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Dialog Powers the 142nd Royal-Thomian ‘Battle of the Blues’

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Sri Lanka’s longest rivalry in schools cricket comes alive this May as premier boys schools  Royal College Colombo and S. Thomas’ College Mt. Lavinia, will battle it out once again for the 142nd uninterrupted blue ribbon cricket encounter, the ‘Battle of the Blues’  played for the prestigious Rt. Hon. D. S. Senanayake Memorial Shield, from 6th to 8th May, 2021, at the Mahinda Rajapaksa International Cricket Stadium – Suriyaweva, Hambantota. 

The match will be played behind closed doors keeping in line with the COVID-19 restrictions and the health & safety guidelines mandated by Ministry of Health while Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) regulates playing conditions. The 142nd Battle of the Blues cricket encounter will be broadcast LIVE on Dialog Television channel number 72, and will also be available via LIVE stream on the ThePapare.com and the Dialog Viu app. The limited over “Mustangs Trophy” match will be played in a T20 format on the 10th of May, 2021.  

Due to the prevailing pandemic, Sri Lanka’s blue-ribbon annual cricket encounter will break from tradition and will be played for the first time in its 142-year-old illustrious history, out of Colombo at the Mahinda Rajapaksa International Cricket Stadium – Suriyaweva. The teams, coaches and support staff along with umpires and match officials will follow bio secure environment (BSE) protocols, in line with the COVID-19 health & safety guidelines under the supervision of Southern Province & Hambantota Regional health services.

In the 2021 edition of the ‘Battle of the Blues’, powered by Sri Lanka’s premier connectivity provider, Dialog Axiata PLC, the boys from Mt. Lavinia will be led by all-rounder Shalin De Mel, while the lads from Reid Avenue will play under the captaincy of elegant stroke-maker, Ahan Wickramasinghe. 

‘The Royal – Thomian’, has a rich and colourful history spanning across 142 years and is also the second longest uninterrupted cricket series played in the world, second only to the annual encounter played between St. Peters College, Adelaide and Prince Alfred College, Adelaide, Australia, that began just a year earlier and the Australia vs England Ashes Series just 02 years before.

In 1880, the first match in which only the boys took part was played on Galle Face Green, the present location of the Taj Samudra Hotel. This was the start to the centenary series. Both teams are said to have rowed their boats across Beira Lake to play the match. 

The playing fields of the ‘Roy – Tho’ has the distinction of producing cricketers who later became eminent heads of state, with S.  Thomas’ producing the father of the nation, the late Rt. Hon. D. S. Senanayake MP (1901 – 1902) and his son, the late Hon. Dudley Senanayake MP (1927-1929) as Prime Ministers of Ceylon, while Royal produced the late Rt. Hon. (General) Sir John Kotelawala MP (1914-1915) as Prime Minister and the first Executive President of Sri Lanka, the late J. R. Jayawardene (1925). 

The tally between the two schools at present stands at 35 all, with the highly-debated match in 1885, where Royal College was all out for 09 runs with no play on the second day which was considered a win by S. Thomas’ and considered a draw by Royal as shown by the respective souvenir books of the two schools. The shield at present sits, akin to the crown jewels, amongst the silverware in the Warden’s trophy cabinet at S. Thomas’ College Mt. Lavinia, after putting up a superb performance in 2019 under the captaincy of Sithara Hapuhinna, which will be challenged by a determined Royal XI, this year, who racked up impressive wins during the COVID-19 impacted calendar.  The boys from Reid Avenue last won the coveted shield under stewardship of Geeshanth Paditharatne in 2016. 

In 2019, on the 140th edition of the Royal-Thomian, Dialog rekindled a long and successful partnership with Sri Lanka’s Blue-Ribbon Big Match, The Battle of the Blues. The 142nd edition of the Royal-Thomian will be the thirteenth year that the match is sponsored by Dialog. Sri Lanka’s premier connectivity provider, Dialog Axiata has also made a pledge to contribute Rs. 1,000 for every run scored and 10,000 rupees for every wicket that fell. Last year’s exciting encounter contributed Rs. 1,008,000 to the ‘Play for a Cause’ pledge. The proceedings were directed in consultation with the Principal of Royal College and the Warden of S. Thomas’ College to support and empower deserving schools in the country. Since the inception of the ‘Play for a Cause’ pledge, Rs. 6,151,000 worth of cricket gear was donated to ten deserving schools. 

