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An annual cricket awards ceremony to honour Sri Lankan achievements in 2015 suffered a dubious ignominy on Wednesday night where a strange scenario unfurled for both award winners and invitees and if not for former Pakistan bowling great Wasim Akram, the show could have easily been an event that many would want to forget.
Sri Lanka skipper Angelo Mathews was a virtual loner on the podium without any vibrant competition to challenge him for the Dialog Cricketer of the Year prize while the retired Tillekeratne Dilshan was hardly noticed when he pocketed the Dialog Cricketer of the Year award.
But then there came a category that was announced and called the Future Cricketer of the Year which was never on the cards when the countdown to the awards was launched on August 22 at the Jaic Hilton in Colombo.
The category that was originally marketed and sold to the media was called the Emerging Player of the Year for achievements during the period January to December 2015.
There was not a single player worthy of such an award for achievements in 2015 and Sri Lanka Cricket, probably realizing the absurdity, switched the category to Future Cricketer of the Year unknown to cricket followers to save face and then presented the prize to the island’s most promising young batsman Kusal Mendis.
Mendis had no international achievements with the Sri Lanka team in 2015 to bag the award but when the unassuming lad picked up the prize at the Waters Edge on Wednesday night, the organisers of the show had already made an award for 2016 as well.
Mendis was the undisputed star in the second half of this year when he led a stranglehold of the Australian team in a home Test series.
To begin with, Wednesday’s ceremony commenced after more than an hour as invitees were held up outside the hall. When the curtain was raised it was anything but cricket with a tribute to the late musician WD Amaradeva taking centre stage among other irrelevant aspects.
The speeches were boring to say the least while famous presenters Kelum Srimal and Stefani Siriwardena tried their level best to activate the audience.
But thanks to Pakistan’s legendary fast bowler Wasim Akram some life was injected into the show for a few minutes when he recalled his playing days against Sri Lanka and the way he savoured tours of the country.
“I remember that little genius Aravinda (de Silva) whom we did not know much about but who got a hundred each time he played against Pakistan,” said Akram. “The Sri Lankan team is so calm and quiet but very deadly to play against.”
Akram dropped by for the awards ceremony as a special guest of Sri Lanka Cricket who invited him for a coaching camp.
“Sri Lanka is heaven on earth and it is one place you should visit. Apart from the food and sights, the people are happy and I had a lot of fun off the field,” recalled Akram.
But Akram could consider it fortunate not to have graced previous cricketer award ceremonies including the one last year which dragged on for hours to accommodate as many as 65 awards which were cut down to 17 this time leaving out domestic performances.
Mathews also won awards for Test all-rounder and ODI all-rounder of the year (2015) while Dilshan took the award for T20 batsman of the year.
Lasith Malinga bagged awards for the best bowler ODI and T20 while Rangana Herath took the prize for best Test bowler.
Dinesh Chandimal was the best Test batsman and Kumar Sangakkara the best ODI batsman.