Ananda Nalanda - A Friendly Battle
It started in 1924 as a friendly game between two brothers, in a cricket match - and from the very next year it became an annual encounter which has now blossomed into a much sought after Big Match among the Sri Lankan cricketing public “the Battle of the Maroons”. This is the 82nd time these two leading educational institutions meet on a green surface to bring out the best in them . During this long history of 81 years hardly any one would remember any rivalry between them . Although they are called Traditional Rivals there is no rivalry shown other than when in the middle of the ground and battling it out to get the best of the cherry.
During this period many great men have played this match and hundreds of thousands of people have watched this encounter thus making it an event with lots of traditions and historical values. This much awaited match is played during the weekend on a Saturday and Sunday in the month of March , unless the Full Moon Poya falls on one of these days . Match dates are pre fixed and under no circumstances will these dates be changed . The 82nd Battle takes place on the 5th and 6th of march 2011, on which day the Sri lankan cricket team meets Australians in a hotly contested world cup league match . This is the month of Big Matches.
Out of 81 meetings of these two teams a decision has been witnessed only on 19 occasions where Ananda had made it 13 times and Nalanda on 6 occasions . Nalanda has been striving to achieve a decision favourable to them since 1953, but the spirited Anandians have been very competitive all these years and been able to stop any possibilities of a Nalanda victory. They have even gone beyond that by beating Nalanda 4 times since 1953. Nalanda desperately need a win , hope it will happen this time , this is the fervent wish of every Nalandian . What ever the result is going to be this match will be played in great cricketing spirit.
This great occasion has now moved into the digital world with a dedicated Web Site for the occasion titled “www.battleofmaroons.lk” , this web site has lots of history in its content, and its elegantly presented. They have also made use of the latest technology by introducing the RFID tickets for the “Brothers Tent” . This could be the first of its kind in Sri lankan School cricket , thus raising the Ananda Nalanda Match Ticket too to world standards. Many who bought tickets last year for the “Brothers Tent” will continue to keep their first ever RFID Big Match ticket with them as a souvenir. The Battle of the Maroons also has a full time secretariat at the Nalanda Junior OBA premises .
Records have been shattered, new ones established , hoodos broken , outstanding performances recognized, milestones marked and celebrated . All these add to the glorious history of this encounter. The patterns of play , the venues , organizing methods and the type of entertainment may have changed over the years , but the traditions continue thus making “the Battle of the Maroons” a memorable brand .It continues to be a house hold name. Much has been spoken about it and will continue to be spoken about this “harmless battle” for many more years.
Going back to the initial years of this series one recalls that important personalities of the calibre of Dr N.M Perera and Mr P.M Jayatilake - in mid and late 1920’s – had also made their cricketing skills known to Sri Lanka through this encounter. They both captained their respective teams - Dr N M Perera in 1925 and Mr P M Jayatilake in 1928.
Since that era these too schools have been continuously producing outstanding cricketers who have later donned the National Blazer. It is no secret that they have, together, produced elegant stroke makers, versatile all rounders, match winning bowlers , out standing fieldsmen , agile wicket keepers and shrewd captains who have proven their capabilities many a time, both at National and International levels.
During the last 3 decades when Sri Lankan cricket reached top levels in the international arena, many outstanding performers at national level have emerged from these two schools .
When Sri Lanka obtained full ICC membership the team that toured England in 1981 had 6 members from these two schools, Sri lanka's first Test team had 5 including the Skipper - the first ever Test Captain - Bandula Warnapura. The Team that won the World Cup again had 5 -including the Captain - Arjuna Ranatunge.
The Sri Lanka team that emerged as runners up in the previous world cup had 2 members, both of whom have had the honour of captaining the National side, Mahela Jayawardane and Marvan Atapattu.
Roshan Mahanama also Captained the National team in a limited overs tournament in early 1990's
The Current National team now battling it out to bring back the glory of a world cup win, also has two of it’s elegant stroke makers from Ananda and Nalanda – middle order batsman Thilan Samaraweera and Vice Cpatain Mahela Jayawardane.
These two institutions have proven their might in Cricket and contributed immensely to improve the standards of the game , gratitude must be paid to the Past and Present Principals, Coaches, Masters in charge , Past and Present Teachers , Record keepers, Past and present Parents, Old Boys, Present Boys , Well Wishers and very specially the Groundsmen, and the Minor Employees of both schools They should be remembered for the timeless sacrifices they have made to bring the standards of the game and very specially the discipline to the highest levels.
Let us wish the 82nd Battle of the Maroons success and expect two days of entertaining cricket at the highest levels. May the team that plays better Cricket on the two days win the game.