Played in the highest tradition of excellence, the two schools have a formed a bond of mutual respect, camaraderie, sportsmanship, and friendly adversaries on and off the field, which has stood for almost one and a half centuries. As remarked by a yesteryear Principal of Royal College, “There is no Royal without S. Thomas’ and no S. Thomas’ without Royal.”

 

 



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Jayaratne Stables outclass peers to record stunning double

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It will not be an overstatement to say 15th of April race day in Nuwara Eliya 2021 belonged to Jayaratne Stables. This year Western Wind the horse owned by Jayaratne stables a subsidiary of the Jayaratne Group of Companies produced a stunning victory at the hill country racecourse. Western wind beat former Governor’s Cup and Magic Million winner Alcazeba in the premier event. Western Wind is the undisputed champion in Sri Lanka over 1,800 meters distance.

 Gamini Jayaratne the Chairman of Jayaratne Group of Companies is a veteran in horse racing. His passion for horses and horse racing has enabled him to contribute to the sport that he loves. It is over 22 years since he started his stables in Sri Lanka and later began racing in India. Jayaratne is ably supported by his wife Chamari Jayaratne who is very passionate about horse racing. Today the Jayarathne’s own some of the best thoroughbred horses in Sri Lanka and India. Their son Hasanga Jayaratne, Director of the Jayaratne Group oversees the entire horse racing operation, and he was instrumental in the spectacular victories this season.

Jayaratne also has the distinction of being the first Sri Lankan to have started a horse breeding operation in Sri Lanka and also one of the few Sri Lankan’s to have taken part in horse racing in Mumbai, Bangalore, Mysore, and Chennai in India. Being an entrepreneur well known in the country, pioneering some of the most innovative and compassionate services in Sri Lanka his effort to develop the interest among young and able Sri Lankans in horse riding is laudable.

Jayaratne stables have set up a riding center in Dambulla (Forest Park Dambulla) to encourage locals and foreign visitors to learn and enjoy the art of horse riding.

 April 2021 is a memorable day for Jayaratne and his horse trainer Sridhar Sivarathnam. Western Wind a thoroughbred horse trained by Sridhar won the premier race in the country the Governor’s Cup a race with a rich history of over 150 years. Jockey K. Vivek flown in from India brought glory to Jayaratne stables by riding the horses to victory in the Governors cup and queens cup the two most sought after races in the country. Sridhar Sivarathnam was the champion trainer in this year’s April season bringing in the most winners and Jayaratne stables has emerged the champion stables.

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Bold selections must be lauded

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Sri Lanka were in India in 2005, when their selectors brought in a wicketkeeper to the fold. Dinesh Karthik had already established his place in the side so people were actually wondering what was the need to bring in someone who was rarely heard of. Kiran More the Chairman of Selectors said that despite being not known too well, he had seen something special in the wicketkeeper. He was confident that this bloke would go onto make an impact in the game. Well, he had more than just an impact in Indian cricket winning the 50 over World Cup, 20 over World Cup and getting India to number one rank in Test cricket. M.S. Dhoni is his name.

Kudos to Pramodaya Wickramasinghe and his selection panel for some bold selections they have done in recent weeks. When Lasith Embuldeniya was injured and his understudy Duvindu Tillekeratne was also on the mend, the next in line was Prabath Jayasuriya. But he failed the skin fold test placing the selectors on a sticky wicket. The easier option would have been to go back to the tried and tested Malinda Pushpakumara. However, rather than going backwards, they were forward thinking. They backed young Praveen Jayawickrama and it paid off.

Praveen had played a handful of First Class games. Against a team that plays spin well, this must have been a real hard decision to hand him his Test cap, especially with Lakshan Sandakan in the squad. But the selectors were convinced that Praveen was good enough to succeed at the highest level and they were proved right. His was the best debut by a Sri Lankan bowler and in fact the tenth best debut in the history of the game.

Prior to this, the selectors had made another tough call in handing Pathum Nissanka his Test debut in the Caribbean. Despite having Roshen Silva in the squad, instead of going for experience, the selectors backed youth and Nissanka went onto become the first Sri Lankan to score a Test hundred on debut overseas.

Fitness of players have been a huge concern over the years and the selectors have done well to demand players show commitment  and to leave out those who do not meet minimum fitness standards.

