Graduates of Sri Lanka’s Schools Cricket System: Batch of 2019 – Part I

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Sri Lanka possesses one of the oldest and strongest Schools Cricket systems in the world. Its inception runs down to the 19th century and has produced thousands of talented cricketers through the years.

Similar to the previous seasons, the recently concluded 2018/19 season too saw some brilliant players with immense potential showing their capabilities. Numerous records were broken and new benchmarks were set.

Read More : The Top-Guns put together – The Schools U19 Combined-XI

The season which ended with St. Joseph’s College defending their Two Day title saw Richmond College being dethroned as the One Day Champions as S. Thomas’ were crowned as the new limited over champs. Apart from the championships, the traditional cricket encounters (Big Matches) saw more games ending with results, which is a very good sign.

As an eventful season winds up, a set of experienced lads say good bye to their schools cricket careers. Out of the many final year players, we’ve picked the best, the ones who have done well statistically and also shown so much of promise. Most of them have reached the helm of junior cricket by earning the prestigious Sri Lanka U19 cap, justifying their talents.

Nishan Madushka

  • DOB – 10/09/1999

Nishan Madushka comes from Moratuwa, which boasts of so many great cricketers including legends of World Cricket. The first major break for the wicket-keeper batsman, who played all his schools cricket for Moratu Maha Vidyalaya, was the 2017 Youth Asia Cup in Malaysia. He started donning the keeping gloves for Sri Lanka U19 in that tournament and became a constant member of the youth squad until the next Youth Asia Cup in Bangladesh in 2018.

The century he made against Zimbabwe U19s in the 2018 U19 World Cup in New Zealand made waves in Sri Lanka. He then made it to the SLC Super Provincial One Day tournament and played alongside the senior boys.

Taking his game to the next level he also found himself a place in the SLC T20 League and also in the Sri Lanka Emerging team which won the ACC Emerging Teams Asia Cup here in Sri Lanka.

His last year for his school was decorated with a breathtaking 1000+ runs in the season. Nishan who also managed to play 2 first class matches for Colts CC during the 2018/19 season plays for Police SC in the Tier ‘B’ league at the moment.

>>> Nishan Madushka batting video <<<

Sithara Hapuhinna

  • DOB – 11/05/2000

The skipper who brought the D. S. Senanayake Shield back to S. Thomas’ College in the 140th Battle of the Blues against Royal College, Sithara Hapuhinna is a dashing left-hander who opens the batting and keeps wickets.

He actually started to take cricket seriously after he joined S. Thomas’ College. The Moratuwa boy who was schooling at Prince of Wales College, got to the Mt. Lavinia School for the academic excellence he showed in the grade 5 scholarship exam.

He who went on to represent the Provincial U15 team in 2014 & 2015, played the Royal-Thomian annual One Day encounter for the first time in 2016 and the prestigious Three Day match in the following year.

With the added responsibility of leading the team in his last year, he performed exceptionally well with the bat as well as in marshalling his team. Sithara who went past 1000 runs in the season also led S. Thomas’ to the inter-school One Day championship title after 17 years.

At the moment, the Thomian skipper who won both the Big Match and a schools championship is preparing himself for the AL exam which he’ll be sitting for this August.

These days I’m focused on my exams. At the same time I’m playing for the Old Thomians Club in the Division II tournament. I’m also being called by several clubs, but I’ll join one of them after the tour we’ve been rewarded by the school for doing well this season” he said.

>>> Sithara Hapuhinna batting video <<<

Pasindu Sooriyabandara

  • DOB – 19/10/1999

Royalist, Pasindu Sooriyabandara who announced himself as a future star in the 137th Battle of the Blues with an exhilarating century to set up an incredible victory for Royal, finished his schools cricket career as the highest run-scorer in the history of Royal College Cricket with 4111 runs.

The courageous lad who was just 16 years old back in 2016 when he anchored the Royal innings which was falling apart, became the youngest centurion in the world’s oldest annual cricket encounter between two schools.

