What an evening it was. Indeed the gala ceremony held at Nelum Pokuna,
on Wednesday, crowning Nipun Ransika of P. de S. Kularatne
Maha Vidyalaya, the Dialog 4G-the Sunday Times Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year 2017, was an truly awesome.
Ransika, a genuine right-arm fast bowler from the southern hamlet of Ambalangoda, walked off stage that day with truck load of memories that will live within him forever.
The Sri Lanka prospect was given that fitting tribute any aspiring young cricketer would dream of, to earn a coveted award presented by Dialog 4G of Dialog Axiata and the Sunday Times of Wijeya Newspapers Ltd.
As Ransika claimed the pinnacle award of the evening, there were heaps of other award winners, who were recognised by the organisers and selected by the group led by veteran cricketer Jayantha Seneviratne. The young lads had worked hard and shone above the rest during the School Cricket season of 2016/2017. The evening belonged to all those who had made it big and made their schools proud by being selected as the best schoolboy cricketers of Sri Lanka.
Focusing on the event, it was indeed historic for many reasons. One of the main reasons was the beginning of a new era, where Dialog Axiata, Sri Lanka’s top conglomerate in mobile telecommunication, coming on board to join the Sunday Times for the very first time, and take this event to the next level.
And the most important of all is all about the main award winner, Ransika. He becomes the first in the history of this event, which has covered nearly four decades, to win the top award from a Division II school.
So far the main award winners have always come from top cricket-playing schools from Division I, and Ransika breaks that trend at the time when Dialog Axiata and the Sunday Times initiated a partnership that cements a new beginning.
Many had doubtful minds, if the show would deliver the glamour and enchantment to what it is reputed to. The doubts vapourised as the day grew, even before it was set off with many pre-events lined up to make the show glamorous than expected.
The success of the event was highly evident, soon after Ransika was brought on to the top of the stage from the orchestra pit to take hold of the Dialog-4G-the Sunday Times Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year 2017 award from the Chief Guest, Marvan Atapattu, Supun Weerasinghe, the Group Chief Executive of Dialog Axiata and S.R. Pathiravithana, the Deputy Editor, Sports of the Sunday Times. Soon after that enchanting moment the entire crowd — schoolboys and girls, school officials and even parents — invaded the isles and the floor of Nelum Pokuna to celebrate the day with ecstatic dance moves to the tunes of the popular Marians, led by Nalin Perera.
Soon after the invitees were welcomed to the main hall of the Nelum Pokuna by Harsha Samaranayake, the General Manager, Group Marketing of Dialog Axiata, an inspiring welcome speech by Ameen Izzadeen, the Deputy Editor and Editor International Desk of the Sunday Times kicked off the proceedings of the evening. This was followed by a speech from the Chairman of the Schoolboy Cricketer 2017 Selection Panel, Jayantha Seneviratne. But what gained the attention was the more stirring speech by the Chief Guest, Marvan Atapattu, who outlined the importance of becoming a true cricketer.
Then it came to the point of giving away the awards. Anxious youngsters, who were keeping their fingers crossed until their names were called by the MCs, veteran Faizal Bongso, Kelum Srimal and Gamya Wijayadasa, kept all their reticence away to walk on to the stage and reveal that they could easily become household names in cricket in time to come.
There were many top performers who took the spotlight that evening and even the Most Popular Cricketer of the Year 2017 awards, which the All-Island Schools was claimed by Lasith Croosepulle of Maris Stella College Negombo. He too was a good performer with the bat but there were many others in the pipeline that performed equally or better to earn the main awards.
From start to end, schoolboy cricketers from all parts of Sri Lanka flocked into one place, to spend some hours together, taking honours for their hard efforts on the field, having a lighter time dancing away the night, and sharing each second with great joy and camaraderie in the name of the game they love – cricket. It looked as they wanted the night not to be over, mainly for the entertainment provided by Marians, Bhathiya and Santhush, Sanuka Wickremasinghe and Tehani Imara. The fascinating dance acts were provided by Channa and Upuli and their dancers. All these kept the momentum of the show going on even if it had to end somehow, hoping for another gathering of a memorable show in the coming year, probably with a equally fun-filled or much better atmosphere, not on another planet but here in our very own land — Sri Lanka.