99th Battle of the Blues in Kandy
By Chamal Weerakkody
Many would predict an easy win for the young lions of Trinity as they head to the 99th Kandy’s Battle of the Blues, one of the oldest rivalries in school cricketing
history, yet, the Antonian eagles may upset the Trinitians as they did in the 2014 encounter and they almost repeated it in the limited-over match last year.
Trinity College has won the John Halangoda Memorial Trophy 23 times, and their arch rivals are waiting for an outright win since 1992, with a tally of 11 wins. On the other hand, Trinity broke a 35-year hoodoo in 2012 when they won the trophy under Niroshan Dickwella. Previously they won it in 1986 under Thushara Weerasuriya.
Skipper Raveen Sayer will be leading the young lions to take on the Antonian eagles led by Kaniska Ugalpaya on March 11 and 12 at the Asgiriya International Stadium. The limited-over game played for the Sir Richard Aluwihare Trophy will be played on March 19 on the Antonian ground at Katugastota.
Nervous Eagles look ahead with hope
As one of the oldest schools to play the game, St Anthony’s’ started cricket back in 1903 and played the first match against St Benedict’s College in 1906. St Anthony’s College produced cricketing legends such as Muttiah Muralitharan, Mahes Goonatilleke, Ruwan Kalpage and A.C.M. Lafir some of the proud eagles who marked their legacies in both domestic and international outings as among the greatest cricketers ever to play the game. Their rivalry with the Trinitians first began when they played against each other in 1914 at the Bogambara stadium; the game won by the Antonians.
Though it has been a rollercoaster season for St Anthony’s thus far, they showcased their potential, playing in Division 2, to threaten the Trinitians for a worthy battle and may even snatch the trophy. Kanishka Ugalpaya, skipper of the side, will be the key for St Anthony’s as they get closer to the biggest school cricket match played in Kandy along with head coach Prasad Ranawake in strategising a game plan to tame the Trinitian. Young eagles, Kavindu Pavan Yapa Bandara and Mohamed Alfer will play pivotal roles in challenging the Trinitians.
Rev. Fr Henry Bernard Wijerathne, OSB, shared his views about cricket and sports at St Anthony’s: “This year has been a critical year for First XI cricket at St Anthony’s College. As you know, our team competes in the B Division and we will be having the 99th Kandy’s Battle of the Blues. Our first target was to gain a promotion to A Division as St Anthony’s has been playing cricket in this country for well over a century and we need to ensure we sustain the high standards maintained by our predecessors.
“The team under Kanishka had a tough year. They had to compete and win a certain number of matches in the tournament while they also play their traditional matches against some of the best teams in the A Division. This includes playing against the top team in A Division, Trinity College at the big match. So the Cricket Wing, old boys and the OBA, coaching staff and I worked with the boys during the preseason. We provided all the support they needed. I am really happy with the support they got from all.
“All who associate with cricket at college were concerned and all came forward to help. That helped the coaching staff and also the team. We wanted the boys to go out and play and enjoy the games without being worried about their situation. However, once the season commenced, things did not go according to our plans. I saw that they were psychologically down during the early part of the season. Maybe due to the challenge they have in front and due to the tough opposition, the boys crumbled during pressure times and made some mistakes.
“They were not reading the games or match situations properly. Matches we could’ve easily won were drawn and matches we could’ve saved were lost. However, with the guidance and support of the Cricket Wing and the coaching staff, we managed to raise their morale and also get the team back on the winning way. We have a talented set of boys and they proved their talent and their toughness during their quarter-final match of the tournament. They were playing on the college grounds and they were down on the first innings by 90-odd runs against their opponent. However, when it came to the second innings, they bounced back very strongly and went on to win the match convincingly. I was surprised with that result as I was watching them playing but I knew it was a matter of time for them to come to their top game.
