Sri Lanka’s school cricket is considered as probably the most organized structure in the world. In such a world class school cricket structure, winning the best schoolboy cricketer of the year prize is the dream of every youngster. Winning that unprecedented honour twice in successive years makes it even greater.
In the 40-year-old proud history of Observer-Mobitel Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year, six cricketers, including the great Arjuna Ranatunga, have accomplished this task.
Two Anandians and one each from Royal, Nalanda, St. Peter’s and Richmond have enjoyed that rare honour of winning the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year on two occasions each.
Arjuna Ranatunga (1980 and 1982, Ananda), Roshan Mahanama (1983 and 1984, Nalanda), Thilan Samaraweera (1994 and 1995, Ananda), Lahiru Peiris (2004 and 2005, St.Peter’s), Bhanuka Rajapakse (2010 and 2011, Royal) and Charith Asalanka (2015 and 2016, Richmond) are the extraordinary schoolboy cricketers to win the Mega Award twice each in their cherished history of Observer-Mobitel Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year.
Sri Lanka’s World Cup winning captain Ranatunga was the first to win the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year coveted title twice in 1980 and 1982 while he finished Runner up to Rohan Buultjens in 1981. Besides Ranatunga, all the other five winners achieved their doubles in successive years. The last of that list of champion of the champions list was Charith Asalanka of Richmond College, Galle who won the Observer-Mobitel Cricketer of the Year award in 2015 as well as in 2016. What is more significant in Asalanka’s great feat was that he was the one and only schoolboy cricketer from Richmond to win the Observer-Mobitel Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year title in the 40-year-old history of the event.
Kariyawasam Indipalage Charith Asalanka was born on June 29, 1997 in Elpitiya. He has so far played in 30 first class matches, scoring 1,212 runs with one century and nine fifties. As an all-rounder, he has 30 first class wickets to his credits.
He made his first class debut by turning out for Sri Lanka Development Emerging team against Zimbabwe Development X1 in Harare. He made a dream first class debut scoring a superb century (103 off 224 balls in 302 minutes with 12 boundaries). He also captured two Zimbabwean wickets to guide the Lankan team to a five-wicket victory.
Even his most recent appearance for Sri Lanka Emerging team’s tour of South Africa in June-July 2019, he scored 91 in Pretoria and 56 in Potchefstroom against South Africia Emerging team and also scored 66 against USSA X1 in Pretoria.
He came so near of making his Test debut for Sri Lanka when he was included in the squad for the second Test against England in Pallekelle in November 2018. Asalanka, who scored an aggressive 68 in the second warm-up match against England in the home series, came in ahead of Lahiru Thirimanne and Kusal Perera, who were the two batsmen on standby. However, he was unfortunate not to find place in final X1. Asalanka looked national material right from his early days, touring England with the Sri Lanka Under-17 team in 2013, opening the batting and top-scoring in each innings with 92 and 31 in a three-day match against an English under-17 team at Loughborough.
As an opening batsman for his school Richmond in 2014-15, he guided them into the final of the Inter-School Twenty-20 competition. He was also chosen to captain the Sri Lanka Under-19 team against under-19 teams from Australia and Bangladesh in 2014-15.
He was Sri Lanka’s highest scorer, with an aggregate of 225 runs at an average of 45.00 and second-highest wicket-taker with eight wickets at 21.00 in the five-match under 19 youth series. He played a key role in Sri Lanka’s victory in the first match, capturing 4 for 36 and scoring a fluent 63.
Asalanka’s local first-class debut in April 2015 was a crucial one for his Galle Cricket Club team. The match was to decide who should take the final place in the Premier Trophy in the following season. Galle Cricket Club batted first and were all out for 31. Air Force Sports Club made 215 in reply. Galle lost their first wicket in the second over of the second essay, but Asalanka, batting at number three, hit 114 off 123 balls and Galle put on 295.
Air Force Sports Club needed 112 to win, but Asalanka also captured 4 for 34 along with Malith de Silva’s 6 for 46 to dismiss their opponents for 107, thus giving Galle CC an exciting four-runs victory. He captained Sri Lanka under-19 in a two-match series against Pakistan under-19 in October 2015, scoring 334 runs an attractive average of 167.00, with a double-century and a century. He also led the Sri Lanka team in the 2016 Under-19 Cricket World Cup.
Meanwhile, the 41st Observer-Mobitel Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year contest is scheduled to be held shortly. Prior to that, the special selection panel will meet next week to name the prospective winners.
This will be the 12th consecutive year that Sri Lanka Telecom Mobitel will be sponsoring the Mega Show, the country’s first schools cricket awards show which had started in an era in which there had not been even an inter-school tournament.
Winning the Observer-Mobitel Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year title has remained the dream of every schoolboy cricketer. Moreover, there is a common belief among schoolboy cricketers that the prestigious title would take them closer to a Sri Lanka ‘cap’.
Most past winners of the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the title had made their Sri Lanka debut in double quick time. SLT Mobitel has played a praiseworthy role in the promotion of the Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year contest.
The untiring efforts of Sri Lanka Telecom Chairman Kumarasinghe Sirisena and SLT Mobitel Chief Executive Officer Nalin Perera have played a dynamic role in promoting school cricket in a big way. The unique vision of Lake House Chairman, Krishantha Cooray has always helped this event to go that extra mile.