The performance of the national cricket team in white ball cricket has not been up to scratch in recent years and the selectors have been bold in axing half a dozen seniors and bringing in new blood. Their initiatives need to be commended as Sri Lankan cricket is looking to regain past glories.

 

 

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Panda and unfulfilled promises

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by Rex Clementine

There’s someone in the Sri Lankan cricket team who answers to the name ‘Panda’. The name was coined on Thisara Perera by the Australian players during his IPL days with Chennai Super Kings. We never saw his full potential on the cricket field although there were glimpses of his brilliance over a 12 year career. 

His first game was in Calcutta in December 2009 when Kumar Sangakkara wanted him flown in as an injury replacement. Thisara was flying on his own at a time there were no direct flights to Calcutta. He had a transit. SLC officials in Colombo and the team back in India were worried whether he would manage to get the right connecting flight and land the day before the game.

Given Panda’s mannerisms, he gives you the impression that he’s a bit backwards. That’s not the truth actually. He’s more childlike wanting assurances from authorities more than someone of his age should. It’s a trait that has not changed in his life. He loves simple things in life. He is someone who will not hurt another person willingly.  

After every game that he plays and after every training session, you can be assured that he will be roaming around the cricket grounds be at RPS, Suriyawewa, Dambulla or Pallekele looking for stray dogs. He packs all the remaining food in the dressing room and feeds the dogs. Not even Ambanis dogs get served food from five star hotels. But the dogs at Sri Lanka grounds have that luxury thanks to Thisara. This was something that was  evident when he started his cricket and he continued it even when he was captain.

Cricketers and their love lives are well documented. Most of them get hooked up to air hostesses and marry them. Some of them… well, let’s not go there. Thisara’s been with his childhood sweetheart for nearly two decades now. He’s only 32.

Thisara’s mother is a science teacher. When St. Joseph’s College came in search of him offering a scholarship for cricket, she was reluctant. Eventually she gave in. A decision that she doesn’t regret now for her son has gone onto become a household name although given his potential he could have achieved much more.

At St. Joseph’s Thisara got into trouble constantly. He played the first day of a school fixture and didn’t turn up for the second day’s play. He had been spending time with his girlfriend. He was in trouble and was asked to explain. Thisara came up with a cock and bull story that on his way to the ground, he was stopped at an Army check post and was held up as he did not carry an identity card. Rev. Fr. Sylvester Ranasinghe, the Rector, a career educationist, didn’t buy his story. He was suspended. 

Chaminda Vaas, one of the finest products of St. Joseph’s made a plea to Fr. Sylvester  to allow Thisara at least play the Big Match. Fr. Sylvester agreed. The rest as they say is history as St. Joseph’s won the Big Match after 35 years.  Thisara was Man of the Match. The old boys were excited and gave the team a month long tour of Australia.  Which 18-year-old would skip an all expenses paid trip to Australia? Thisara would. Reason? He would be missing his girlfriend.

One of the cleanest strikers of the cricket ball, he will clear the boundary with little effort. But consistency was lacking. He would throw the bat for a few overs and hit it on the air and get out rather than grinding it out and completing games. His bowling was lively when he came onto the scene but in later years lacked penetration.

Thisara’s best moment came in the 2014 during the World T-20 in Bangladesh. All his  life, he had lived wanting to emulate Arjuna Ranatunga. As in, Arjuna had scored the winning runs in a World Cup final with a boundary.  So Thisara wanted to go the same way. So after a tensed run chase against India, with Sri Lanka one stroke away from victory, Thisara threw caution to wind. He finished a World Cup final better than Arjuna scoring a six. Ravichandran Ashwin nearly had his man. Sensing that Thisara would attempt a big shot, Ashwin bowled it wider, but Thisara had got enough wood and the ball cleared the boundary.

Thisara’s career could  have been perhaps more successful with someone to offer him better counseling. Hastily he quit Test cricket feeling that he wasn’t getting much opportunities. His figures are still the best by a Sri Lankan seamer at Pallekele.

This time though he was left with Hobson’s choice. The moment it was announced that he  will be not considered for ODIs, he chose to retire from international cricket. You will still see him in different franchise cricket tournaments.

During some of cricket’s dicey moments he has come to Sri Lanka’s rescue. Like when everyone refused to tour Pakistan in 2017. He agreed to take the team to Lahore without any conditions. He was a good player and a great human being.

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