The forgotten Nimesh | Sunday Observer

The forgotten Nimesh

The excitement of school cricket will reach its climax when the country’s top schoolboy cricketers will be rewarded for their efforts after a strenuous 2018-19 season.

That’s when the 41st Observer-Mobitel Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year gala awards night will be held at a posh venue in Colombo shortly. School cricket’s premier and the first inter-school awards show will be sponsored by the country’s national mobile communication provider SLT Mobitel, under its dynamic CEO Nalin Perera.

The rich four decade old history of the Observer-Mobitel Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year contest has given that much-needed inspiration and motivation to the country’s budding schoolboy cricketers to extend their playing careers beyond school level.

There have been many outstanding players who aggregated over 1000 runs or captured over 100 wickets during a season but only a few have taken such performances to the next level. Playing for a reputed club after ending their school careers and winning the Sri Lanka cap thereafter has been the dream of every schoolboy cricketer but only a handful would eventually fulfill that dream.

After former Sri Lanka cricketer Thilan Samaraweera of Ananda College made it a clean sweep winning back to back titles in 1994 and 1995, it was Nimesh Perera of St. Sebastian’s College, Moratuwa who was unanimously picked as Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year 1996.

When Nimesh Perera won the title in 1996, Sri Piyaratne Maha Vidyalaya, Padukka skipper Chandana Samarasinghe took away the Outstation Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year by the panel of umpires from the three umpiring associations - Association of Cricket Umpires Association (Sri Lanka), Central Province Cricket Umpires Association and Southern Province Cricket Umpires Association.

Besides winning the top title, Nimesh Perera, who had a haul of over 100 wickets for the second successive year, also won the awards for the best bowler and was runner-up in the best all-rounder’s category. In the 1994-95 season, Nimesh captured 130 wickets and in the following 1995-96 season, he had a haul of 134 wickets for 1605 runs which gave him an average of 11.97 a piece. He also batted well to collect 764 runs.

In 1995, Nimesh was runner-up in the Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year award to Tilan Samaraweera of Ananda for the second time. However, Samaraweera’s dream of becoming the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year which would have been for the third successive year was foiled by Nimesh.

In 1996, Nimesh Perera became the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year while Tilan Samaraweera became the runner-up. Samaraweera, however kept the title of best all-rounder which he won in 1995 and Nimesh was runner-up in the previous year.

It was nice to see Trinity College and St. Benedict’s College among the winners in that year. Kumar Sangakkara of Trinity, who went on to captain Sri Lanka with distinction, was picked as the best batsman, while Benedictine Pradeep Hewage was picked as the best fielder in the All-Island Contest. Trinity was also picked as the best team in the Central Province.

Nimesh Perera, who was the first cricketer from St.Sebastian’s to become the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year, is another player to gain recognition for his performances on the Sri Lanka ‘A’ team tour of England in 1999. In 1996 he had shattered all of Muttiah Muralitharan’s school record

He was an aggressive and adventurous left handed batsman in the middle/lower order and capable leg spin bowler. Perera began the Sri Lanka ‘A’ tour with a blistering 110 unbeaten and then went on to capture 4 for 25 as Sri Lanka ‘A’ defeated an England CB XI.

He was a member of Upal Chandana’s Sri Lanka squad for the Aiwa Cup tournament but he did not play a single match. His performances in the following tour matches against the Australians were a let-down culminating in him being excluded from the pool of players for the upcoming Sharjah tournament.

It is heartening to see the Mega Show completing its 40th anniversary last year. Most importantly, the country’s national mobile service provider has been associated with Sri Lanka’s first-ever school cricket awards show for 12 years. Together with Sri Lanka Telecom and SLT Mobitel management, SLT Mobitel’s Chief Executive Officer Nalin Perera is extending the fullest support to make the ‘Mother of all Shows’ a resounding success once again as it continues to remain the dream of every schoolboy cricketer.

Meanwhile, voting for the Observer-Mobitel Most Popular Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year contest is moving at a brisk pace.

Hence, it’s high time to support your alma mater by voting for your favorite schoolboy cricketer and motivate the next generation of cricketers. It will be a morale booster for those outstanding young cricketers as the cream of players are preparing to enter the club arena with the hope of proudly wearing that Sri Lanka cap eventually. It is good to discover that several others too have followed the Sunday Observer’s initiative to hold similar awards shows to reward the achievements of schoolboy cricketers after every season. But the ‘Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year’ remains the ‘Mother of all Shows’.

Needless to say how important it is for schoolboy cricketers to win an award as recognition for their commendable achievements after a strenuous season. It is not just appreciating their achievements but also a big inspiration for them to step into the big league.

All past winners of this prestigious title have repeatedly said what a big inspiration the award had been to their cricketing careers. Since its humble beginnings at the Nawaragahala in 1978/79, the ‘Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year’ contest has gone from strength to strength and will continue to prosper.

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