Kingswood’s boys — it is sad to say — vandalized the walls of several leading schools during this Big Match season as well. This is a condemnable practice and I see no reason why this should be tolerated. However, their Cricket team couldn’t even provide the entertainment worth the cost of the spray paint.
The state of Kingswood Cricket has been the focal point of this blog on several occasions. Kingswood’s continuous mediocrity in the gentleman’s game and the tragic batting performance at the recent Big Match against Dharmaraja makes us re-consider the question: “Where to, Kingswood Cricket?”
Kingswood’s Cricket began its downward slump somewhere in 2007/2008. In the very Asgiriya Stadium where Kingswood – chasing 79 to win this year’s ODI game – was blushed out for 52, I remember witnessing Demintha Dahanayake crack a magnificent 106 in 2006. The bulky number 4 and skipper was in his 90s in the last over of the innings. With a steady nerve and with total control, Demintha moved from 92 to 104 with three elegant fours. Later on, Demintha’s off spinners played a cricual role in Kingswood’s victory that year. After Anuruddha Hettige’s team of 2007, Kingswood has hardly had eleven players worth playing in the same team. Kingswood’s impotency was humiliated in 2010, when the team lost everything but the match. In 2011, the pants finally came off and the Rajans broke the “jinx” of endless draws since 1980, by claiming the first result of this so-called “Oldest Big Match of the Hills”. Kingswood’s last Big Match win is in 1958, under Maurice Fernando.
2011 and 2012 were the lowest depths to which Kingswood Cricket has sunk in the years known to me. I won’t be surprised if this is the worst of years in the school’s Cricketing history. In the years known to me, Kingswood was never a “winning side”, but a team capable of fighting head to head with her opponents. They were never at a loss at “drawing matches”, even in the years where the team lacked that extra mettle to challenge a good team. The first Kingswood team I have seen was Dharshana Kalansuriya’s team of 1992, though the reputation of players such as Suwanji Madanayake (of the senior year) had a general appeal. Being primary students in the early 90s, we still knew players such as Kalansuriya – a dashing and elegant left hander – Gamini Rathnayake, Omila Weerasooriya etc. Later on, in the mid 90s, the reputation of players in the caliber of Buddhika Ekanayake, Sanath Ranaweera, Nisitha Rupasinghe had spilled off the field. This is because these players were talked about and their performances held a place in the hearts and were seen as inspirational to even the younger students of the school.
In 2013, Kingswood is relegated to Division ‘B’, in which she still struggles like a fish out of water. Kingswood has a string of team totals beneath 100 and a growing list of humiliations. The biggest problem we have is a dearth in batting, as there seem to be only two batsmen capable of scoring. Tharindu Liyanage could be a bet for the future, as he shows good all round capabilities, but the bowling department, too, is not by any means a serious threat to a serious team. This year Dharmaraja was not at their best and the vulnerability of their batting could be seen in both the two day game and the limited overs match. But, being unable to capitalize, the Kingswoodians had to settle for humble pie.
The Big Match was a close encounter. Yet, once again, Kingswood’s batting led the team down, in spite of a middle order and late order resistance. The Rajan Second Innings was well controlled by the Kingswood bowlers, but by then there was no initiative with the game safely heading for a draw amidst gathering rain clouds. The one day match was a replay of Kingswood’s Second Innings in the 2012 Big Match (two dayer, at Pallekele). Between the Big match and the ODI, Kingswood also played Richmond in Maradana, as a part of the ongoing schools’ Limited Over Championship. In a deplorable effort, Kingswood was shot out for 99 and Richmond knocked out the needed 100 runs in 8.2 overs. So, the problems with Kingswood Cricket can be compared to a poor stray dog, to whom a tin can has been tied, being humiliated over and over.
To develop as a unit, Kingswood needs players – the equation is that simple. The current team lacks the basics which are needed to keep things floating. Their batsmen cannot bat in a way that challenges the opponents and the bowling armoury lacks explosives. Against all odds and all the above factors taken into account, Kingswood’s performance at the Big Match can be excused – but, as they say, Kingswood is not a place for “trimmer, coward or fool”: too bad, the Cricketing establishment of the school alongside its nearest administration looks very much all three, in the face of the world.
Unseen and unknown to the critical public, Kingswood is trying its best to groom a solid younger team, I am told. The fruits of this nursery will take another year or two to blossom and show colour. This project, I feel, has much to offer in rejuvenating Kingswood Cricket. The fact that 86 has been the highest individual score by a Kingswood batsman for the past 3 years by no means boosts the team’s ratings among fans. A cricket team should always win support through the way they dig in; and Kingswood – I am sure – has lost more support than won it in the recent years.