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POSTED AT 07:16 AM 27-01-2019

Dharmasena interests everyone

Kumara Dharmasena

International cricket umpire, Kumara Dharmasena has not only made Sri Lanka proud once again, but has also made his school Nalanda College and the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year contest proud by winning the David Shepherd Trophy for ICC Umpire of the Year for the second time.

Dharmasena was voted last week as the Umpire of the Year by international captains and ICC Match Referees. Speaking on his unique achievement for the second consecutive year, Dharmasena has said that he hoped the award would inspire other Sri Lanka officials as well to go places.

“This comes six years after I was first named for the award. It will definitely inspire me to keep doing the job I love so much. It has been a very satisfying year for me and this award from the ICC is a great honour as well as a privilege,” he was quoted as saying after his unique feat.

The 47-year-old former Sri Lanka cricketer said he has always been passionate about cricket, both as a player and an umpire. Dharmasena said he looks forward to keep working hard and challenging himself in order to meet the demands of this great game.

He thanked his wife Dushanthi for being the strength behind his achievements. “I also thank my children for their support and understanding. I would like to thank Peter Manuel, my coach, for his guidance from the start of my umpiring career, together with all the other coaches from the ICC and Sri Lanka Cricket,” he said.

Dharmasena said the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year title he won in 1989 inspired him to excel in the international arena.“It was one of the greatest moments in my career as a cricketer. Winning the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year title was a big inspiration. That helped and encouraged me to play for Sri Lanka,” he said.

In a recent interview, Dharmasena said winning such a mega award gives a large image and lots of confidence for a schoolboy cricketer to go places.

We were determined to reach the top of the ladder and did so with dedication,” he said.

He feels that outstanding cricketers with exceptional performances and milestones are less today, compared to his era, and added that could be the reason that hardly any schoolboy cricketers have directly stepped into the Sri Lanka team in recent times, compared to his playing days.

Dharmasena is better known as a member of Sri Lanka’s 1996 World Champion team, led by Arjuna Ranatunga, another proud recipient of the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year title.

He retired from competitive cricket in November 2006 and pursued a career in umpiring. Having faced all umpiring examinations well, Dharmasena went on to make his international debut as an umpire in 2009.

Two years later, he was included in an 18-member panel for the 2011 World Cup in India. In the same year (2011), he was elevated to the Elite Panel of ICC Umpires. He went on to win the coveted Umpire of the Year title at the ICC awards ceremony.

He is of the view that the present day challenge for schoolboy cricketers is greater in their future careers and as a result, only a few outstanding cricketers would remain in the game once they leave school.

“Luckily, when I left Nalanda, Hatton National Bank (HNB) offered me employment and gave all the support to pursue my career as a club cricketer and then as an international cricketer. But present day schoolboy cricketers hardly get that sort of support,” he added.

Born on April 24, 1971 in Colombo, he was one of the best all-rounders produced by Nalanda College. He had three memorable school seasons for the Campbell Place school.

He narrowly missed the chance of becoming the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer in 1988 when he emerged runner up to Sanjeewa Ranatunga of Ananda. However, he continued to perform equally well in the very next season and was the unanimous choice for the coveted title in 1989. In the following year too, he finished runner up when Marvan Atapattu won the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer title.

Since then, Dharmasena became a permanent member of Bloomfield in the domestic inter-club premier league season, performing regularly with both the bat and ball.

In less than three years after winning the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year title, young Dharmasena made his Test debut in Sri Lanka’s second Test against South Africa at SSC ground in September, 1993.

Dharmasena made his Sri Lanka ODI debut on August 24, 1994 in the fifth ODI against Pakistan at the Premadasa Stadium capturing 2 for 34 off nine overs.

He aggregated 868 runs in 31 Tests with three half centuries and captured 69 wickets with 6 for 72 as his best innings analysis. Dharmasena represented Sri Lanka in 141 ODIs, aggregating 1222 runs with four half centuries.

He has captured 138 wickets in ODIs. Dhamasena’s off breaks, delivered with a slightly unorthodox action, has been a blessing to the Sri Lankan team in many ODIs.

He is better known for his inspiring acts as a team man, motivating his fellow players even in difficult times. Hence, he was nicknamed ‘Unanduwa’(a person who shows plenty of interest in whatever he does) by his teammates.

“If you don’t enjoy the game and dedicate yourself towards it, you won’t be successful. Believe in yourself, work hard with dedication and you will find success,” was his advice to the emerging schoolboy cricketers who keep dreaming of the Sri Lanka cap.

By officiating at the 2015 ICC World Cup tournament, including the final, Dharmasena became the first to play and umpire in an ICC World Cup final.

As a player, Dharmasena played a notable role in Sri Lanka’s World Cup victory in 1996.

Meanwhile, the much looked forward to key first term matches of the 2018/19 inter-school season are being played in the first term. Hence, there is more excitement to vote for your favourite cricketer in the Observer-Mobitel Most Popular Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year contests.

Voting coupons are being published in the Lake House national newspapers - Sunday Observer, Daily News, Dinamina and Thinakaran. The ‘Observer-Mobitel Schoolboy Cricketer’ of the Year Mega Show is sponsored by SLT Mobitel.

DINESH WEERAWANSA

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