“It was unfortunate they missed out in the semi-finals after a very tight game against Wesley College. However, I think the boys proved that they have it in them to deliver. When it comes to the big match it’s always a different game and they have shown it in the past, and they will rise to the occasion. Looking back at the season, I’m really happy with the progress they have made during a tough season.”
On the big match he said: “This is a traditional match with a very long-standing history, which both schools value so much. It is being looked forward to by the alumni of both schools and we are celebrating the 99th encounter this year. We have a good understanding and a dee- rooted relationship with Trinity College. The big match is not a battle. It is a friendly rivalry. Unfortunately, there were few incidents during the past when those who do not share our ideology and the values of these two institutions did engage in activities which were damaging the relationship. Then there were some elements who wanted to capitalise on these situations and tried to amplify those incidents and damage the reputations of the students and of the college.
“Since we have a better understanding we managed to swiftly take action, settle those and move forward. In order to ensure we do not face similar incidents or any incident, this year we are working together with the principal of Trinity College and their OBA in terms of hosting the big match (at Asgiriya) and the 50-over game (at Katugastota) successfully. We have taken many steps towards this and I’m confident we can look forward to two great matches. I earnestly request from the old boys to come and enjoy the 99th encounter and the 50-over game and make this an occasion to build camaraderie with the Trinitians. Whilst doing so I’d appreciate if they can conduct themselves in best discipline and in good spirits.
“Students look up to old boys and they follow them. As a leading Catholic institution in this country, it is our responsibility to teach the children the right thing and bring them up according to the morals and values of this college. What better way than setting an example for them out there. So I hope, I will get the fullest support from the old boys and of course the students too. Looking forward to a good game and may the best team on the day win!”
Confident Lions enter the battle as favourites
Goliath of this battle against the Antonians, Trinity are set to challenge the struggling Antonians as they bagged eight outright wins this season, placing themselves in a dominating position in Division !1 As the only school to win all three titles in Division 1, limited overs and T20 championships in 2012, they will have the home advantage as they play in their own back yard and are more familiar with the Asgiriya pitch than their rivals.
Trinity first played against Royal College in 1893, and gained recognition as one of the best cricketing schools in the nation by beating Royal by nine wickets within three years. Subsequently, they went on to beat Ananda College, Dharmaraja College, Kingwood College and St Anthony’s College, securing a place for themselves in the schools cricketing scene.
Former national captain Kumar Sangakkara, Ravi Ratnayeke, Kaushalya Weeraratne and Niroshan Dickwella are some of the notable Trinity lions to represent Sri Lanka at international level.
Though they lost the Ranil Abeynaike Trophy to St Thomas’ College, Mt Lavinia, and the quarter-final match in the Division 1 championship to St Peter’s College, Bambalapitiya, the Trinitians are still outfitted in both batting and bowling departments compared to their arch rivals.
Skipper Raveen Sayer will be the key for the Trinitians with his all-round skills and spearheading the team this season taking close to 90 wickets and with more than 400 runs to his name. Young lions, Duvindu Thilakaratne and Rashmika Thisaru Dilshan will be accompanying their skipper to dismantle the struggling Antonian batting line-up. Nushan Weerasinghe will steer the young bats posing a threat to their rivals with leading run scorers Dilan Jayalath and Shanogeeth Shanmuganathan for Trinity this season.
Trinity College Principal Andrew Fowler-Watt said: “As you know, Trinity College this year has a very strong team. They have recorded so far 10 outright wins and are heading the points table. I made it a point to go and see some of their matches. I’m really impressed with the way they play their game. These boys are talented, well-experienced and our captain Raveen Sayer is a well-experienced campaigner. They are a tightly knit team having a good understanding about each other. I had the opportunity to spend some time with the boys and I got to know them. It was a pleasure for me to see them playing this way. Both our batting and bowling have been really good this season.
