From the 12th edition of Quadrangle Magazine; Quadrangle interviewed former Captains, Players, and Principals during the 2019 Schools Big Match coverage.
By Kineta Fernandez
When it comes to traditional school cricketing battles in Sri Lanka, a ‘Big Match’ is more than just an ordinary cricket encounter between schools. Cricketing battles between two rival schools would be by nature very competitive and is greatly loved by all. They look forward to their most favored team coming on top over the other and having their own fun while they are at it. However, to those who have played a Big Match or rather experienced it at first hand, it means much more. These games are played with a special spirit that prevails throughout those matches. They are memorable and are to be cherished.
The oldest, biggest and most celebrated Big Match is undoubtedly the Royal-Thomian, Battle of the Blues which dates back to 1879. This year the 140th Battle of the Blues took place at the SSC in Colombo with the Thomians under Sithara Hapuhinna earning a victory after 12 years.
As years passed more schools inaugurated their own Big Matches and the trend grew. The Battle of the Saints, the Big Match between St. Joseph’s and St. Peters’, Battle of Blues in Kandy between Trinity and St. Anthony’s, Battle of the Maroons between Ananda and Nalanda and also Battle of the Maroons in Kandy between Dharmaraja and Kingswood, the Lovers’ Quarrel between Richmond College and Mahinda College are also among the popular Big Matches.
The 85th Battle of the Saints was played this year with the match ending in a draw after Peterites staged a dramatic fight back while the Lovers quarrel ended with Richmond College earning a 6 wicket victory. The rest of the Big Matches failed to deliver a result though 102nd Battle of the Blues in Kandy was poised for a result but was abruptly called off during the final hour due to pitch invasions by spectators which resulted in Trinity Skipper getting injured in the melee. Something for match organizers to pay attention to as crowd control, keeping an eye on the over enthusiastic supporters becomes ultra important to maintaining standards and to uphold ‘Spirit of the Game’. To the young players, that feeling of playing in a big match lives on forever. We have had the privilege of having a few prominent past cricketers sharing their memories of their own cricketing battles.
Brian Obeyesekere and Denham Juriansz were guests of honor at the P. Sara Oval during the 85th Joesephian-Peterite Battle of the Saints encounter this year. They were both very skillful cricketers who competed at the 35th Battle of the Saints where St. Joseph’s was led by Brian Obeysekere and St. Peter’s by all-rounder, Denham Juriansz in 1969 which ended in a draw. Both captains and their teams were invited for this year’s Battle of the Saints as they celebrated 50 years of competing against each other. A tradition the Joint Joe-Pete organizing Committee would continue with. Even though Brian and Denham belonged to opposing teams, what is special about a big match is that it builds friendships not only among teammates but among opposing teammates as well. Brian and Denham who are friends even after 50 years is an example of an everlasting friendship brought on by a big match. According to Brian, not only do his teammates keep in touch but also so does his coach and the master in charge from back in the day. He fondly recalled memories of the encounter back in 1969 and has great respect for the Peterites. Though the result was a draw, he was proud of the fact that both teams played in best spirts and high standards were maintained on and off the field. Most of his teammates and Peterites too have played for several years leading up to 1969. In fact some of them went on to play together for Clubs later on. So players had a good understanding and a respect for each other. The master in charge of St. Joseph’s back then Mr. Angelo Rayer was also expected to be present during the 85th encounter but an unavoidable circumstance made it impossible for him to do so. Unfortunately, most of Denham’s teammates are living in oversees like him being in Australia for well over four decades which makes it harder for them to keep in touch though they do their best to do so when opportunity provides. He could not get his full team down in time for the reunion barring few who made it. However, he was pleased to be back in Sri Lanka meeting his old friends from St. Joseph’s and St. Peter’s and also to witness this year’s encounter seated together with his opposing team mates.
