27 February 2018

The greatest cricket match ever

Nalliah Devarajan never stopped playing
It’s the big match season. The Thurstan-Isipathana game is already done. The older big matches will follow and there will be dozens more which were inaugurated more recently in the coming weeks.  The Sri Lanka cricket team performed well and there’s hope that better times are ahead, especially under the new coach Chandika Hathurusinghe. We can talk about other things of course, but let’s doff our caps to King Cricket for a moment. 

I’m not sure how it is now, but back in the day come big-match time kids in boys schools were inevitably asked to write essays that could be headlined ‘The best cricket match ever.’  We had to write one almost every year. One year stands out. 1979. The cricket match most talked about that year in our school was the Centenary Battle of the Blues.  That was what everyone who picked that particular essay topic wrote about.  

There were two exceptions. Laksiri Chandana Kurukulasuriya wrote about the Finals of that year’s Exide Trophy in which Royal, led by Ranjan Madugalle, defeated Nalanda College, a keenly fought encounter. 

I wrote about the famous and first tie in test cricket, between Australia and the West Indies played in Brisbane in 1960, about which I had read. I focused on the epic final over bowled by Wesley Hall.  I still remember the commentary: ‘Wes Hall began his run up, as always, from the boundary line…’.  (Here's the clip that includes the pulsating last over)

Kurukulasuriya had figured out that ‘best’ was subjective while I realized that it need not be a match I had seen. I am sure we both entertained our English teacher.

Cricket, however, was not only about big matches or famous encounters.  Sure, they were great and we had a lot of fun.  That, however came once a year. Looked forward to, experienced, and talked about for a few days thereafter. 

‘Cricket’ though was almost an everyday thing. Cricket or French Cricket before schools began, during the interval and sometimes after school.  And of course book-cricket to help pass the intervening hours.

There were classic matches where there were no impartial umpires or scorers with epic bowling, fielding and batting efforts which were forgotten the moment the bell rang. Looking back, one of the most memorable matches was one played when we were in Grade 6. I can’t remember the scores. It was not a match, but a series.  Three matches played over an entire term during the interval; just 20 minutes or so of intensely fought cricket.

It was an unfair match-up. It was the Tamil Medium boys going against their Sinhala Medium counterparts. Unfair, because there was one Tamil Medium class and six Sinhala Medium classes.  Nalliah Devarajan, who later played for Royal, and his teammates didn’t seem to mind.  The match was played in the corner of a rectangular space bordered by the Grade 6 block, an old building with wooden floors and corridors with railings that allowed birds’ eye views to the spectators.  There was a lot of cheering. No jeers. Good cricket. Good sportsmanship. Good memories.

Today, I am imagining that the editor has asked me to write about ‘the greatest cricket match you’ve seen.’  It happened a little over two years ago. 

It was a Saturday.  That evening those who entered Royal Junior School in 1971 or Royal College in 1976 at Grade 6 or joined that particular class at different times were to have a grand reunion. All reunions become that much more special as the years go by, but this was particularly special since most of the ‘boys’ had turned or were to turn 50 that year.  

What was special about this particular was not the landmark of It was years, but the presence of around 25 ‘boys’ from the Tamil Medium class.  It was, pertinently, the batch that sat for the A/Ls in 1983, that terrible year.  Most of the Tamil Medium boys suffered. I am not even sure how many managed to sit the exam. All I know is that most of them migrated. 

As they turned fifty, we learned, they had wanted a special reunion. Some said North America but others wanted it Down Under, the preferences largely based on residence. Someone suggested a neutral venue, such as Bali, but one had said ‘let’s celebrate in the land of our birth’. So they came. A few had never visited Sri Lanka after they left.  Many had, but only sporadically.  

On a whim, someone posted a suggestion: ‘let’s meet up Saturday morning under the Tamarind Trees and play cricket!’  Royaists would know, others would understand. The Tamarind Trees are iconic just as other trees or buildings or spaces in other schools are probably iconic to the particular students.  

And so we met. There was food. And drink. More than a dozen boys from the Tamil Medium turned up. Everyone recognized everyone else. The years collapsed. They were all schoolboys once again, doing schoolboy things.  It was not a Tamil-Sinhala match. The teams were randomly picked. There were boys from all three mediums in both teams. A couple of kids were also recruited to make the numbers since many just wanted to enjoy the show, as is the usual case.  

I don’t remember the scores. Someone must have kept count of the runs but no one was interested in the result.  That match sucked out bellies, turned grey into black, wigged bald heads, made limps disappear and turned men into boys.  It was, in a sense, one of the most special embraces I’ve ever seen.  It was the greatest match ever.   By quite a margin. 

Malinda Seneviratne is a freelance writer. malindasenevi@gmail.com


Rashid Khan said...

a great match thanks for this great and amazing article Eng Vs Pak Live score