Battle of the Maroons going strong!
Ananda and Nalanda meet for the 81st time in cricket
The traditional cricket encounter between the two leading Buddhist institutions Ananda and Nalanda will be played this weekend. This is the 81st occasion they battle it out for cricketing supremacy. Over the years these two schools have developed a unique tradition in this series while the game of cricket is played according to the highest standards in the world. This was quite evident when the Sri Lankan Cricket team won the spirit of cricket award twice under the proud captaincy of Mahela Jayawardena who learned the basics of the game, its finer points and values in his younger days at Nalanda. Cricketers produced by these two schools have always been maintaining high standards at any level of the game.
Dawn of March marks the start of the big match season for us in Sri Lanka and the big match fever continues till the end of March. In preparation for the Maroons battle the teaching staff of Ananda and Nalanda also battle for supremacy in the middle with the hard ball. The prefects’ encounter between the two schools which started in 1979, the Golden Jubilee year in this series, continues todate and is a very interesting part of the celebrations. Yet another addition to this series of encounters is the Ananda-Nalanda media match. Going back to my school days at Nalanda, I recall how we added colour to the city of Colombo in Maroon, Gold and Silver by waving Gold and Maroon and Gold and Silver flags in decorated school buses. The colourful trucks that took to the streets of Colombo, on the day before the match, was a common sight in March those days. Cycles with college flags paraded the streets two days before the big match.
There have been many interesting moments in this series during my days in school; a few of them are really worthy of recalling. Such as, the elegant 118 not out scored by Bandula Warnapura breaking a 44 year old hoodoo. This little batting dynamo later made it to the Sri Lankan Cricket Team and became our first Test captain. Ananda collapsed to 15 for 5 in their second innings in 1973 but rain prevented further play thus washing off any hopes of a victory for Nalanda. In 1975 Anura Ranasinghe broke the 32 years old bowling record by taking 8 scalps for 39 which was bettered by Nalanda’s Yohan Gunasekera, the very next year. The catch of the decade was Ananda’s Kushil Gunasekera’s diving single handed grab to dismiss the fast scoring Nalanda’s prolific run getter, Anura Ranasinghe for 47. Quite contrasting to Anura’s attacking batting approach his younger brother Aruna Ranasinghe took almost 3 sessions to complete a sedate 54 in 1977. In 1978 Ananda’s Prasanna Amarasinghe broke Bandula Warnapura’s 6 year old batting record and took it to Ananda for the first time in the series. The acrobatic catch taken by Nalanda’s Gihan Weerasinghe to dismiss Ananda’s batting machine Arjuna Ranatunga was another stunner.
There have been some unsung heroes behind the success of cricket at Ananda and Nalanda. Special mention must be made of those great gentlemen who contributed tirelessly to the development of cricket at both schools during our days. Starting from Mr. P.W. Perera, Anurudha Polonnawita the list goes on to Lionel Mendis, Gerry Gooneratne, Nelson Mendis, Cycil Gamage and A T Nugegoda to name only a few. It was not only the game they taught the cricketers but more importantly the values and the need to maintain strict discipline among the young stars in the making. Let us remember them with gratitude, on this occasion of the 81st Maroons battle.