Beyond the boundary lines
As the month of March begins, the bands are ready with their drums tuned, the trumpets have been polished and the catchy beats have been practiced.
Gold Silver and Maroon flags keep flying high.
Ananda and Nalanda are laced with huge school flags. Wrist bands, head bands, pin on badges and many other souvenirs become available to the students. The clamour to buy them is unbelievable as many a junior boy wants to show their support for the "big heroes" on the cricket field.
The prefects of the two schools play a friendly cricket match, the masters and teachers match their skills, not only in a game of cricket but at netball too.
The big day is about to dawn. Strategic battle plans go on the drawing boards with guidance from the respective masters. There is a refreshing breeze in the air as the two schools that have produced the most number of international cricket stars in Sri Lanka and 6 national cricket captains get ready for their annual encounter.
Yes - it's the time for the 84th Battle of the Maroons, - "the only remaining battle in this island rejuvenated with peace"
But is it really so?
From the time this legendary cricket encounter commenced way back in the 1920s players from Ananda and Nalanda have spread one important message, to the far corners of our beautiful island, that good sportsmanship is something that goes way beyond winning or the brilliant performances on the cricket field. Thus it has always been worked out as a friendly cricket match rather than a battle to outshine the other team.
The Joint Committee, that organises this match with much more fanfare and glamour than in the past - a committee that is made up of past students from the two schools, is a classic demonstration of the true brotherly spirit of this encounter.
A very significant feature they have added is a common religious ceremony - in the shrine rooms of one of the schools in alternate years ( and this time it was in the serene settings of the Ananda shrine room) to invoke blessings to both teams and wish them for good sportsmanship.
Continuing with another such initiative players from the two teams, together with a host of their junior cricketers, waiting in the wings to take over in the future were assembled last week at the Kularatne Hall at Ananda college for an educative session on recent changes in cricket laws and more importantly about the value of fair play, respect and the honour for one's opponent that this noble game teaches us.
The feeling of camaraderie and brotherly spirit that is enhanced and spread way beyond any boundaries through these efforts has a lesson for all Sri Lankans, to remind us that we are part of one big family and that together we can overcome any obstacle.