12 March 2014

This Roy-Tho belongs to Rajitha Dhanapala

The Royal-Thomian is not just a cricket match between two schools.  It is, but that’s only a small part of the story.  For Royalists and Thomians, both young and old, it is about reunion, reminiscing, re-living the past, envisioning future battles and heroics and a moment to relax, revel and cheer regardless of the status of the match, regardless of the result. 

And yet, the Roy-Tho is a dream for many a schoolboy, a dream one wants to be real.  As it was and as it will be, it was a dream that one young boy did his best to turn into reality, over 30 years ago.  He did his best.  He made it to the First XI.  He even scored a century during the school season, which also happened to be his last year in school.  He was among the top four in the batting averages. He was not selected.  Lesser players made it for reasons of ‘ties’, influence and who knows what else.  Neither were the other three selected, one of whom of course was ‘out’ by default because he was touring Australia with the Sri Lanka Under 19 team.  He was devastated as were the other two.

The big-match came.  They watched from the pavilion.  We can only imagine what was going through their minds.  Years passed. Decades passed. Now we are in the year 2014.  That’s thirty years since that Roy-Tho which is remembered by that boy’s batch mostly (and even only) for the fact that Rajitha Dhanapala, Chandana Panditharatne and Assajith Ranasinghe were dropped to make way for ‘favorites’.  This year, thirty years later, there’s relief and redemption. It comes in the form of a young boy who not only dreamed the dreams his father dreamed, but will see them turning into reality. His name is Thiran Dhanapala.

Thiran will do the keepers’ gloves for Royal.  Throughout the early part of the season when Royal struggled it was Thiran who turned imminent debacles into respectable totals, working hard with the tail.  The season turned somewhere down the line and Royal will go into the big match with confidence, especially after  a moral boosting win over Trinity which came after a bold lunch-time declaration with one batsman unbeaten on 99.  Team comes first, and that point was emphatically made by the captain and embraced by his boys who bundled out the opposition for a little over 100 runs. 

Team comes first, but for the men who were boys in 1984, this match will be special.  Not just because Rajitha gets to smile in a way he hasn’t smiled in 30 years, but another son of another batchmate (Randev, son of Ranil Pathirana) will also be playing for Royal. Randev has emerged as the top allrounder with excellent performances with bat and ball. Indeed, he might be the best allrounder in the schools this year. 

They have both made their fathers proud. They’ve made their fathers’ friends proud too.  They have, as the saying goes, ‘earned the palm’ [Palmam Qui Meruit Ferat].  They will no doubt bear it with grace.  They will be cheered all the way.  And, in the case of Thiran Dhanapala, it’s a cheer that’s could be said to have been held back for thirty long years.  This Roy-Tho does not belong to Rajitha Dhanapala, as asserted, but it is extra special to him.  Not everyone will know why, but that does not matter.