The 89th Battle of the Maroons, the annual cricketing encounter between Ananda College and Nalanda College powered by Sri Lanka’s premier connectivity provider Dialog Axiata Plc, played for the Dr. N.M. Perera Memorial Challenge Trophy, is scheduled to be played at the SSC Ground on 3 and 4 March, while the one-day encounter between the two schools will be played at the same venue on 18 March.
This time too the match is being organised by a joint committee comprising past students from Ananda College and Nalanda College appointed with the blessings of the two schools’ principals.
The well co-coordinated efforts of the joint organising committee over the past nine years have ensured that the Battle of the Maroons is now worked out with much fanfare amidst a carnival atmosphere and many attractions for the entertainment of all family members of past students, while the game has continued to be played with the rich traditions and at the highest standards that this encounter is known for.
The event itself has now become one of national importance, considering the immense contribution that these two schools have made to Sri Lankan cricket over the years.
It is worth noting that the first Test cricket captain of the country, Bandula Warnapura, is a proud product of Nalanda College, while Arjuna Ranatunga, who led the Sri Lankans in the famous World Cup victory in 1996, hails from Ananda.
Ananda College and Nalanda College, the two premier Buddhist schools in Sri Lanka, have so far produced the highest number (more than 55) of national cricketers to have represented Sri Lanka in international cricket - including five of them - Warnapura, Ranatunga, Roshan Mahanama, Marvan Atapattu, Mahela Jayawardena and Dinesh Chandimal – who have had the honour of leading the country in test matches.
The first half-century, the first century and also the first double century for Sri Lanka in Test cricket were scored by three Anandians - Ranatunga (1982), Sidath Wettimuni (1982) and Brendon Kuruppu (1986). Kuruppu incidentally is the only wicketkeeper in the history of Test cricket to score a double hundred on debut.
Jayawardena, the former Sri Lanka skipper hailing from Nalanda, holds the unique honour of becoming the first Sri Lankan to complete 10,000 runs in Test and One Day International cricket.
Chandimal, who led Sri Lanka to series wins in all three forms of the game against Bangladesh recently, has the honour of being the first Sri Lankan to score twin half centuries in his debut Test match.
Apart from such brilliant players, Ananda and Nalanda have also given the country excellent cricket administrators, elite cricket umpires, respected match referees, leading sports media personnel and very talented commentators with brilliant oratorical skills – especially Sinhala commentators such as the late Karunaratne Abeysekara, Premasara Epasinghe and Palitha Perera who were instrumental in popularising the game to its current extent through the length and breadth of the country.
The limited over encounter is played for the P.D.S. Kularatne Challenge Trophy, where the game of cricket will take the form of its true competitiveness in a friendly atmosphere between the two schools that can only be compared to brothers of the same family and not rivals trying to surpass one another.
The patience, courage, determination and fair play and more importantly the respect and honour for one’s opponent, among many other qualities that this noble game of cricket imparts to many across national and international boundaries, will be demonstrated by the young stars of Ananda and Nalanda at this year’s Maroons cricket encounter.