His first Sri Lanka U19 call up was for the India series in 2018 following him being named as the best batsman of the U19 Provincial tournament in the same year. His outings for the youth Sri Lanka outfit was highlighted by a scintillating century in the 2nd Youth Test against a strong Indian bowling attack in Hambantota. He was also instrumental in Sri Lanka U19’s 2018 Asia Cup campaign in which they ended up as runners-up.

His last year for Royal College saw a perfect ending as he and his fellow team mates lifted Royal College to the top division after 3 years. Despite their loss in the Big Match, Pasindu showed his class as he scored a fighting half-century with a dislocated shoulder.

With his 1257 in the 2018/19 season he became the only Royalist in history to go past 1000 runs in two seasons. He also scored 1279 runs in the 2017/18 season in which he captained his school.

Pasindu who has already played 2 first class matches for SSC said, “For now I’ll continue playing for the SSC and also I’m planning to do my studies parallel to cricket.”

>>> Pasindu Sooriyabandara batting video <<<

Nuwanidu Fernando

  • DOB – 13/10/1999

The tall right-hander from St. Sebastian’s College, Nuwanidu Fernando has been a star throughout his schools cricket career. He first caught the eye of the Moratuwa public in 2016 when he was named the Man of the Match in the Battle of the Golds One Day encounter against Prince of Wales College.

He was also named best batsman and runner-up best player of the U17 tournament in the same year. He was then rewarded with a Sri Lanka U19 call up for his consistent performances and toured Malaysia for the 2017 Youth Asia Cup.

Nuwanidu who kept his place in the Sri Lanka U19 squad, also being part of the 2018 U19 World Cup squad, ended his Sri Lanka U19 career as the highest run-scorer for them in the 2018 Youth Asia Cup in Bangladesh.

The lad with 3 First Class matches for Panadura SC (1 in 2017/18) & Baduraliya CC (2 in 2018/19) set an incredible record in the 2019 Big Match as he struck a magnificent century after a claiming a hat-trick with the ball. This performance helped him retain the best all-rounders award of the Battle of the Golds encounter while also winning the award for the Best bowler.

Nuwanidu who also has featured for the Sri Lanka ‘A’ Board President’s XI once against Ireland ‘A’ is the brother of Sri Lanka national cap Vishwa Fernando.

These days I’m not involved much in competitive cricket. What I’m concerned about is maintaining my fitness and skill levels. I hope to get back to playing, most probably with a new club, in the U23 tournament” said a relaxed Nuwanidu.

>>> Nuwanidu Fernando batting video <<<

Santhush Gunatilake

  • DOB – 14/09/1999

The tall Peterite, Santhush Gunatilake started his schools cricket career in the St. Peter’s College Cricket Academy as a 10-year old and went on to represent the College in the U13 level the very next year.

The fast-bowling all-rounder first came into the spotlight when he toured Malaysia with the Sri Lanka U15 team. 2016 became an unforgettable year for him as he was named the all-island best all-rounder and the best player in that year’s U17 tournament.

Proving himself as one of the finest all-rounders in the country he won the runners-up award for the best fielder of the 2016/17 U19 cricket season. Being rewarded for his consistent performances, Santhush was named in the Sri Lanka U19 Board President’s XI which toured India in 2017.

He then went on to reach the helm of age group cricket as he found a place in the Sri Lanka U19 team led by Kamindu Mendis which became Plate Champions in the ICC U19 Cricket World Cup 2018 in New Zealand.

After leading St. Peter’s College to the Semi Final of the One Day tournament in the 2017/18 season, Santhush’s best year in schools cricket came. The gutsy right-hander sans leadership responsibilities went on to score 1572 runs and capture 31 wickets in 17 matches in 2018/19. He also broke the 10-year old Peterite record for the highest score in a Two Day match with his 252 at Ananda Mawatha. He then left his legacy at St. Peter’s with a match-saving unbeaten knock of 161 in the 85th Joe-Pete Two Day encounter.

