Most popular cricketers to be announced on Sunday | Daily News

Most popular cricketers to be announced on Sunday

Ranatunga family - (from left) son Dhyan, daughter-in-law Denushka, wife Samadara, Arjuna and daughter Thiyangie
Ranatunga family - (from left) son Dhyan, daughter-in-law Denushka, wife Samadara, Arjuna and daughter Thiyangie

The winners of the 42nd Observer-Mobitel Most Popular Schoolboy and Schoolgirl Cricketers of the Year will be announced on Sunday (8). The last set of polling coupons were accepted until last Monday.

The heavy polling in the first term had a temporary shutdown in the last week of March due to Covid-19 pandemic. But once it was overcome after a short break, the voting gathered its momentum again.

In the last ten days of voting up to the finish, it once again slowed down. But by then, most of the top contenders have maintained their lead till the finish line.

Though there were some clear indications about the leading cricketers, anything could happen in the last moment as the voting closed.

The 42nd Observer-Mobitel School Cricketer of the Year 2020 is organized by Sri Lanka’s flagship English newspaper the Sunday Observer and sponsored by the country’s national mobile service provider Sri Lanka Telecom Mobitel.

Ananda College boy Anuda Jayaweera only has to clear the final step to become the 2020 Observer-Mobitel Most Popular Schoolboy Cricketer. Though anything could happen at the last minute, Jayaweera has shown a steady progress in the penultimate lap, clearing his way from the tail.

Jawaweera, since gaining the top slot about two months back, had a small drop to second and third place about six weeks ago. But he has now maintained his lead over the past one month. With five days to go, Jayaweera further polled 2,459 votes to aggregate 83,576 to remain in the lead.

However, Jayaweera is unlikely to break the all-time record of the highest 100,000 plus votes polled by former Sri Lanka cricketer and Royalist Ramith Rambukwella in 2011. Royalist Ahan Wickramasinghe, who moved up a step ahead to be in the second place last week, remained there by the penultimate lap.

Although he has polled 2,298 fresh votes on the penultimate count, it is still not good enough to cut off the deficit with Jayaweera. Wickramasinghe has now polled 77,017 votes.

Lohan de Soyza of Dharmasoka College who went down to third place about a couple weeks ago, remains there with 75,408 votes. There were no positional changes in both the 42nd Observer-Mobitel Most Popular Schoolboy as well as Schoolgirl Cricketer of the Year contests last week.

As in the Observer-Mobitel Most Popular Schoolboy Cricketer, there were no positional changes in the Observer-Mobitel Most Popular Schoolgirl Cricketer contest too.

Nimesha Wijesundera of Marapola MV, Minuwangoda continued to lead in the Observer-Mobitel Most Popular Schoolgirl Cricketer for 2020. She has polled 59,306 votes by the penultimate week.

Trailing by 5,071 to Wijesundara is Renuka Damayanthi of Bandaranayake MV who remains in the second position.

In the third place is Suranja Lakmali of Gonapola BMV, followed by Janadi Anali (Anula Vidyalaya), Sachini Nethmini (Wadduwa Central), Umsha Himeshani (Devapathiraja Vidyalaya) and Kavisha Dilhari (Devapathiraja Vidyalaya) respectively.

Going down memory lane, Arjuna Ranatunga is one of the few past heroes we could never forget.

Sri Lanka’s World Cup winning captain who emerged Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year in 1980 and 1982, has always made it a point to grace most of the past awards ceremonies whether he is the chief guest or not. Ranatunga, even during his busy schedule when he was a Cabinet Minister, always made it a point to join our awards ceremonies whenever possible to encourage the next generation Sri Lanka cricketers.

That is because he exactly knows how important it is to give a morale booster for the next generation cricketers at the most memorable occasion of their school cricket careers.

“It’s a superb boost for a schoolboy when he is adjudged the Best Batsman, Best Bowler, Best All-rounder or the Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year. That gives courage for him to aim at club level and thereafter international level,” said Ranatunga in his last interview on the Observer-Mobitel Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year.

“You may go places and win many other Awards at higher levels, but an award won at the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year event remains the most memorable in any cricketer’s life,” Ranatunga said.

“The most cherished moment in my life was to win this prestigious award twice in 1980 and1982,” he said and further added that the titles had given him “tremendous inspiration and confidence,” when he had stepped into the international arena.

When he was a schoolboy cricketer playing for Ananda College, Ranatunga had the honour of representing Sri Lanka at the country’s inaugural Test against England in 1982.

He not only played for Sri Lanka while still being a schoolboy cricketer but also made it a memorable occasion by becoming the first Sri Lankan to score a half century (54) in Test cricket.

Ranatunga feels the standard of local school cricket has dropped drastically, making a negative impact on the national pool.

“It is sad to see the deteriorating standards of school cricket. Unfortunately, officials do not pay much attention to school cricket,” Ranatunga was quoted as saying.

Ranatunga, who has made an impeccable contribution to Sri Lanka cricket, said the cricket authorities have forgotten the fact that the foundation of the national pool is school cricket. He stressed the importance of school cricket when filling the vacancies in the national team.

“They must keep in mind that school cricket is the cradle of the national team. The government must also focus on sports and particularly on cricket which has brought glory to our country internationally,” he said.

The former Ananda, SSC and Sri Lanka captain feels that lack of spectator interest in school cricket at present is due to poor standards dished out at school level.

“The quality of cricket that is produced is poor and discourages spectators. Spectators will always be there if quality cricket is played, maintaining high standards. School cricket could regain the spectators it has lost if we could improve its standard,” he added.

“During our days, future Sri Lankan stars could be identified from junior cricket level. Then when we played first XI cricket, more than half of the top 20 schoolboy cricketers were assured of their places in the national pool. But it is altogether a different scenario now due to poor standards.

Even if a player has performed well at school level now, he will find it hard and is unable to absorb the pressure at club or national level.

“That is why we don’t see schoolboy cricketers stepping straight into the national team and cement their place as experienced during our era,” Ranatunga said.

Sri Lanka’s flagship English newspaper - the Sunday Observer, understood the need to recognize the raw talent of the country’s schoolboy cricketers at a time when there had been no organized inter-school cricket tournaments, apart from the traditional first XI matches of the so-called leading schools.

But the introduction of the show and its expansion to have a separate segment for outstation schoolboy cricketers went a long way in inspiring the talented cricketers in the far flung areas.

Under the directions of the Chairman of Sri Lanka Telecom and SLT Mobitel Rohan Fernando, the Chief Executive Officer of the SLT Mobitel Nalin Perera has made a lavish contribution towards the success of the event during the past decade.

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 School Cricketers of the Year contest has gone from strength to strength.

Over the past 42 years, all top Sri Lanka cricketers have commended the exemplary role played by the Observer-Mobitel School Cricketer of the Year.