ĎBattle of the Northí with a difference
The serenity of the Jaffna Peninsula had been devastated by deadly
battles over the past three decades.
Players looking forward
to the Big Match
However, the `Battle of the Northí, the biggest and oldest cricket
encounter in the region between Central College and St. Johnís College,
Jaffna remains a mega sporting event for the Jaffna civilians to come
out of their worries and fears created by the violence in the region.
The 103rd `Battle of the Northí cricket big match played between
Jaffna Central and St. Johnís colleges from February 26 to 28 this year
was first staged in 1901. The encounter is considered as the third
oldest big match after Royal-Thomian in Colombo and the match between
St. Thomas and St. Servatius in Matara.
The Royal-Thomian big match enters its 130th year this time and the
battle between St. Thomaís and St. Servatius, Matara will be completing
Central College, Jaffna was established in 1816 and is now 193 years
old. St. Johnís College, Jaffna is 183 years old with its beginning in
1823. Both schools were started by Christian Missionaries and they have
been contributing immensely to the fields of education and sports since
Jaffna Central and St. Johnís, along with other educational
institutions such as Jaffna College, Hartley, St. Patrick and Union
College started by the Christian Missionaries in the Peninsula, not only
had an unblemished record in the fields of education and sports, but
also remained unique in preserving the unity and integrity of the entire
Students from South
A large number of students from Sinhala, Muslim and Burgher
communities from various parts of southern Sri Lanka had their schooling
in these Jaffna schools established by the missionaries and excelled in
education as well as in sports.
Some of the students from the South played in the Central-St. Johnís
big matches and went to the extent of captaining their respective teams,
like the students of Jaffna origin took part in sports in Colombo
R.K.V. Premaratne, a Sinhala student from Central College, captained
the school cricket team for two consecutive years, in 1955 and 1956.
After leaving school, he joined the Police and ended his career as
Superintendent of Police.
In 1957, a Burger student called Bonnie Vantwest captained the
Central College cricket team.
The Central and St. Johnís students not only did well in sports at
school level; some of them even went to excel at National level as at
Nagalingam Ediriweerasingam, a product of Central College Jaffna, won
a gold in high jump for Sri Lanka in the late fifties at the Asian Games
held in Tokyo, Japan.
Late V.T. Mahalingam, M. Seevaratnam and Donald Ganeshakumar of the
Sri Lanka Police Force were also proud products of Central College. They
did extremely well not only during their school days, but went on to
shine at national level, representing the Police.
Late M. Seevaratnam was also a good soccerite and rose to the
position as Senior Deputy Inspector General of Police.
The St. Johnís College had also produced marvellous cricketers such
as the Devendra-Surendra brothers who were known as the Chapel Brothers
of Jaffna. The College had also produced key figures in the armed forces
such as Majors General Balaratnaraja, Perinpanayagam and Siva Shunmugam.
Major Gen. Balaratnaraja retired as the Chief of Staff of the Army a
few years ago.
Several players, who played for Central and St. Johnís had joined the
Police and Armed Forces, soon after leaving school.
Other Jaffna sportsmen were absorbed into leading private sector
establishments in the South and they were happily serving in their
chosen professions until the turbulent days started in the North.
It is also important to mention that the Sri Lanka Freedom Party
stalwart, late Maithripala Senanayake was also an illustrious Old boy of
St. Johnís College, Jaffna.
Another political stalwart, late Speaker K.B. Ratnayake had his
education at Hartley College Point Pedro, which is another prestigious
Ratnayake excelled in soccer and athletics at Hartley and it was
interesting to note that he was able to speak Tamil with a typical
Jaffna accent until his demise, a couple of years ago.
The surrounding area of the St. Johnís cricket ground with the trees
of Old Park, Jaffna and the College Chapel will create an impression of
watching cricket in an English countryside.
However, the big match between Central and St. Johnís is always
played at the Central College grounds as itís situated in the heart of
The `Battle of the Northí had been the biggest crowd puller during
the `Yal Devií days in Jaffna. Former students and their families from
various parts of the country would travel to Jaffna by train to be in
Jaffna for the big match while several students residing abroad would
also make it a point to be there for the `Battle of the Northí.
Fans gearing for the
Chundikuli Girls High School and Vembadi Girls High School, the
sister schools of St. Johnís and Central, also prepared themselves in a
big way to cheer their brothers during the big match days.
The whole of Jaffna turned into a festive mood as the `Battle of the
Northí was the only big match played in the North. It was only later,
during the mid-sixties and seventies that they began to play their big
The Jaffna Peninsula is known as the region of temples, as places of
worship are found in every nook and corner in the North.
Therefore, throughout the year, Jaffna experiences religious
festivals. However, the Central-St. Johnís big match is the mega sports
festival which attracts all residents irrespective of religion, social
status and gender differences from all parts of the Peninsula and
In the 103-year history of `Battle of the Northí cricket encounter,
Jaffna St. Johnís had won 33 matches and Central 24. Thirty seven
matches had ended in draws with seven matches ending without any result.
One match was abandoned due to unavoidable circumstances.
This year, the 103rd `Battle of the Northí was won by Central
College, which had also won the one - day limited overs match which is
the latest addition against its arch rival.
With Jaffna hardly experiencing any untoward incidents of late, the
spirit of the `Battle of the Northí was very high this year, with the
sound of bands and trumpets echoing around the grounds of Central
College and the streets of Jaffna.