 100 wickets during a season but only a few have taken such performances to the next level. Playing for a reputed club after ending their school careers and winning the Sri Lanka cap thereafter has been the dream of every schoolboy cricketer but only a handful would eventually fulfill that dream.

One such outstanding player who not only had achieved that goal in style but had also gone on to erase world records in Test cricket is Muralitharan. He had emerged through the premier school cricket awards show some 30 years ago.

The most sensational news in school cricket during that era was about a magical off-spinner who had shattered the dreams of all batsmen in inter-school cricket.

Having come to the limelight to enjoy rich harvests of over 100 wickets each in successive seasons, the soft-spoken and publicity-shy young Katugastota Antonian cricketer ultimately turned out to be the biggest headache to all top batsmen in world cricket.

The stepping stone for the young lad to international cricket was the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year title he won in 1991. After making his Sri Lanka debut soon afterward, he cemented his place in the national team in next to no time.

He eventually became the highest ever wicket-taker in Test cricket, establishing several other world records in international cricket. Muralitharan returned to the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year stage in 2011 as the chief guest, some 20 years after his own crowning glory.

Muralitharan, born on April 17, 1972, has achieved loads of records that would be hard to emulate. He is the only person in the world to capture 800 wickets in Test cricket. Representing Sri Lanka in 133 Tests, he has accounted for 800 scalps with an attractive average of 22.72.

Addressing the gathering at the 33rd Observer-Mobitel Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year awards night as the chief guest, Muralitharan looked emotional when he went down the memory lane.

“You young cricketers are our future Sri Lanka players. You must keep the Sri Lanka flag flying wherever you go. Play hard and dedicate yourself, then success is bound to come,” he said.

“As young cricketers, you must keep in mind that only 11 could play in a team. When you get that rare chance of playing, you must put your heart and soul and give your hundred percent to the team so that success will come your way,” Muralitharan told the gathering.

He paid a rich tribute to the Sunday Observer for its role in rewarding the outstanding schoolboy cricketers since 1979.

“Don’t be disappointed if you fail once or twice in the early stages of your career. Keep on trying and success is bound to come your way,” he said.

Muralitharan also advised the schoolboys present at the show. “Keep absolutely cool even when the going is not the way you want. I learnt this from my captain Arjuna Ranatunga (another proud recipient of the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year award in 1980 and 1982) who sported a cool head even when the going was not good. Arjuna used to take pressure off the players when the going was not to his liking. He doesn’t show any anger – that’s why he is called captain cool,” Muralitharan said.

With his deadly off breaks, Muralitharan has enjoyed match bags of ten wickets or more on 22 occasions which too accounts for a world record. No other bowler has captured five wickets or more on 67 occasions in Test cricket.

His One-Day International record too is equally impressive. In 350 ODIs, the master spinner has captured 534 wickets with an average of 23.08.

It is heartening to see the Mega Show is marching proudly in its 43rd year. Most importantly, the country’s national mobile service provider has been associated with Sri Lanka’s first-ever school cricket awards show for 15 years.

Together with the Sri Lanka Telecom and SLT Mobitel management, SLT Group Chairman Rohan Fernando is extending the fullest support to make the ‘Mother of all Shows’ a resounding success once again as it continues to remain the dream of every schoolboy cricketer.

Meanwhile, the selection process of the 43rd Observer-SLT Mobitel Schools Cricketers of the Year contest was held at the Galadari Hotel early last week.

Hence, it’s high time to support your Alma Mater by voting for your favourite schoolboy cricketer and motivating the next generation cricketers. It will be a morale booster for those outstanding young cricketers as the cream of them prepare to enter the club arena with the hope of proudly wearing the Sri Lanka cap eventually.

It is good to discover that several others have followed the Sunday Observer’s initiative to hold similar awards shows to commend the achievements of schoolboy cricketers after every season but none of those shows were held in the last two years.

Thus, the Sunday Observer SLT Mobitel Schools Cricketers of the Year remains the ‘Mother of all Shows’.


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