Battle of the Saints: A Chalice to behold | Sunday Observer

Battle of the Saints: A Chalice to behold

Ashain Daniel the captain of St. Joseph’s College (left) and Ranmith Jayasena the captain of St. Peter’s College hold the Fr. Maurice Legoc Cup they’ll play for
Ashain Daniel the captain of St. Joseph’s College (left) and Ranmith Jayasena the captain of St. Peter’s College hold the Fr. Maurice Legoc Cup they’ll play for

They call themselves the Saints and their sporting rivalry on the cricket field has spanned 85 years, survived a second World War and produced as many as 62 draws for a mere 22 wins.

But still the annual big match encounter between St. Joseph’s College and St. Peter’s College despite losing some of its sparkle of the past remains the most anticipated event of both schools.

Many are the reasons why the two schools disregard the gang-load of stalemated draws while many so-called big matches end up in brawls or disruptions and very rarely has the Joe-Pete produced a dispute or a major stand-off between rival supporters.

Presently the two schools are headed by two of the island’s most sporting clergymen in Fr. Travis Gabriel (St. Joseph’s) and Fr. Trevor Martin (St. Peter’s) who have much in common.

When the duo are not at prayer or behind their desks, they are tuned in following the latest sporting results around the world and the Joe-Pete of the foreseeable future will not be short of spiritual patronage that has largely separated their big match from the rest which includes the Royal Thomian, the world’s second oldest cricket match now into its 140th year.

Two years ago in what must have been the strangest of moments in its history, the Joe-Pete ended in an anti-climax when supporters of St. Joseph’s College barged onto the field to thwart a possible Peterite victory.

But like the One Great Scorer, Fr. Travis would not have any of the madness and duly wrote it down that the Peterites played the game and awarded them the win that brought him many accolades from renowned cricket scribes in the country. “It is not only cricket or sport that we are concerned about. It’s the friendships that help to inculcate good values and that has been our tradition”, said Fr. Travis as he launched the countdown to the match on March 1 and 2.

Before his posting at St. Joseph’s College, Fr. Travis was once the Guardian Angel of sports at St. Peter’s College and saw the rise of several sporting stars some of whom went on to represent Sri Lanka in cricket, athletics and rugby.

The Joe-Pete has often being projected by heads of other institutions as a role model to be emulated in an age when some big matches that have meaninglessly mushroomed over the years entangle with the law and spill over onto the streets causing a public nuisance or even violence perpetrated by adults. Some rival schools would grudgingly admit that the Joe-Pete may not be the most patronized match, but it offers a kind of emulation that other big matches may not.

“We have a bounden duty to set a high standard and be a role model for all schools in whatever we do. We need to have gentlemanly values but at the same time play hard for success,” said Fr. Martin.

When the annual encounter was launched this week, more than a dozen corporate firms rushed in as commercial partners to sponsor the event, among them Dialog Axiata, a leader in the country’s mobile phone service provider.

Fr. Martin has already booked his place in the portals of St. Peter’s College by orchestrating the construction of a new sports pavilion and grandstand complex unlike any other in the schools arena which he says is for the benefit of “others”.

Historically, the Joes have not had the best of times in their on-field dealings with the Peterites who can be like off-shoot angry pups against the older dog that eventually bred them.

But together the two schools can take credit for moulding the careers of many cricketers who wore the Sri Lanka cap down the ages to the present.