Giving school cricketers their due recognition – ANCL leads the way
School cricket is the bedrock of cricket in Sri Lanka. It is from these very foundations that the country has produced world class cricketers who have rubbed shoulders with the rest of the world and won accolades and world titles and made us a proud nation.
For years Sri Lanka’s school system has been the envy of all other nations and if at any point we have faltered it is the poor domestic club system that is in place and one which keeps on changing like the proverbial Lankan weather each time a new administration takes over.
What our focus today is the schoolboys who have gone onto represent the country. It is not everyone who is lucky enough to wear the national cap, there have been several brilliant schoolboy cricketers who have failed to make the grade.
What every boy relishes is for his performances to be recognized and rewarded so that it becomes the stepping stone to reach the higher echelons.
In this aspect the Associated Newspapers of Ceylon Limited (ANCL), the flagship of newspaper journalism in this country has played a pivotal role in recognizing the outstanding talents of these young students and projecting them to the rest of the country and thereby helping them earn the recognition they may not have got and eventually showing the path to international stardom.
The history of the Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year award shows that it was first awarded by the patronage of Warner-Hudnut Ltd in 1978 and the first winner was Ranjan Madugalle. But it was not until the ANCL’s Sunday paper the Sunday Observer took over in 1979 and started running it as an annual much look-forward to event that the award really got its true meaning, value and momentum. The event has been run in collaboration with other companies like Bata and Mobitel the current sponsors.
No doubt Madugalle was the winner of the 1979 award as well and the first conducted by the ANCL’s Sunday Observer. Since then for the next 40 years these awards have taken place without a break and on September 20, the 41st awards night is due to take place at the Colombo Hilton and like all its predecessors in grandeur.
What is so unique about this event is that the ANCL with its ever changing administration at the top has been able to keep it going for so long and all credit to those behind the scenes who over the years has taken the trouble and time not only to make it happen and become a reality, but ensured that its continuity has made the awards night something similar to the Academy Awards (the Oscars) connected to the film industry which is 91 years old, the International Cricket Council (ICC) Cricket Awards to recognize and honour the best international cricketers since 2004 and the Laureus World Sports Awards for achievements in sports established in 2000. The Observer-Mobitel Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year awards may not have the same global audience but the manner in which it has been organized and conducted for 40 consecutive years alone should give it some credibility to be ranked with some of the other annual international awards.
This year’s awards night will break new ground when for the first time schoolgirl cricketers’ achievements will also be given due recognition. With women’s cricket gaining more and more popularity over the world, this new concept of Observer-Mobitel to introduce awards for girls will certainly boost cricket in schools, like it did with the boys when the first awards were held 40 years ago.
Girls’ cricket unlike the boys is not so popular and needs a shot in the arm and this is one way to encourage the schools to take to the game and spread it far and wide across the length and breadth of the country. Recognition is something that every schoolboy, schoolgirl and the schools yearns for and the Observer/Mobitel School Cricket Awards has provided that platform for them.
May the ensuing years provide the organisers of this most prestigious awards more power to their elbow so that we will one day see not only schoolboys but also schoolgirls going onto gain national honours by representing the country and winning many accolades.