With 1 first-class match for Ragama CC in the 2018/19 domestic season under his belt, Santhush has not yet decided on what will be his next destination. “I still haven’t decided on the club for which I’ll be playing. Apart from Ragama CC for which I played one match last season, I’ve also been called by SSC for the coming season. It will be for one of those clubs which I’ll be representing in the forthcoming U23 tournament” said Santhush.

He has also been offered with a scholarship from a University in New Zealand and an invitation to play in a Kiwi team.

>>> Santhush Gunatilake batting video <<<

Lakshitha Manasinghe

  • DOB – 21/11/1999

Mr. Dependable of Nalanda College, Laksitha Manasinghe started cricket as a 10-year old in Henagama Central College before he joined Nalanda College in grade 9. His breakthrough year at Nalanda College was 2016 when he became the best fielder and best batsman of the Big Match and the annual One Day encounter respectively in the Battle of the Maroons.

Lakshitha being a born leader was promoted to leadership in just his 4th year at Nalanda and led the team for 2 consecutive years. The lad who won the Man of the Match awards of the Ananda-Nalanda Big Match both in 2017 and 2018 also went on to sweep almost all awards in all award ceremonies at Nalanda, winning the Anura Ranasinghe Memorial trophy presented to the best all-rounder of Nalanda College in 2018 and 2019.

After missing out on reaching 1000 runs in his first year as captain, Lakshitha scored 1329 runs learning from experience in his last season while picking up 79 wickets. His best achievement in his long schools cricket career will definitely be representing the Sri Lanka U19 team against India U19 in 2018. He who has excelled in U19 Provincial Tournaments, has also played in the U23 Provincial Tournament.

A leader by every means for Nalanda, Lakshitha has been offered opportunities by 3 leading clubs in the country. “I’ve been called by CCC, Tamil Union and Ragama to represent them in the U23 tournament. I’m yet to decide on which club I’ll be playing for. However I need to consult my school and coaches before I take a decision” said Lakshitha.

>>> Lakshitha Manasinghe batting video <<<

Maheesh Theekshana

  • DOB – 01/08/2000

The mystery spinner, Maheesh Theekshana who is inspired by Ajantha Mendis’ heroics in the 2008 Asia Cup final bowls with a similar action and at the moment bowls 4 types of deliveries including the googly and carrom ball.

He started playing U13 cricket for Sedawatta Siddhartha Madya Maha Vidyalaya in Wellampitiya and was roped in by St. Benedict’s College Kotahena when he was 15 years old. Starting from the U15 level at St. Benedict’s, Maheesh went on to become the Most Valuable player of the U15 Provincial Tournament in the same year he started playing for them.

He then kept on performing consistently for the College, but wasn’t lucky enough to make it in to the Sri Lanka U19 squad which played the 2018 U19 Cricket World Cup due to fitness issues. However, he finished the 2017/18 season as the all-island best all-rounder and found himself a place in the Sri Lanka U19 Board President’s XI which played a practice game against the strong India U19 team.

Maheesh who started playing for Colts CC in the 2017/18 season also represented the Sri Lanka ‘A’ Board President’s XI in a practice match against the Ireland ‘A’ team. He managed to play a few matches for Colts CC in the 2018/19 season too. So far he has played 3 First Class matches, 2 List A matches and 5 T20s. He is also part of the Sri Lanka spin squad, from which spinners for the national squad are picked.

The gritty lad who was instrumental in steering his team to the quarter final of the U19 Limited Over tournament this season, proved how valuable he is for a team in the shorter format with a 5-wicket haul in the round of 32 and a match-winning century against a strong Nalanda bowling attack in the round of 16 of the One Day tournament.

He’ll be sitting for his A/L exam this August. “For now I’m focused on my exam and also intend to continue to play for Colts CC” he said.

>>> Maheesh Theekshana bowling video <<<

Click here for Part II of this article