Cricket born, died and buried in Kandy | Sunday Observer

Cricket born, died and buried in Kandy

The Asgiriya Stadium
The Asgiriya Stadium

At one time cricket was the most popular sport in Kandy. There was no other sport that attracted so much talent and attention. Youngsters were drawn to the game like moths to a fire.

Cricket had so much of backing in Kandy. At one time cricket was an important part of the culture of Kandy. In the last few years club cricket hit rock bottom at club level.

Cricket was played in Kandy from about 1863 mainly in the Knuckles-Rangala and Kandy town which had the Kandy ABCDC (Athletic, Boating, Cricket & Dancing Club). In 1888 the name was changed to Kandy Sports Club. The club also started playing rugby, hockey and polo. The home ground was Bogambara until 1939 when the British Colonial army took over during the Second World War.

The first unofficial Test in Ceylon was played in Kandy in 1889 as G.F. Vernon led an all-amateur England team which toured the subcontinent, the first to visit India.

The team played the first ever “unofficial test” against an (all-European) All-Ceylon team at Bogambara ground. In reply to All-Ceylon’s 155, the visitors scored 234 for 8, anchored by Vernon’s 105 not out. Thereafter, all international matches played by the Sri Lanka team until 1981 were to be “unofficial tests”. England teams playing All-Ceylon were labeled M.C.C. (for Maryleborne Cricket Club), reflecting the “unofficial” status of the tests they played.

Then the exclusive European Kandy Sports Club invited local Ceylonese to play for them from 1920. In 1914 and 1916 overseas teams played at Bogambara and Asgiriya and in 1935 an Indian University team met the Up-Country team.

The Province Cricket Association was formed with Dr. Anthonisz as President. He offered the “Dr. VHL Anthonisz” Shield for competition among clubs in the Kandy district.

The revival of Kandy district cricket took place on August 16, 1946 with Dr. Anthonisz as Secretary and Colonel Gordon Pyper as President. The teams that participated were Kandy Sports Club, University Scheme SC, Hatton SC, Gampola SC, Kandy Public Services SC, Nuwara Eliya Public Services SC, Agriculture Department SC, Kandy YMCA, Kandy YMBA SC and Kandy YMMA SC.

The inaugural tournament was won by Kandy Sports Club led by Francis Amarasinghe. In 1947 the Central Province Cricket Association participated in the Zonal tournament conducted by the Ceylon Cricket Association.

The Kandy district team was known as Central Zones and led by Philip Buultjens. There were two day matches. Dr. Anthonisz did much for Kandy sports specially cricket and football. He was the Surgeon to the then Governor. The CFCA hosted the first Commonwealth team (1950) and also the second Commonwealth team.

The Hyderabad Blues (1966), State Bank of India (1967), MCC (1969), Australia (1979), MCC (1973), India (1974) and Pakistan (1976) all played three-day matches against the Board President’s XI while Joe Lister’s team played a two-day match against the Government Services CA at the Campus ground. This match was hosted by the Government Services Cricket Association. All the matches from 1950 to 1976 were two-day games up to the granting of our Test status in 1981.

In 1969 a limited overs match was played against the MCC, which the visitors won easily. In 1973 the MCC led by Tony Lewis won a limited overs game comfortably.

In 1974 India met a Sri Lanka Board President’s XI at Katugastota and the match ended in a draw. The inaugural first class match at Asgiriya was between the Sri Lanka Board President’s XI and Intikab Alam’s Pakistan side in 1976.

The Test era began in Kandy on February 9, 1982 with a three-day game and on February 22, 1983 a year later Asgiriya became the third Test venue in Sri Lanka and the 54th in the world. Since that game almost every team that visited Sri Lanka has played at Asgiriya. The inaugural Test with Australia began on April 22, 1983. Then came New Zealand followed by India, Pakistan, England’s Young Cricketers, England B, Bangladesh which was a part of the Asia Cup and Kenya in a World Cup match. So did South Africa, West Indies and Zimbabwe. Today all international cricket matches are played at the Pallekele Stadium some 15 kilo meters away from Asgiriya.