Josephian-Peterite Battle of the Saints
The 82nd Battle of the Saints, one of the most looked forward to cricket encounters between arch rivals St. Joseph’s College and St. Peter’s College for the Rev. Fr. Maurice J. Le Goc Trophy, will take place on March 4thand 5that the P. Sara Oval Stadium, Colombo, and it is renowned for its competitive and exciting brand of cricket played by two premier Catholic schools in Sri Lanka.
This year, the boys from Darley Road will be led by batsman Sandaruwan Rodrigo, while the Peterites will be under the captaincy of all-rounder Vinoo Mohotti. St. Joseph’s College leads the series tally with 12 wins, and their last win came under the captaincy of Ruwantha Fernandopulle in 2008, while St. Peter’s College last registered a win under Shehan Fernando’s leadership in 2012 and they have bagged the trophy on nine occasions. The last three encounters were drawn games, with the Rev. Fr. Maurice J. Le Goc Trophy staying at Bambalapitiya.
The chief guest at the 82nd ‘Battle of the Saints’ will be Berchman de Alwis, who skippered the Joes in 1964.The Joe-Pete encounter has produced many cricketers who have the distinction of representing the national team, with Angelo Mathews, Chaminda Vaas, Thisara Perera, Dimuth Karunaratne, Ashley de Silva and Michael Van Dort from St. Joseph’s College, while Dr. H. I. K. Fernando, David Heyn, Tony Opatha, Roy Dias, Rumesh Ratnayake, Russell Arnold, Vinodhan John, Amal Silva, Kaushal Lokuarachchi, Malinda Warnapura and Angelo Perera have donned the national cap from St. Peter’s College.
The 42ndJoe-Pete limited overs match played for the Rev Fr. Peter A. Pillai trophy will be worked off on March 12that the R. Premadasa International Stadium. S
t. Peter’s won the last year’s encounter but Josephians are heading the overall tally with 21 wins to 18.
Josephians to battle against the odds
Just a week and two days before the “big ‘un” and on the eve of the annual prize giving, I disturb him seeking an interview for Quadrangle, but he obliges. That’s Fr. Travis Jude Gabriel for you, the Rector of St. Joseph’s College, Colombo.
This being the big match edition ofQuadranglethe only thing that matters is the game and naturally the interview revolves round it.
Fr. Travis does not believe that the Josephian- Peterite match is just another big match. Played since 1933 and dubbed the Battle of the Saints, this is the 82nd time the Joes will meet the Petes, having had to miss out during the war years of 1942 and 1943.
With a history that long, he believes that it has traditions which make it more than a mere cricket match. He feels the Joe-Pete is a family affair and there exists friendly rivalry which makes for an occasion for friends to meet and greet though they may be from the “other camp”. Expressing his thoughts further, he said “at this match youngsters learn that this is not only a game which is played to win a trophy but has much more init and it is an occasion for the young Josephians to build lasting friendships with Peterites of their age, particularly so for team members.”
Of course being two Catholic schools he sees this as the common thread that binds the two schools,making this a unique big match and for that very reason, Fr. Travis emphasised:“It matters less if you win a trophy or not, but rather how you play the game matters more.”
Both schools having observed the dwindling crowds, have decided to have this year’s Battle of the Saints by a joint organising committee instead of each school taking the burden in alternate years. Fr. Travis believes this will help this game to be taken to a higher level, making it more enjoyable for the Old Boys, be they young or old and for the present boys too. His message to the joint organising committee members was: “When you are in a joint organising committee you have to be ready to compromise. You may have your own preferences and loyalties but you must be able to work together as a team keeping both schools in mind and not allow individualism to come to the fore.”
He added: “The joint organising committee was initiated last year so it should be easier for them to work together this year. We hope that this will bring in new ideas and also bring together batch groups of younger vintage to work closely with the more senior batch groups. This has generated greater enthusiasm and should in fact be helpful in the future years.”
Even now, he said, although on the first day the Josephians and the Peterites sit in separate tents you could see them coming together on the second day of the big match. In the future he expects them to watch the match from one large tent instead of separate tents.
Asked about the Josephian team’s performance this season, the Rector said that they had had a good season with six wins and two 2 losses, to Royal and St. Benedict’s. Explaining an unfortunate situation that arose in the Benedictine match, he said that the Richmond-Joes match had been scheduled for the same twodays and as both opponents were unwilling to shift the match they had to split the team members and play both matches with weakened teams.
