A flame that burned through a virus | Sunday Observer

A flame that burned through a virus

FLASHBACK: Double celebration for Royal College in 2011 as Bhanuka Rajapakse and Ramith Rambukwella emerged the Observer-Mobitel Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year and Most Popular Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year
FLASHBACK: Double celebration for Royal College in 2011 as Bhanuka Rajapakse and Ramith Rambukwella emerged the Observer-Mobitel Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year and Most Popular Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year

When the Covid-19 epidemic hit the world and we in Sri Lanka too had it from mid-March, none thought that the 42nd Obsevrer-Mobitel School Cricketers of the Year would ever be a reality this year.

There were enough and more reasons to think so as everything in our day to day lives came to a complete standstill as the deadly coronavirus spread worldwide, bringing almost all human activities to a complete standstill.

From the second weekend in March which the oldest uninterrupted inter-school cricket match – the Royal-Thomian encounter was just played, the authorities in Sri Lanka took a determined approach to face the Covid-19 epidemic.

Thanks to the determined efforts of the health authorities, security forces and Government officials, Sri Lanka implemented one of the world’s most successful campaigns under President Gotabaya Rajapaksa. While citizens in the so-called big countries in the world perished in next to no time due the Covid-19, Sri Lanka set new world marks in combating the coronavirus.

Thus, Sri Lanka became one of the most least effected countries in the world from Covid-19. Though the threat posed from Covid-19 cannot be ruled out altogether, Sri Lanka is on a better wicket.

Hence, the 42nd Observer-Mobitel School Cricketer of the Year will now be held at the BMICH on November 18, following health clearance from all Covid-19 Government agencies and the Task Force.

This will be a giant leap forward for the 42nd Observer-Mobitel School Cricketer of the Year in an atmosphere unlike any of the school cricket awards shows, which mushroomed in recent times and are struggling due to lack of sponsorships.

Full credit must go to the principal sponsor – Sri Lanka’s national mobile partner Sri Lanka Telecom Mobitel which is honouring its commitment.

The long-awaited 42nd Observer -Mobitel School Cricketers of the Year will now be held immediately after the GCE Advanced Level examination.

The final Selections have now been finalized. Schoolboy and schoolgirl cricketers who will carry away the top awards were picked last week by officials of the Sri Lanka Schools Cricket Association (SLSCA) and Cricket Umpires Association at a meeting at the Galadari Hotel, Colombo. The distinguished panel was chaired by Ashantha de Mel, the chairman of the National Selection Committee.

It was special to have De Mel as chairman of the Observer-Mobitel Schoolboy and Schoolgirl Cricketers of the Year selection panel - a fitting tribute to one of Sri Lanka’s top fast bowlers in the early Test era.

The SLSCA delegation at the Selection Committee meeting was led by its president Thilak Waththuhewa, Principal of Nalanda Vidyalaya. Apart from the SLSCA top officials, several umpires and batsman.lk officials also supported the panel with their statistical data in picking the winners.

The Observer-Mobitel School Cricketer of the Year has come a long way from its humble beginnings at the Nawarangahala in 1978/79.

Returning to the BMICH as the host venue was mainly due to the fact that it has the capacity to accommodate a large gathering in keeping with the Government’s Health Ministry regulations after the Covid-19 pandemic. The BMICH has a seating capacity of 1,600 and in order to adhere to the Government health regulations due to Covid-19, we are inviting only 800 guests for the Mega Show.

The Observer-Mobitel Schoolboy and Schoolgirl Cricketers of the Year has improved in every aspect to become the best in rewarding the champion of champions.

A couple of competitive shows which copied the Mega Show are not rewarding cricketers this year. We have always encouraged these events as the Mother of All Shows for the benefit of the teenagers. But the rival events will not be at play this time as their sponsors seem to have ended their innings due to lack of mileage owing to the Covid-19 lockdown.

But the sponsor of the Observer-Mobitel School Cricketers of the Year show – SLT Mobitel played a straight bat with the Sunday Observer to maintain the uninterrupted run of the event for the 42nd year. Thus, the 42nd Observer-Mobitel School Cricketer of the Year will be the only formal school cricket awards show for the year 2020.

Thus, the event has turned out to become the showpiece of Sri Lanka school cricket that has given birth to legendary cricketers from Asia Cup winners to World champs, 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.

These are some of the memorable happenings among many that 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 the 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 fulfilled 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 leading schools.

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

The ANCL Chairman/CEO W. Dayaratne, President’s Counsel, has given his fullest support. Together with his Director Editorial Dharma Sri Kariyawasam, Director Legal and Administration Rakhitha Abeygunawardhana, Director Finance Janaka Ranatunga and Director Operations Canishka Witharana, the ANCL Chairman has helped the Mega Show go from strength to strength.

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