Denham though could not recall much of the 1969 season or the Big Match, was cherishing the opportunity to represent and lead St. Peter’s College at Cricket and then to play against wonderful Josephian outfits in the 1960’s. He values the guidance received at College, support from his team mates, the experience of playing against some of the best School Cricketers in 60s and then having the opportunity of building friendships. The proof of friendships made, if proof was needed, is the friendships he has with Brian and rest of Josephians.
We moved from the Colombo Oval to Sinhalese Sports Club to greet Royalists and Thomians as they met for the 140th Battle of the Blues. Former S. Thomas’ College 1st XI Cricket Captain (1976 and 1977) Sasi Ganeshan and former Royal College 1st XI Cricket Captain (1974) Sam Lawton were both guests of honor at the 140th Battle of the Blues this year. They both shared cherished memories of their cricketing battles when they played for their Alma mater. They both played during the 70s which was a very colorful period for Sri Lankan cricket where even scoring 50 runs was a great achievement. Sasi Ganeshan recalled that cricket was played in a very positive manner and at that time friendships were built not only between Royal and S. Thomas’ but also with the other schools that they played with. Today it maybe a little difficult to maintain such relationships as school teams play with more than 15 schools in a tournament.
For the photo album of 85th Battle of the Saints – Josephian Peterite at P.Sara Oval, click here
Photographs by Peter de Croos and Nuhan Perera
Sam Lawton first started playing for Royal College at the age of 15 when he and his teammate Ajit Pasqual (1973 Captain) received colours in 1970 and both played for 5 years. He cherished every minute of his cricketing life. Sam led the team in 1974 with a very strong side including players such as Sarath Wirekon, Prasanna Kariyawasam, C.P.P. Abeygunerwardene. However, the match ended in a draw in 1974 as well. The Royal team never won a single match during those five years, but what is admirable is that they never lost. They always managed to play well and hold on until the end. As a bowler, Sam Lawton’s most memorable match was the Royal-Thomian of the year 1973 under Pasqual’s captaincy where Lawton got a match bag of 9 for 82 runs (6 for 52 and 3 for 30). A match which he believed they should have won. Unfortunately for the Royal team, they started off badly but held on and the match ended in a draw. His most cherished wicket was also that year when he ran out Turney Mohammed with a direct hit.
Sasi Ganesan a popular Cricket captain of S. Thomas’ College Mount Lavinia who played for three years from 1974 to 1977 and steered the Thomians to become Cricketing Champions in 1976. His first year at the Battle of the Blues was when Sam Lawton captained Royal College. That year, Sasi scored 48 runs. He captained in 1976 along with his brother Ajit Ganesan as the vice-captain making it the first time in history of S. Thomas’ where two brothers led an excellent team. The team included late Lalith Ratnayake, late Guy De Alwis, late Dayalan Subramanian, Dayal De Silva, Ishak Shahbdeen, Saliya Ahangama, Lakmal De Soyza, Suraj Danawella and Michael Jayasekere. Out of 12 matches, the team won 8 outright and earned the title ‘All Island Best Schools Team’. Sasi Ganesan was also the first captain to win the Mustangs Trophy.
As Brian Obeysekere and Denham Juriansz recalled, these two fine gentlemen of Royal and S. Thomas’ echoed value of the friendships and keeping in touch with their teammates and coaches. Sam Lawton wanted to thank his coach ‘Cheppie’ Gunasekara who coached him back when he went through a stump in his second year and Mr. F.C De Saram and Mr. John De Saram Master in charge whom Sam Lawton described as, “Great people to look up to”. Sasi Ganesan wanted to thank late Mr. Lassie Abeywardene whom he described as “a fantastic coach”, Mr. Ponnaiah who coached him when was in the junior team and Mr. Bertie Wijesinhe to whom he went for individual classes who he described as “a legend”.
When asked what his advice would be for the younger generation, Sasi Ganeshan said that they should mingle with the opposition more often as companionship and building friendships is very important. Moreover, they should play in good spirits and sportsmanship. He also added that the younger generation should never forget their school because they are who they are because of their alma mater and they should make it a point to attend more activities of their Colleges.