Speaking about individual members of the team, he said Jehan Daniel was a good cricketer who represented Sri Lanka in the under-19 squad. “There are four coloursmen but the rest are freshers who have done well enough. While our bowling is our strong suit our batting has been seen to be the area to be strengthened,” added Fr. Travis.
Asked if he had a message for the old boys, he said his earnest appeal was for them to come for the big match and enjoy the spirit of camaraderie that exists in an event such as this. Fr. Travis believes that their presence would encourage the younger generation to also come and enjoy two days of good cricket.
I reminded him that he has the unique privilege of having been the Rector of one school before being the Rector of the opposing school of a traditional big match, which no other principal of big match playing school can claim and asked what he felt about that.
In his calm voice he answered:“It’s a blessing for me to have been at the helm of affairs of two leading educational institutes. Both being Catholic schools they have common values and traditions based on Catholic teaching and it was not difficult for me to adjust from being the Rector of St. Peter’s to take over St. Joseph’s. Priesthood teaches us obedience and when I was transferred I did not question the decision of superiors and as priests we are taught to throw down roots wherever we are planted and grow and develop the institution we serve. I feel it was continuation of the same mission in the field of education.”
What does he see as his future, was my next question and he said having been in school administration during his entire priestly life, he would expect to retire and as he had never served a parish, he would love to work in one. Fr. Travis added that there was never a plan for him to take up school administration from the start of his priestly life but it so happened.
Delving a little into his pre-seminary days, Fr. Travis said that he attended St. Thomas’ College, Kotte, and had played cricket at under-13 level and represented the college in athletics where he had excelled in the long jump event.
Having been in charge of children in schools throughout his priestly life, he had a message for all school children. He said: “Cricket is not the only sport a child could take part in. There are many other sports that a child could be involved in. While some are more popular than others, one must not worry about being involved only in the popular sports. Every child should take up some sport or the other as it breeds good health and helps to develop him physically and mentally. Being a sportsman helps him to take victory and defeat in his stride and therefore helps him to become a better citizen.”
His final words were, “It is taking part in a sport that is important, not what sport it is or whether you win or lose, for taking part alone makes you a winner.”
About the Joes’ Team
St. Joseph’s College will bank on their opening pair to come good during this year’s big match. Captain Sandaruwan Rodrigo who is a 3rd year coloursman and right hand batsman had the distinction of scoring a century at the last year’s Big Match. He will open the batting with left handed Revan Kelly who is also their leading run scorer with more than 700 runs. Then the Joes have a Sri Lanka Youth cap Jehan Daniel, right hand top order batsman who could not play many matches this season due to his National commitments. When it comes to bowling left arm spinner Malshan Rodrigo heads the wickets tally with more than 70 wickets this season followed by Harin Cooray who is another left arm spinner with close to 70 wickets.
Sandaruwan Rodrigo (Captain), Malshan Rodrigo, Jehan Daniel, Kevin Korteling, Shevon Fonseka, Vimukthi Peiris, Harin Cooray, , Charuka Raveen,, Dario Dassanayake, Dineth Madurawala, Revan Kelly, Nipun Sumanasinghe, Sachitha de Silva, Ruchira Ekanayake, Neran Goonetilleka, Harin Perera, Kavindu Jayathissa, Thashan Perera, Pahan Perera.
Fr. Milan Bernard is the Josephian Prefect of Games and Asela Pathirana is the head coach with Michael Adams as the Assistant Coach.
Peterites on a roll
In an interview before the big match when you ask the Rector of a school how the team has performed during the season and you find him beaming you really don’t need an answer. The Rector involved was Rev. Fr. Trevor Martin and the school was St. Peter’s College getting ready for their big match, the Battle of the Saints.
Why he was justified in beaming was never a question because the performance of the Peterite cricketers in this current season 2015/16 is without doubt successful. Out of eighteen matches played, both traditional matches and the under-19 tournament matches, the Peterites have won five outright with no losses recorded.
Let me come back to the team’s performance later but asked about the big match itself, Fr. Trevor said that this year, instead of one school organising the matches, there was a joint committee handling the organising. This he believed would make the two matches – the big match and the 50-over match – more colourful and therefore more attractive to spectators.
With more batch groups getting involved on account of the involvement of the joint organising committee (let’s call it the JOC for short), he said ticket sales were being promoted before the match and already there were bookings for tickets in advance. He said Dialog has come forward as the main sponsor because of the efforts of the JOC while there were other sponsors as well who had come forward to support the big match and the 50-over match.
Speaking about additional promotion this year, he said the college had started promoting the big match among the schoolboys and parents and he was confident that all these efforts would ensure a resurgence of crowds at the big match again.
