"Play up! Play up! And play the game!"



There’s a breathless hush in the close to-night

Ten to make and the match to win

A bumping pitch and a blinding light,

An hour to play and the last man in.

And it’s not for the sake of a ribboned coat.

Or the selfish hope of a season’s fame,

But his captain’s hand on his shoulder smote:

"Play up! Play up! And play the game!"


The sand of the desert is sodden red –

Red with the wreck of a square that broke;

The Gatling’s jammed and the colonel dead,

And the regiment blind with dust and smoke.

The river of death has brimmed its banks,

And England’s far, and Honour a name,

But the voice of a schoolboy rallies the ranks -

"Play up! Play up! And play the game!"

This is the word that year by year,

While in her place the school is set,

Every one of her sons must hear,

And none that hears it dare forget.

This they all with a joyful mind

Bear through life like a torch in flame,

And falling fling to the host behind -

"Play up! Play up! And play the game!"

(The engagement mentioned in verse two is the Battle of Abu Klea in Sudan in January 1885 during the unsuccessful expedition to rescue General Gordon. The poem was both highly regarded and repeatedly satirised by those who experienced World War.................)

The above verses, composed by the iconic Sir Henry John Newbolt, British Scholar, Author and Poet who was also a Controller of wireless cables in World War II and Knighted in 1914, will surely ring in the ears of Sri Lanka cricketer and former skipper Kumara Chokshanada Sangakkara.

Probably the best known of all of Newbolt’s poems which were written in 1892, this is the Vitae Lampada, composed at the ‘Close’ of Clifton College, UK, which Newbolt, is now chiefly remembered is, Vitae Lampada. The title is taken from a quotation by Lucretius and means ‘the torch of life’.It refers to how a schoolboy, a future soldier, learns selfless commitment to duty in cricket matches in the famous Close at Clifton College.

For, ironically and coincidentally, it was the same Sir Henry, who composed the song of Sangakkara’s alma mater - Trinity College, Kandy - which he did with meritorious distinction in 1897. Kumar, after all, was the winner of the much coveted Trinity College Cricket ‘Lion’ after a blistering 198 versus the Thomians at Mount Lavinia, Senior Prefect and winner of the much coveted Ryde Gold Medal for the Best All Round Student all of 1996 and who a few days back played his 101th Test match – in the first Test, Sri Lanka versus Pakistan in Abu Dhabi, salvaging the team from what could have been an innings defeat. Interestingly, his college rugby Captain and Vice Captain the previous year- 1995- Harris Omar and Pradeep Basnayake both Trinity Rugby Lions, went on to skipper Sri Lanka rugby with distinction.

Kumar’s 211 at Abu Dhabi

That Kumar scored his eighth double ton (211 in 431 minutes, 651 minutes), and a match savings innings, which proved what a great batsman he is, batting under tremendous pressure. Granted that one of his catches was grassed by former Pakistan skipper Younis Khan at second slip and again at 56, which were the only blemishes of an otherwise classy innings. In all, the way he set about the innings was exemplary to any youngster. He played the ball according to its own merits, played it late and he was tremendous off the back foot.

He was cutting and he was closing the face of the bat when he pulled, driving through the line and covered the line of the deliveries extremely well. That was an extremely herculean task, because the team was off the back foot and as an internationally renowned player in Mahela Jayawardene was back in the hut, scoring a mere four runs!

What was the success behind his innings? One could imagine the pressure on Kumar where his innings showed two aspects - his professionalism and secondly, he was able to dominate the bowling. This is an extremely important aspect. He made 100% sure of himself and this was his way of telling the Pakistani’s that he has made lots of runs against the Pakistanis before under more trying conditions and he applied himself to such an effect that the Pakistani bowlers had no answer to his stroke play.

There was a time that their shoulders were drooping as they tried everything within their ranks with three seam bowlers. They also have a wonderful off spinner - Saeed Ajmal - who could be rated among the best in the world today. However, none of these bowlers could penetrate the defence of Kumar Sangakkara. He was resolute from the word go to save the team from what would have been an innings defeat. Whatever he could do with the loose deliveries, he played to perfection. He always took risks when the loose ball was on offer.

Granted, Kumar did not go there with the intention of batting two full days and gathering runs merely to save the game. But he stuck there resolutely and doggedly in deference to his college motto- Respice Finem, which means look to the end.

The strokes were simply fantastic, square on the off side, getting to the pitch of the ball, driving deliveries off his pads to fine leg and to mid wicket and what was a beauty to watch was his pulling. The one that he plays square on the offside - the late cut - in traditional cricketing jargon, was executed to perfection. He also smothered the spin. He faced one of the finest spinners in Saeed Ajmal, where he read the off spin, the doosra and the delivery that swings away from him very well, which is legitimate off spin.

He faced the seamers as well. Kumar was also fortunate to have Prasanna Jayawardena, who is going from strength to strength, with him. There were the times that he was getting frustrated but he was lucky batting with a class act, in Kumar.

Kumar has for long been now rated as one of the best in the world, which was mentioned by a no lesser than Tony Grieg in the commentary box. Kumar, in fact, guided Prasanna, who played straight after getting used to both the pitch and the pace of the Pakistani bowling, demonstrating an excellent temperament. He drove well when it was up there to be driven. Anything short, he hooked well, but he was lucky as he was dropped on 11. He was aware that there were runs on the track and that is why he played through the line.

The partnership, by itself, was a Sri Lanka batting record for the sixth wicket between Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

The ‘visitors’ could go into the second Test and some of the highlights that will be remembered will also be the partnership of 153 between Sangakkara and Lahiru Thirimanne for the second wicket and the marathon partnership of 200 plus runs for the sixth wicket.

Sangakkara’s 211 will be cherished for a long time.

Therefore, The Island wishes Sangakkara all the best in his future cricket, as he approaches his 10,000 Test runs to be in the exalted company of icons- Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar, (14,513)

Ricky Thomas Ponting (12,333), Rahul Sharad Dravid ( 12,000), Brian Charles Lara ( 11,953), Jaques Henry Kallis ( 11,449), Alan Robert Border ( 11, 174), Stephen ( Steve) Rodger Waugh (10,927) Sunil Manohar Gavaskar ( 10,122) as tens of thousands of his fans, both locally and globally, reveberate their throats hoarse....

"Play up! Play up! And play the game!"

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