Click here for Photo albums of 140th Battle of the Blues by Anuradha Bandara, Amila Alahakoon, Peter de Cross
We then travelled from Colombo to Galle. The day prior to the Lovers Quarrel, the big match between the old boys of Richmond College and Mahinda College took place at the Galle International Cricket Stadium. The Galle town was decorated with flags of both schools and a joint cycle parade was in progress creating a festive mood. While watching the proceedings at the Galle Stadium we spoke to Mr. Thilina Panditharatne, an active member of the OBA of Richmond College. He was recalling the bygone days of Richmond and how the friendships were built among the mates from Southern Schools, especially with Mahindians. They were here to play two matches, the over 40 age group and the under 40 age groups, for the old teammates to keep in touch and relive their cricketing battles and make new memories. He was pleased with the turn out from Richmond and Mahinda camps and praising the commitment and passion of some of the senior Cricketers from these two leading Southern Schools not only to support Cricket at their respective alma maters but also to represent the ‘Old Boys’ when an opportunity was given.
Then we attended the pre briefing held at Mahinda College for the 1st XI Cricket teams of Richmond and Mahinda. There we took the opportunity to speak to Mr. Gamini Jayawardene, the Principal of Mahinda College. He shared his thoughts about how special the big match between Mahinda College and Richmond College is and especially to the fans and the citizens of Galle.
As hosts Mahinda College had taken all steps to ensure the Lover’s Quarrel will be held in a safe and a secure environment allowing spectators to enjoy the match. In addition, he stressed the importance of players upholding the Spirit of the Game which he highlighted at the briefing held for both teams at Mahinda College on the eve of the Big Match which was followed by tea. According to Mr. Jayawardene, both schools take pride in producing great players for the national team which they continue to do so. He himself is an Old Richmondite who had the opportunity of experiencing life at both camps and also gathering best values whilst fostering the RCG-MCG brotherhood.
Quadrangle also had the privilege to talk to Champaka Ramanayake former Sri Lankan cricketer and former national bowling coach who began his cricketing career playing for Richmond College, Galle. An excellent example of what Mr. Jayawardene was talking about. He was there to represent Old Richmondites at the Old Boy’s encounter prior to Lover’s Quarrel. He shared his memories on his last big match as a school boy. According to him Richmond was not the best that day. Everyone thought Richmond would suffer a terrible defeat because by the first water break they scored 24 runs for 7 wickets. However, Champaka Ratnayake along with Nishantha Mendis and Keerthiariyapala managed to save the match while batting until 4.00 p.m. He still recalls that great escape with gratitude for the fighting spirit shown by the Richmondites. However, he paid a fitting tribute to his opposing team mates and most of them continue to be good friends to date. He is here to play some cricket with them and cherish the nostalgia of old quarrels.
2019 Lovers’ Quarre Photo albums, click here
Richmond-Mahinda Lover’s Quarrel at Galle Cricket Stadium
Photographs by Peter de Croos
We also travelled to Kandy and Matara for our Big Match coverage and had the opportunity of interviewing former Antonian skipper Meri Gunaratne at Katugastota during the 102nd Battle of Blues in Kandy between Trinity College and St. Anthony’s College. His full interview is published separately.
All the past cricketers interviewed had several similarities. They gave their best to their alma mater when representing and earned the respect and honour even from opponents. They all keep in touch with their teammates, opponents and coaches. Now they take time off their busy schedules to be present at big matches and they feel extremely honored to do so. These former Cricketers from Colombo, Kandy, Galle and Matara take pride in what they contributed and achieved while cherishing every moment of their cricketing life. Though they played positively, winning was not everything. To them the honour of wearing College Crest and lifelong friendships built are priceless. This is something they want the present generation to take note of, which, the writer believes they will!