Test the underdog’s barkability

The first post on this blog will come a day before the annual limited overs encounter with Dharmaraja. Though I’m not quite savvy with the stats, I know for a fact that Kingswood is leading the overall “one day” victory record over the Rajans. This is some compensation since the traditional “Big Match” was last won by Kingswood in 1958. So, for the past 51 years our guys have not known what it feels like to win a Big Match. Sadder still, even Dharmaraja has not done things outright since 1980.

As far as my family chronicles go, the last Dharmaraja won in 1980, under a Janaka Mendis, my uncle Chathura Jayathilake had been the Head Prefect of Dharmaraja. It must have been strange, cos out of my three uncles, the eldest was a die hard Kingswoodian till death. The middle uncle had, however, had a taste of both schools. If my interpretation is correct, I felt that this middle uncle — Prakash — though he played his cricket for Dharmaraja, he had the softer spot for Kingswood: where he has had his first 8 years of education. Well, anyways, now it’s too late to know; as he passed away a year ago.

My youngest uncle Chathura had left Kingswood soon after his scholarship exam and had given his sweat to Dharmaraja’s debating and literary work and that kind of thing. He had led the debate team and some say he was quite a well known personality among schools during the late 70s.

Now, what took us to those uncles of mine was the 1980 Rajan triumph over Kingswood. Well, not that Kingswood hadn’t come close to pulling off victories in the intermission. My initial Big Match experience was in 1992, when Dharshana Kalansooriya led the boys. I remember watching Kingswood pull off a 6 wicket win in the Limited Overs game that year — the match ending with Kalansooriya himself sweeping the ball to the mid wicket boundary for a four. I was with my father on the Grand Stand at Asgiriya.

I've been waiting, baby, for 51 years......

Now, in the known years to Man, Kingswood has come close to pulling out upset victories, but weren’t able to put those last screws in right. If my memory is right, the Rajans had a close survival during Ruvan Gunawardena’s year — somewhere late 90s. I remember fretting by the ropes, hoping for a Rajan tail-end collapse, which just didn’t happen. Here, I have to repeat that it is out of my memory that I say this was Gunawardena’s year — I may be a tinge inaccurate here.

Then, more recently, in 2005, Gihan Gunathilake’s team almost pulled out the turf from underneath the Rajans’ feet, if not for a stubborn resistence by the maroon-capped rear guard. I think Kingswood only had to get three wickets and knock off 20-30 runs during the last hour of play, but simply could not.

In my opinion, this year’s Kingswood side is by no doubt the most vulnerable XI produced by the school in recent years. They were all but humbled by the Rajans a fortnight ago; and what I witnessed at Asgiriya those two days was a fight for survival as the ship was a sink. Compared to the Rajans’ dominance, the Kingswoodians were extremely defensive and their body-language spelt diffidence and wretchedness in every stroke they played.

However, on the final day, they did well to bat off the day for a tame draw, which could have been a wee bit more intense had the Rajans held on to two half-chances offered during the final hour’s play. I am by all means patriotic as any average Kingswoodian is. But, that evening, I was half hoping Kingswood to lose the game — just to get them on their feet, to revise their Cricketing strategy, which, for some years now, have been to save face and bat out games. I have to admit that I was not alone in this feeling. There were many others, alumni of the First XI among them, who felt that Kingswood had to lose in order to get them to wake up and start playing aggressive cricket.

I happened to meet a First XI cap the other day and I noted to him how average the team’s performance had been. The guy, quite a realistic and straightforward gentleman, as it appeared, told me that next year things may get even worse. Even worse??? The three question marks say it all.

Country or school may call, play the game forward all

Well, the Limited Overs match is happening on Sunday the 21st. From what I gather, there will be a massive turn out. Most of my colleagues from Batch 2003 and several other Kingswoodians I happened to meet over the week all took part from me saying “So? Let’s get set at the One Day match, then?”. But, seeing the two day encounter, we know that Kingswood will be fighting with their backs against the wall. Whether they will be forced against the wall that the sweat marks of their asses will be carved on the brick is, however, to be seen.

But, let us not write off Kingswood just as yet. I remember how Samudu Wijesinghe’s XI in 2004 — a team that had been ticked off as mediocre — fought back to win the Limited Overs game by one run. Nor did Anuradha Hettige have a giant-slaying side two years ago. But, with proper man-management and the right attitude they could pull off an upset win. So, Anuradha’s brother leading the team this year it’s to be seen whether Kingswood can stage one of those “upsets” they are known to post in the sporting world.

I’ll be at Asgiriya on Sunday. I am just proud to be there watching the history of the two institutes unfold live at play. For me the result is immaterial. But, for Kingswood’s own pride, they may have to fly the colours high.


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