Royal-Thomian brave coronavirus | Sunday Observer

Royal-Thomian brave coronavirus

15 March, 2020
Roshan Jurangpathy
Roshan Jurangpathy

The 141st Battle of the Blues between Royal and S.Thomas’ had a close call due to the coronavirus as it continued its traditions with the game at SSC ground ending yesterday.

The world’s oldest uninterrupted inter-school cricket match which has even survived two World Wars, faced and overcame the biggest challenge in its long history.

As the local alarm sounded on the worldwide coronavirus, it hit new headlines in newspapers with schools being given an unexpected early first term vacation until April 20. The Royal-Thomian would have faced a challenge if the big match had not been played.

But the big match had just started on the first day when local schools were closed on Thursday. If not it would have been a disappointing scenario if the match had to be played minus supporters of both schools.

Similar to other top world sporting events these days which have been forced to be played before empty stadia, the Royal-Thomian would have been a disappointing story without the most essential ingredient to keep the traditions – the young and old boys of the two schools being present.

The Royal-Thomian has a proud history that has brought little Sri Lanka into the record books of world cricket. It remains as the oldest inter-school cricket encounter, which even the deadliest World Wars could not interrupt in 1914-1918 and 1939-1945.

Thus, the undisputed Royal-Thomian encounter kept its high traditions intact as it is now marching towards its 150th anniversary.

When the Battle of the Blues history is talked about, we cannot forget a blue blooded Royal cricketer who emerged after Ranjan Madugalle. He is none other than former Sri Lanka cricketer Roshan Jurangpathy, who was at the receiving end of poor thinking by the then national selectors who did not play fair by him.

Madugalle is the proud first ever winner of this prestigious award in 1978/1979 when he was captaining Royal College. With Arjuna Ranatunga (Ananda 1980 and 1982), Rohan Buultjens (St. Peter’s), Roshan Mahanama (1983 and 1984) and Asanka Gurusinha (1985) they received crowning glory.

Yet another outstanding cricketer who brought fame to Royal College was Jurangpathy, who was a big hit in the schools cricket arena at that time as an aggressive batsman and an effective off spinner in 1986.

Jurangpathy went on to represent Sri Lanka mainly as a spinner but the national selectors of that time did not make full use of him. When he made his Test debut Jurangpathy became the fourth youngest player to represent Sri Lanka as a supremely gifted all rounder. But the selectors showed little or no interest to persevere with him and discarded him after playing him in only two Tests.

True that his performances were below par in the two Tests, but considering his age and talent, if the selectors had shown faith and guided him as they do now with other less talented cricketers, he could have developed into an all rounder of international class.

Jura, as he was affectionately know, shot into prominence when representing the Sri Lanka Under-23 side against Pakistan with some remarkable performances.

At 17 years and 342 days he became the youngest Sri Lankan player to score a first-class hundred. Unfortunately, he found the transition from schoolboy to Test cricket a difficult one with hardly any opportunity and time to blossom. Moreover, he was under-bowled in his Test debut.

Discarded by the selectors and ignored somewhat harshly thereafter he later turned up playing grade cricket in Western Australia.

Jura was a household name in school cricket during that era and the country lost a cricketer of promise as he later domiciled in Australia.

The Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year contest has produced a group of elite cricketers who have engraved their names in Sri Lanka cricket history in letters of gold.

The first recipient of the coveted title, Ranjan Madugalle not only reached the pinnacle of his career as a cricketer by going on to captain Sri Lanka but also reached the very top as an official by becoming the Chief ICC Match Referee.

Former Ananda captain Ranatunga, who won the title after Madugalle in 1980, is another great Sri Lanka cricketer who marshaled the national team to conquer the ‘Mount Everest’ of world cricket. Ranatunga, who became the First Schoolboy Cricketer to win the Mega Award twice in 1982, captained Sri Lanka’s World Cup winning team in 1996.

The galaxy of stars who have shown in the Lankan cricket firmament include the world’s highest Test wicket taker Muttiah Muralitharn, the Most Valuable Player award winner in the 1996 World Cup tournament Sanath Jayasuriya (outstation title), former Sri Lanka captain and ex-national coach Marvan Atapattu (1990), former Sri Lanka captain and ex-ICC Match Referee Roshan Mahanama, former Sri Lanka player cum 1996 World Cup star turned manager of the Sri Lanka team Asanka Gurusinha, former Sri Lanka player and ICC Elite Panel Umpire Kumara Dharmasena and ex Sri Lanka Test batsman turned batting coach of the Bangladesh nation team Thilan Samaraweera (1994 and 1995).

Three members of the current Sri Lanka pool have won the Observer-Mobitel Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year titles during their school careers in recent times. They are former Sri Lanka T20 captain Dinesh Chandimal (Ananda - 2009), Niroshan Dickwella (Trinity – 2012) and Kusal Mendis (Prince of Wales - 2013).

Niroshan Dickwella and Kusal Mendis are two youngsters who have stepped into the national team after winning the Observer-Mobitel Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year award in successive years (2012 and 2013 respectively) and cemented their places in quick time.

Apart from those popular figures, there are several other past award winners who have proved their class with the Sri Lanka team and at various other levels. Charith Asalanka from Richmond – 2015 and 2016 who has won the big award in successive years on two occasions represented Sri Lanka ‘A’ against England Lions at Pallekele earlier this year.

Sanjeewa Ranatunga too went on to represent Sri Lanka in Test cricket. In nine matches, he had aggregated 531 runs with two centuries. He had played in 13 ODIs for Sri Lanka and scored two half centuries.