Getting back to the team’s performance, Fr. Rector said the Peterites earned outright wins against De Mazenod, President’s, DS Senanayake, Prince of Wales and St. Benedict’s Colleges and could therefore claim to have had a very good season. He elaborated that in the under-19 schools’ official tournament St. Peter’s having beaten Trinity College, Kandy, the defending champions, had already entered the semi-final which would be against Isipathana. Having to participate in the official tournament has meant that two traditional matches, against Nalanda and Prince of Wales having to be played after the big match,unlike in the past when the Joe-Petesignaled the end of the cricket season.“So things are changing not because of our doing but because of the schools’ tournament,” he quickly added.
Speaking about individual performances Fr. Trevor mentioned Lakshina Rodrigo, the stumper of the side who has so far scored 1000 runs this season, with fivecenturies to his credit and Hashan Wanasekera who has so far gone past 950 runs, with two centuries. In the bowling department he spoke of Thaneesha Weerakoon who has claimed 87 wickets, having five-wicket hauls on as many as sevenoccasions and the skipper Vinu Mohotti who has so far bagged 71 scalps with three five-wicket hauls. The wicket-keeper batsman, Lakshina Rodrigo, also had exposure to international cricket when he played a few matches against a visiting under-19 Pakistan team.
Though at the start of the season, according to the Rector, the batting appeared to need improving, it had turned out that the side was well balanced. In achieving this level of success, St. Peter’s had arranged for a team building session at Hanwella and motivational programmes. In a bid to motivate the cricketers and also give the student body at large an opportunity to see and appreciate the cricketers, he had arranged for them to be introduced at the assembly. This he said was also done in the hope that the students along with their parents would be motivated to attend the big match in far greater numbers than in the past.
Speaking about his own sporting days, Fr. Trevor said he had played cricket at junior level but that hockey was the game he excelled in. He is also the current President of the Western Province Schools’ Hockey Association.
Speaking about how he came to be a priest in the Catholic Church he said: “My grandmother was a very devout Catholic and we always had a religious atmosphere at home. My elder brother who was an altar server was the influence for me to join the Altar Service at St. Lucia’s Cathedral, Kotahena, my childhood parish, and others who had joined the seminary on their visits to the parish on holiday also spoke about their service to God as priests. All of this motivated me towards my priestly vocation.”
Asked what his message would be to school children in general, Fr. Trevor said sports demanded dedication and commitment and built character; and added every student should take part in some sports activity. He said playing in team games helpedyou to learn at an early age how to live in harmony with others in society and also said playing with seniors helped learn skills and tactics and made you a better sportsman.
Fr. Trevor believes that sports also teaches you life’s lessons of facing winning and losing and how to accept good times with grace and the not-so-good times with determination.
About the big match itself, he believes St. Peter’s and St. Joseph’s (where he had also worked as a staff member) are two premier Catholic educational institutions that have contributed much to education in particular and Sri Lanka in general by producing worthy citizens. Being such great institutions and with Catholic traditions guiding the schools, he said the big match had always been played in friendly rivalry.
His final message was to the JOC, saying he was confident they would get more done through the synergy created and expected the standards to be raised, and as a result bringing in better spectator numbers and having influence in other areas such as more sponsorships.
He concluded the interview expressing the hope that exciting cricket would be played at the big match and wishing that the better side would win.
About the Peterites
The Peterites have a very strong batting line up this year with their right hand top order batsman Lakshina Rodrigo notching up 1000 runs this season inclusive of 5 centuries. He is also the wicket keeper of the side. Then they have the left handed Hashan Wanasekera another top order batsman nearing 1000 runs followed by another left hander and middle order batsman Ranmith Jayasena with more than 700 runs. When it comes to bowling right arm off spinner Thaneesha Weerakonn heads the wickets tally with 86 victims under his name for this season followed by Captain Vinu Mohotti who has captured more than 60 wickets with his right arm off spin bowling.
Vinu Mohotty (Captain), Lakshina Rodrigo (vice-captain), Chandula Jayamanne, Taneesha Weerakoon, Anishka Perera, Hashan Wanasekera, Asanth Malka, Manelka de Silva, Randle Seneviratne, Dinal Jayakody, Inesh Fernando, Jeremy Fernando, Ranmith Jayasena, Ravindu Silva, Sadish Pathiranage, Santhush Goonethileka, Shelon Rodrigo, Vinul Goonawardena.
Fr. Thilina Pathum is the Sports Coordinator and their head coach is Malinda Warnapura and assisted by Shanaka Fernando. Sanath Chinthaka is the master in charge.