Ananda Vs Nalanda:
The most significant encounter this time

Sri Lanka’s inaugural Test: Sri Lanka skipper Bandula Warnapura (L) and England captain Keith Fletcher go out to toss. (File Photo)

Ananda and Nalanda will clash for the 81st time in their annual ‘Battle of the Maroons’ encounter on March 6 and 7 at the SSC ground.

This is the first time these two teams are meeting after the war. The sacrifices made by Ananda and Nalanda for the war victory is enormous. It is not surprising that those who led the battle were mostly from these two schools. Every Anandian and Naliandian inherits that sense of love for their Motherland from the very first moment he walks into the school as a new student, in the smart white uniform.

The contribution made by these two schools in the cricketing arena cannot be matched by any school in the country. Since obtaining Test status, players produced by both Ananda and Nalanda have played a key role in the progress of Sri Lanka cricket. A majority of the cricketers in the national teams have been from these two institutions which have produced talented and well disciplined cricketers. Furthermore, it is no exaggeration to say that these two schools are capable of raising two teams of Test cricketers from their schools.

So far, Ananda and Nalanda have the honour of producing more than 25 cricketers to the national teams. Among the cricketers produced by Ananda are Arjuna Ranatunga, Anuruddha Polonnowita, Bonnie Wijesinghe, Sarath Wijesinghe, Sonny Yatawara, Sidat Wettimuny, Marvan Atapattu, Aviska Gunawardena,Thilan Samaraweera and Thilina Kandambi.

Nalanda also produced players like Bandula Warnapura, Anura Ranasinghe,Jayantha Seneivrathne, Lalith Kaluperuma, Kumar Dharmasena, Roshan Mahanama, Asanka Gurusinghe, Gamini Wicrkramasinghe and Mahela Jayewardena.

Sri Lankan cricket peaked in a short span of 25 years since gaining Test status in 1981. Sri Lanka’s first Test captain was a Nalandian, Bandula Warnapura and the world champion team in 1996 was led by Anandian Arjuna Ranatunga. They entered the finals in 2007 and were led by Nalandian Mahela Jayawardena. Further, old Anandians and Nalandians such as Ana Punchihewa, Upali Darmadasa, Danasiri Weerasinghe, Prasanna Ranatunga, Kushil Gunasekara, Thilanga Sumathipala, Mahinda Wijesinghe, Karunarathne Abesekara, Premasara Epasinghe, Palitha Perera, Kamal Deshapriya and Prasanna Hennayake have contributed immensely to popularise the game amongst the Sri Lankan rural population. This clearly shows the contribution made by Ananda and Nalanda towards Sri Lankan cricket.

The Sri Lanka national team was considered perpetual underdogs, but this image changed completely during the 1996 Cricket World Cup, when Sri Lanka defeated tournament favorites Australia to win it under the captaincy of Ranatunga. This victory, where Ranatunga played a pivotal role both as batsman and captain, has ensured that Sri Lanka are no longer underestimated on the world cricket stage. And With a fine temperament and an excellent technique, Mahela Jayawardena is capable of playing long innings. He gave an example of that when he became the first Sri Lankan captain to score a Test triple century which came against the Proteas at the SSC in Colombo.

He has displayed great leadership skills by guiding his side to the final of the 2007 World Cup in the Caribbean.

Mahela was honoured by the ICC as the Best International Captain in 2006.

There are also players such as Mutumualige Psuhpakumara, Dinesh Chandimal as well as Mahela Udawatte who are doing well at domestic and international level.

The inaugural Big Match between Ananda and Nalanda, was played in 1924 with K. A. P. Rajakaruna, (later Barrister-at-Law) as captain of Ananda College and B. S. Perera as captain of Nalanda College.

B. S. Perera later played for All Ceylon. But The first encounter between Ananda and Nalanda played at Campbell Place, the playground of Nalanda, was practically washed off by heavy rain.

In 1925, Dr. N. M. Perera and B. S. Perera did captain Ananda and Nalanda respectively and Ananda was defeated in the same year in the Big Match.

This is the 81st ‘Battle of Maroons’.

During this season, Ananda has played 17 matches so far, winning three against Dharmasoka, Zahira and Dharmaraja and and a loss to St. Joseph’s last week, while Nalanda has played 18 matches and has a better win record than their rivals.

They have played 18 matches, winning five against Isipatana, Mahanama, Joseph Vaz, Thurstan and Lumbini MV.

Going by the performances of the two teams, it seems that Nalanda hold a slight edge.

Ananda this year are led by Mateesha Perera with Madumal Jayaratne as his deputy. Mateesha has five other senior players in Geshan Wimaladharma, Sachin Dewage, Udesh Nadiranga, Ruvinda Shamen and Sachitra Perera at his disposal. Meanwhile Nalanda is captained by Dinuk Jayasinghe who will have players like Nipun Karunanayake, Adeesha Nanayakkara, Prashan Wickremasinghe, Suranga Tennekoon and Sineth Gunawardena to provide muscle. Of the 80 matches that have been played so far, Ananda are in the lead with 14 wins against six to Nalanda with the rest being drawn.

But in most of the big matches, the underdogs have fared better than the fancied side. If Nalanda wins, they are going to end a 56-year old hoodoo.

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