Ananda and Nalanda – A symbol of Sri Lankan Cricket
Last Sunday I saw a significantly small article written at one of the leading Sunday national news paper in English on annual battle between Ananda and Nalanda. This is very common in last decades. But again we can observe more articles (especially in English) which went for pages written on other big matches played in Sri Lanka. But I think there is a symbolic importance in the big mach between Ananda Vs Nalanda than any other schools in Sri Lanka. Simply they are the only 2 schools produced more test cricketers to the nation! But traditionally cricket and English go inline and there was a myth that if you know English then only you can play cricket.
But this has changed by Old Anandian Arjuna Ranatunga and his battalion in 1996.It is worthwhile to discuss the importance of Ananda and Nalanda in Local cricket arena.Up to now Ananda and Nalanda have the honor of producing more than 25 cricketers to the national teams. Among the cricketers produced by Ananda are Arjuna Ranatunga, Anuruddha Polonnowita, Bonnie Wijesinghe, Sarath Wijesinghe, Sonny Yatawara, Sidat Wettimuny, Brendon Kuruppu,Chandika Hatururinghe,Dulip Samaraweera,Marvan Atapattu, Aviska Gunawardena,Thilan Samaraweera and Thilina Kandambi and Dinesh Chandimal. Nalanda also produced players like Bandula Warnapura, Anura Ranasinghe,Jayantha Seneivrathne, Lalith Kaluperuma, Kumar Dharmasena, Roshan Mahanama, Asanka Gurusinghe, Gamini Wicrkramasinghe and Mahela Jayewardena.
The contribution made by these two schools in the cricketing arena cannot be matched by any school in the country. Since obtaining Test status, players produced by both Ananda and Nalanda have played a key role in the progress of Sri Lanka cricket. A majority of the cricketers in the national teams have been from these two institutions which have produced talented and well disciplined cricketers. Furthermore, it is no exaggeration to say that these two schools are capable of raising two teams of Test cricketers from their schools. Sri Lankan cricket peaked in a short span of 25 years since gaining Test status in 1981. Sri Lanka’s first Test captain was a Nalandian, Bandula Warnapura and the world champion team in 1996 was led by Anandian Arjuna Ranatunga. They entered the finals in 2007 and were led by Nalandian Mahela Jayawardena. Further, old Anandians and Nalandians such as Ana Punchihewa, Upali Darmadasa, Danasiri Weerasinghe, Prasanna Ranatunga, Kushil Gunasekara, Thilanga Sumathipala, Mahinda Wijesinghe, Karunarathne Abesekara, Premasara Epasinghe, Palitha Perera, Kamal Deshapriya and Prasanna Hennayake have contributed immensely to popularise the game amongst the Sri Lankan rural population. This clearly shows the contribution made by Ananda and Nalanda towards Sri Lankan cricket. Once it comes to big matches the inaugural Big Match between Ananda and Nalanda, was played in 1924 with K. A. P. Rajakaruna, (later Barrister-at-Law) as captain of Ananda College and B. S. Perera as captain of Nalanda College.
B. S. Perera later played for All Ceylon. But this encounter between Ananda and Nalanda played at Campbell Place, the playground of Nalanda, was practically washed off by heavy rain. In 1925, Dr. N. M. Perera and B. S. Perera did captain Ananda and Nalanda respectively and Ananda was defeated in the same year in the Big Match. Five matches were not played from 1942 to 1947 due to the Second World War.
This time Ananda and Nalanda will be meeting for their 82nd Battle of Maroons. With seven wins under their belt in 2010/2011 season Ananda will be hoping for another win after eight years against Nalanda.Anandians last won the encounter under the captaincy of Daminda Kularatne in 2003, the Nalandians on the other hand tasted their last win way back in 1953 under the leadership of W.W. Silva, thanks to the sporting declaration offered to them by Ananda skipper, Henry Seneviratne. This time Ananda will be captained by all-rounder Geshan Wimaladharma who guided his team to win seven matches and drawn eight in 15 games and the school is unbeaten so far. Captain Wimaladharma has accumulated 825 runs in 15 games which while Thushara Samarakoon, opener Danuka Madushan and Pasindu Madushan have scored over 500 runs during this season. Sachithra Perera is a highest wicket in this season who has grabbed 99 wickets so far. Paceman Ruvinda Shamen together with Shamen and Pasindu Madushan can be threat to Nalanda in this game. Nalanda in this season has won one match and experienced two defeats in 13 matches. The side is lead by wicketkeeper/batsman Prashan Wickramasinghe who is the side’s only centurion and also their top scorer for the season with over 500 runs. Sineth Gunawardena has gathered 447 runs also in 12 matches. In bowling, spinners Koshan Danushka and Dasun Tharinda can be considered as key .Danushka has collected 46 wickets in 12 games and Tharinda has captured 22 wickets in 11 matches Up to now 81 matches that have been played and Ananda are in the lead with 14 wins against six to Nalanda with the rest drawn. And also it is worthwhile to noted that though is a match between two teams the brotherhood and camaraderie has been demonstrated throughout on the ground as well as off the ground.