By M. Shamil Amit
Two of Sri Lanka’s leading Buddhist institutions Ananda College and Nalanda College, will come out again when they clash for the 90th time in the annual ‘Battle of the Maroons’ Big Match encounter for the Sujeewa Kamalsooriya Memorial Trophy to be played on March 2 and 3 at the SSC grounds from 9.30 am.
Kamalsooriya was an outstanding sportsman of Ananda who led the cricket team in the year 1983. He passed away tragically during the tsunami that devastated Sri Lanka in 2004.
Apart from the period 1942 to 1947 where the encounter was not played due to World War II, from the encounters that have been played so far the Anandians lead with 14 wins as against six to Nalanda with the rest being drawn.
The Anandians last won the encounter in 2003 under the captaincy of Damindu Kulartanewhile the Nalandians will go all out to break the 65-year-old jinx, having won their last encounter back in 1953 under the leadership of W.W. Silva.
Nalanda has had a successful stint this season so they seem to have the edge, however both camps have well-balanced sides.
Performance-wise the two teams have had a successful outing but Nalanda came out on top in their group to qualify for the knockout stage while Ananda was unable to achieve that feat.
The Anandians, led by third-year coloursman Kamesh Nirmal and the Nalandians led by fifth-year coloursman Lakshitha Manasinghe, have recorded four outright wins each.
Ananda skipper Kamesh has been the back-bone of their batting and is the only centurion of the side having scored 1,025 runs and has notched up seven half-tons.The other batsman the Anandians will bank on is Kanishka Ranthilekege who has scored 802 runs inclusive of seven half tons. They also have players in the calibre of Kalana Wijesiri (672), Daminda Reshan (467), Moditha Ranatunga (438), Janidu Jayawardena (401) and Sudeepa Angulugaha (346) whowill be expected to make their valuable contributions for Ananda to put up a formidable score.
Ananda’s bowling will revolve around their spin duo Janidu Jayawardena – their top wicket-taker with 41 scalps, and SavinduBandara (32) along with pacie Chamika Gunsekera to support the spin pair to curtail the Nalanda batting.
Nalanda too have a host of batsmen to spearhead them in the likes of skipper Lakshitha who has the honour of reachingthe 1,000-run milestone while he has been their top wicket-taker with over 75 wickets to his credit and will no doubt be the player that the Anandians will have to take note of.
Opener Avishka Perera who has scored over 700 runs is the other batsman from whom the Nalandians will be banking on, while the support from Ranindu de Silva (389), Chamindu Wijesinghe (356), Raveen de Silva (350) and Dilhara Polgampola (338) is going to be crucial if Nalanda is to make any impression in their batting department.
In the bowling department skipper Lakshitha will depend on spinner Kaveesh Madurapperuma who has taken over 50 wickets, along with Chamindu Wijesinghe (42), Dineth Samaraweera (25) and Raveen de Silva (26) to curtail the Ananda batting.
However, with the game of cricket being deemed as a game of uncertainty, it all points to an interesting battle with the experienced and confident Nalandians aiming to break the 65-year-old jinx and the Anandians looking forward to breaking the 15-year drought.
Nalanda has the honour of having recorded the two best individual performances with the best individual knock of 149 and the best bowling returns of eight for 32 by ShanthaKalavitigoda and Yohan Gunasekera.
Pictures by Damith Wickramasinghe