“In fact, Trinity has been playing very good cricket during the past three to four years and these boys have been trained and developed well. I can see there’s a lot gone on behind their success, with the Cricket Wing, old boys and coaching staff working together and doing a lot to improve the standards of cricket at Trinity. We see the results now, we have very strong junior cricket pool. Though we lost our senior cricket coach earlier in the season as he went overseas, he has set the foundation right and implemented a program to run with the future in mind.
“These boys also show good positive character both on and off the field. They are confident, they play positive cricket, show remarkable attitude towards the sport and at the same time towards their studies as well. It’s good for the game, for the college as well as for Trinitians to see our boys go out to the world as men of value. Their experiences and learning other than what they gather from books or studies will help them greatly.”
Talking of sports at Trinity College, he said, “We get the fullest backing of the old boys and they are really passionate about sports at Trinity College. This is not a secret as Trinity has a rich history in sports and its sportsmen and achievements are well known. The old boys and the students are very proud about sports at Trinity College and we invest lot; time and money to sustain high standards. Our Rugby Scrummage and Cricket Wing and all other bodies are working closely with the College and the boys. They provide all the support and expertise to uplift the standards. This is working well and it’s not an easy task. We need this support. At the same time, in order to achieve overall excellence, I’m hoping to uplift the standards of other extracurricular activities at Trinity College. It is my ambition to see, Trinitians also excelling in arts, music, drama, debating and so forth.
“When it comes to sports and as a personality, Kumar Sangakkara is a legend and an exemplary Trinitian. He is an ambassador not only for the game of cricket but, for the country and for his college. Most of the young Trinitians, for that matter every kid, look up to him. Likewise we need to produce Trinitians in other fields too. We have in the past produced world-class Trinitians in these fields. It’s something we can be proud of and should strive to achieve in the future too.
“We now live in 21st century and I would like to instill creative and critical thinking, problem-solving, team working and leadership skills among present-day students, which is critical for their future. As much as sport is essential and it plays a vital part in personal development we like to see students engage themselves in other activities so whilst they harness their skills it’ll help the college lift its overall standards.
“Talking about Kandy’s Battle of the Blues Mr Fowler-Watt said: “This is my first big match. I’m looking forward to it. While I was in Colombo (as the Principal of British School) I’ve seen and heard how schools and their old boys celebrate and enjoy the big matches. I know, it’s a big tradition and both schools and their old boys look forward to it with so much passion. This also builds camaraderie among schools and their old boys. I’m very excited and am looking forward to hosting it successfully.
“As you know, with so much passion and celebrations, students and mostly young old boys tend to go overboard. We need to ensure the students and old boys maintain the best discipline as both schools enjoy a long-standing relationship. Also this is taking place in Kandy where people value traditions and customs. We need to be mindful about that. So I’m hopeful with the support of St Anthony’s College principal we can host both; the two-day game and the 50 over game without any incidents. I like to invite old boys and their friends to come over and enjoy the big match and help us to conduct it successfully.”
Trinity College captain Raveen Sayer said, “We played 19 games this season and won 10 outright, including our last game against Royal College. This year’s side is a very strong side, we are equally good in batting and bowling. We currently train under Mr Kavinda Jayasena who took over after Mr Sampath left and Mr Kavinda is continuing on the training programme implemented by Mr Sampath.
“We are getting all the attention and support needed from rest of the coaching staff and from the old boys. It has been really good and encouraging. This makes our task easier to concentrate on the game. My assistant Nushan Weerasinghe, who is also a fourth year player, played along with me and has scored more than 700 runs and then including both of us there are five national youth caps in this year’s side. The rest are Duvindu Thilekeratne who has captured close to 90 wickets, Shanogeeth Shanmuganathan who has scored more than 800 runs and Lahiru Kumara. Then we have Dilan Jayalath who scored 1000 runs this season.
“This mix gives us an advantage as we have the experienced players and the players who are at their peak. They come good whenever they are given the opportunity. Our aim is to win the 99th Kandy’s Battle of the Blues this year and hope all Trinitians will come and support us.”