Fifty years hence and the contest goes on

Times of Ceylon the pioneers of Schoolboy Cricketer contest
By Rangi Akbar
The Bata/Sunday Times Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year contest which was held lately amidst great pomp and pageantry brought back nostalgic memories of the competition which has reached its Golden Jubilee.
Great cricketers of the past who have followed the path the schoolboy cricketers have trod and gone on to play at national level must be a proud and distinguished lot.

A brief look at the past brought back memories of such stalwarts - Ranjith Fernando (wicket-keeper batsman of St. Benedict’s Kotahena and ultimately Sri Lanka), his brother Sunil Fernando, Darrell Maye of Wesley, Anura Tennekoon of S. Thomas’ Mt. Lavinia, E.L. Pereira (Royal 1959), N.K.B. Angammana of Dharmaraja Kandy, S. Wimalaratne (Ananda), Tony Opatha St. Peter’s skipper of 1967 and many more cricketers who donned flannels and are a forgotten lot. However it is hard to erase the memories created by these cricket greats.

Hailing from Kandy, the performances of Trinity stalwarts Sunil Perera, Eric Roles, Nimal Maralande, Anil Ratwatte, Harindra Dunuwilla, Mohan Sahayam (who also played rugby for Sri Lanka), M.T.M. Zaruk and Himendra Ranaweera were very much in my mind when I was asked to do this piece.

Then there was the earth stomping run ups of Thomian fast bowler Roger D’ Silva which struck terror in their opponents hearts, the skilful wicket-keeping of Randy Morrell behind the wickets for S. Thomas’ Mt. Lavinia and the majestic action of Royal’s athlete cum cricketer Darrel Lieversz, and the performances of Darrel Wimalaratne of St. Peter’s will always be etched in my mind.

The performances of Franklyn Burke of St. Anthony’s Katugastota, Brian Perumal of St. Joseph’s, Lucky Karunatilleke (Trinity) and Denham Juriansz of St. Peter’s also finds a special niche.

After a spell at Gulf News, Dubai when I rejoined The Sunday Times Group in 1997 one of the major assignments I was entrusted was the covering of the 1999 Prudential World Cup competition in England under the captaincy of Arjuna Ranatunga.

Feelings and aspirations ran high when the team took wing to England, especially after Sri Lanka had won the World Cup in 1996 and an exciting young batsman Mahela Jayawardena was included in the team and much was expected of him. Roy Dias was the team’s coach.

The help extended to me by Ranjith Fernando and his brother Sunil Fernando, especially in Northampton cannot be forgotten.

But Alas! Sri Lanka could not get into the Super Eight that year and a whole lot of journalists covering the contest had to return dejectedly!

In due course Mahela captained Sri Lanka with distinction and now Kumar Sangakkara is at the helm. To all and sundry he is doing a great job.

Ranjith Fernando was selected Schoolboy Cricketer of the year 1964 in the annual contest organized by The Times of Ceylon and was awarded the Donovan Andree Memorial Challenge Trophy.

The special panel to make the selection comprised of Messrs D.W.L. Lieversz, Gerry Gooneratne, M.A. Jayasinghe, T.B. Marambe and Nisal Senaratne. They were unanimous in their choice of Fernando for the main prize.

Ranjit Fernando who was one of Sri Lanka’s best known wicket-keepers had performed extremely well throughout the season while his batting too was of high quality. He also brought his experience to the successes achieved by his college team during the season.

Ranjith Fernando’s skilful wicket-keeping earned him the Best schoolboy fielder’s title as well while St. Benedict’s College who had a good season, finished up with an unbeaten record. The judges were unanimous in their decision in selecting the team as the best in schools.

St. Benedict’s that year was led by Sunil Fernando, (younger brother of Ranjit). In addition to the Fernandos’ there was Felix Dias, S. Perumal, Anandappa, Withanachy and Sirisena who did extremely well. The team was coached by Bertie Wijesinghe, the former All Ceylon player who was sports editor of the Evening Observer at that time.

Anura Tennekoon, a classy stroke maker was chosen as the Best schoolboy batsman. Tennekoon headed the batting averages having scored 513 runs during the season with an average of 56.84. He was the mainstay of the Thomian team and played a grand innings for his side in the big match against Royal that year. Tennekoon went on to become one of Sri Lanka’s elegant stroke makers with many good scores against leading countries.

N.K.B. Angammana of Dharmaraja, a tear-away bowler, was selected the best bowler amongst schools in 1964. Angammana who opened the attack was above the ordinary and bowled consistently well during the season to wind-up with 61 wickets.

1963 was a good year for Wesley as Darrell Maye was selected Schoolboy cricketer of the year. Thus he joined the select band of schoolboy cricketers of that era: - Lorensz Pereira (Royal - 1959), Yatigammana Amaradasa (Ananda - 1960) and S. Wimalaratne(Ananda - 1962).
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