|More than one-and-a-half centuries of...
Cricket, Luverly Cricket!
by Carl Muller
We owe our cricket to the stout British of the nineteenth century. In the mid 1800s, the "Colombo Journal" carried a report of the very first cricket match played on our soil. It was in 1832, between the Colombo Cricket Club and the 97th Regiment of the British Army. That was the year the CCC was founded and it is on record that in this first-ever match, the 97th Regiment trounced the CCC by 10 wickets.
Strange though, the great S.P. Foenander, the Wisden" of cricket in Ceylon, recorded that the CCC was founded in 1863. Youll find this in his book, "Sixty Years of Cricket in Ceylon." Of course, the CCC of 1832 was exclusively European and the Club played regularly against teams of British Army personnel, no doubt watched with growing interest by the locals.
Our schoolboys of yesteryear would have turned up in force and, proudly I say, it was the boys of the Colombo Academy (now Royal College) and St. Thomas College who first took to the game; and, as we know, the first Colombo Academy-Thomian match was played in 1879. Its the Royal-Thomian today and will be forever more!
Royal also had the man to put the boys on their mettle. He was Cambridge Blue, Ashley Walker. Schoolboy cricket spread like a prairie fire. Even though, as we affectionately recall, it was also the age of the pol-pittha bat and kaduru ball!
George Vandespar, a very rich man from Galle, devoted himself and a lot of his money in the organising of school matches and Ceylon cricket; and many famous players of the time - Tommy Kelaart, Allan Raeffel, E. Christoffelsz, to name a few - benefited from Vandespars enthusiastic patronage.
Among the planting community too, both up and low country, cricket caught on like the measles. Many planters joined various cricket clubs and there was much jollification when clubs from Colombo met them. Lets look at some of the clubs of those days:
The Magpies - Founded in Kandy in 1912. Co-founders W. Shakespeare (yes, thats right) and C. Fellowes.
The Horn Club - Kandy, 1881. One had to be ten years in Ceylon to join the club.
The Nondescripts - First captain was Gerald de Saram; secretary Jim Van Langenburg, treasurer Herman Loos.
The Colts - with that superb pair of bowlers Tommy Kelaart and Raeffel. Rarely lost a match. Some fine batsmen too: Laurie Thomasz, MacHeyzer, S. P. Joseph, C. E. Perera.
Kalutara CC - which boasted the legendary Phil May, an MCC man.
Gampola CC - with stalwarts like Gaddum and MacGregor.
Dimbula XI - with its Radella ground and its assured century maker, Toby Gibson.
Colombo Cricket Club - the mix-up in date of founding is easily explained. In his book "Ceylon", T.Y. Wright tells us that that the CCC only commenced keeping paper records of its activities in 1863. Whatever the dispute, it is still Ceylons oldest cricket club. Other clubs also sprang into prominence - the ABCD, Kandy; Dickoya; Upcountry; Kandy CC; Matale CC; The Kandy Detachment of Warwicks; Knuckles; Nuwara Eliya CC; North Kandy: Kandy Detachment, Elkaduwa; Madulkelle; Garrison Club; The Sports Club Ceylon Civil Service and many more. It is interesting to record the Matale CC 1st innings scoreboard in their 1892 match against the Knuckles, It-s not always that a bowler takes all ten wickets:
I have no doubt that many will be able to fill in the gaps in this story. It is on record that the first English team to visit Ceylon was led by Ivo Bligh. Captain Bligh was sailing with his men to Australia (no, not on the Bounty) and they played a Ceylon team at Galle Face on October 13 and 14, 1882. The match was drawn and the visitors, leaving for Oz on the s.s. "Peshawar" were forced to turn back when their ship collided with the s.s."Glenroy". They beat in to Galle for repairs. It was the opportunity for the Royal Dubliners to play a one-day match with Bligh and his men on October 23. The Dubliners were routed by the English bowlers and collapsed to 25 for 9 at stumps.
Yes, weve come a long way. And, over the years, weve met and faced the best. Dr. W.G. Grace was here; so was Pelham Warner, Chapman, Jardine, Cowdrey, Bradman, Hutton, Jack Hobbs, Lala Ararnath, Vinoo Mankad, the Nawab of Pataudi... We have our heroes too - Michael Tissera, Stanley Jayasinghe; Abu Fuard, H.I. K. Fernando, Fitzroy Crozier, Daya Sahabandu, Buddy Reid, Garnini Goonesena, M.K. Albert, Tommy Kelaart, Allan Raeffel, Ernie Kelaart, D.C. de Saram, the brothers Yan Gcyzcl, C.H. Gunasekera, N.S. Joseph, S.S. Jayawickrema, C.I. Gunasekera, R.B . Wijesinghe, N. Chanmugam, M. Spittel, B. R. Hcyn. V.G. Prins, B. Weinman, A.C.M. Lafir. S.S. PerimpanayagamÉ the list can be endless!
Its nice to look back on those early days. They were the days when the new poly-armoured bats were on sale at Chands; and when Elephant House served lunch and tea packets as well as ice palaams, icy chocks and ice cream tubs at all major matches. In fact, the advertisement advised:
"Spectators are advised to make their purchases of lunch and tea packets and Elephant brand soft drinks well ahead of the intervals, thus avoiding inconvenience to themselves and distraction to others during play."
And nobody got cars, houses, land, tailored outfits, the works.
It was simply cricket, luverly cricket!
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