By Sujith Silva
My earliest memory of the Trinity-Antonian encounter was in 1970 when I was a youngster. Lalith Ramanayake made quick-fire century and I think it was one of the fastest centuries in the series. Niroshan de Silva played in that year too. If I am not mistaken, both went on to win Trinity Lion honours that year.
I joined Trinity College from S Thomas’ in 1970 and I was 11 years at that time. Bertie Wijesinghe was the coach at Trinity College and I made it straight to the under-12 side. I went on to represent the college First XI from 1976 to 1979. I established myself as an opener in the batting line-up since ‘76.
I made my first appearance in the Trinity-Antonian series in 1976 under Janaka Weerasinghe’s captaincy and the match was played at Katugastota. I made 20 to 40 runs in both innings, it was a good game but for the Antonians it was a special game as Bernard Perera, who later went on to represent Sri Lanka, gave us a hammering as he made 150 runs. It was a memorable debut big match for me.
1977 was another memorable encounter. The match was played at Asigiriya and I opened the batting. Antonian M.T.M Zarook was bowling the first over and he bowled an outswinger which I fended and the ball went flying to slips where I was caught. I was out for a duck; I think it was the fifth ball of the match. I was very disappointed.
In the following year, 1978, Andre Tissera was captaining Trinity College while Russel De La Mort captained St Anthony’s, I managed to score 138 runs at Katugastota. It was a memorable innings. We were 63 for 3 at one stage where I lost my partners while I was holding on from one end. Then walked in a fresher, who was groomed for the future, Tahir. He managed to stick around and we built a partnership from then onwards. We stretched the score towards 200-plus and by the time I got out I had put up 138 runs. I remember the Antonians had a good bowling attack with Rienzi Martinesz, a fast bowler, David Ginger, an off-spinner.
For me, the Antonian wicket was a happy hunting ground, as I have played at under 12, 14 and 16 levels at the ground. I found it easy to bat on. I believe what I did was nothing special. It was all about application. If you have the talent, temperament and concentration you can bat well. I must tell you that I never felt any pressure during the match or during the innings. It was just another day, of course the big match and you were given the opportunity to perform, which I did.
Even after my innings, unlike today, we never received any accolades or big rewards. We never expected those too – just a pat on the back from the coach. Those were the days when gods were not made out of cricketers. The following day was just like any other day. You move with your day to day life. It was an easy lifestyle which all of us enjoyed. I was picked for the Combined Schools team that year.
If I may look back, another memorable match was the match against S. Thomas’ in ’77. I made 98 and 60 against a very good bowling attack which comprised two of the finest bowlers in the schools’ arena at that time – Lalith Ratnayake and Saliya Ahangama. I must say in Bertie Wijesinghe we had a wonderful coach. He groomed us from under-12 to First XI. We played right through the age groups and in fact four of us made the First XI debut in 1976 when it was Bertie’s final year. The rest followed in subsequent years.
We were taught by Bertie to play proper cricket, technically correct strokes and we were brought up as a technically correct batting line-up. This was highlighted by many schools in Colombo and Kandy we used to play against, or their coaching staff and parents used to say that we batted well with technically correct strokes. This was Bertie’s forte.
Bertie left for England at the end of the ’76 season and we had Jerry Guneratne joining as an interim coach in ’77 and one of our former masters from college, the late Theo de Silva and Yasas Ratnayake and late Alic Halangoda also did serve as our coaches during 1977-1979.
Looking back, it was all wonderful memories in growing up and playing cricket at Trinity College during those days which also gave us many opportunities in life, including building lasting friendships with those who we played against or together in cricket fields.