Reminiscences from the 1960s
The 107th Kingswood- Dharmaraja cricket encounter, one of the oldest in Sri Lanka and the oldest in Kandy, is scheduled for the 22nd and 23rd of March. These two schools have, over the years, produced some outstanding cricketers.
T. B. Kehelgamuwa, known as ‘the Kandyan Express’, played for Dharmaraja in the early 1960s. He played later for Ceylon with distinction long before we gained test status. He played in our then annual fixture versus Tamil Nadu for the Gopalan Trophy. On a schoolboy tour to India in 1961 he took 8 wickets for 8 runs during a particularly fiery spell. Those who remember ‘Kehel’ as a schoolboy will recall that he was a slender youngster and hardly the bowler with a physique that is required of a pace bowler today. Yet, he indeed was really quick. Let us not forget that in the 1960s, there were mostly matting wickets. Turf wickets were very few. Asgiriya, the Trinity grounds and University Park at Peradeniya then were the only turf wickets in the entire Central Province. Anybody who has faced Kehel or seen him bowl will recall how very quick he was on matting wickets. Kehelgamuwa won the Ceylon Daily News Best Schoolboy Bowler award in 1961 as well as 1962.
In the late 1950s and early 1960s several notable cricketing brothers and cousins were synonymous with Dharmaraja cricket. These included Ananda and Upananda Jaysundera, D D C Alwis and D D T Alwis (and the elder P L A Alwis who played in the an earlier era coached the team) and Jaliya and Upali Mudannayaka brothers. S U Mendis, Nalin Angammana, G S Ratnayaka, and Harold Ranasinghe were among some of the other notable Dharmaraja cricketers of the early and mid 1960s.
The Kingswoodian Owen Mottau, who was lost to national cricket because he took to planting and rugby after leaving school, was among the finest batsmen his school produced. It was a treat to see Kehel bowling at full throttle to Mottau, one of the most accomplished schoolboy batsmen of his generation, and watch the latter drive the former either past the bowler or through the covers. Owen Mottau was the Best Schoolboy Batsman of the year in 1963. Maurice Fernando, another of Kingswood’s finest was picked as the Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year in 1958, beating in the process such well-known peers as Michael Tissera of St. Thomas’. It was in 1958, fifty-five years ago, that Kingswood last beat Dharmaraja in the Big Match!
Clifford Ratnavibushana who scored a record 167 in a Kingswood-Dharmaraja encounter captained Kingswood in 1959. The affable Quintus Perera captained Dharmaraja that year. Among Ratnavibushana’s Kingswood contemporaries were Wimal Fernando, Nissanka Kumarasinghe, Doyne Aluvihare, D. Mahindadasa and Ranjith Dharmawardene. In the mid-sixties, Kingswood had several burgher lads in their team. Among them were the Bulner and Vethecan brothers.
In 1966, Kingswood was captained by Dillepa Itthapane and Dharmaraja by Upananda Jayasundera. In that match a very unique thing happened. In a closely contested match that ended in the gathering darkness, there was much confusion as to which side won or lost the match as the crowd converged on the pitch when the last Kingswood wicket fell. Their last wicket pair of AW Razak and Gamini Weerasinghe who batted until the last ball was bowled revived the Kingswoodians on the verge of losing the match by an innings around tea time. In going for a needless single in the last ball of the match, there was a run out. In the ensuing confusion, the scoreboard appeared not to reflect the correct score. Did Kingswood save the match by a run or had Dharmaraja won by an innings and a run? There was a degree of tension as the feelings of the rival schoolboys were by now running high. The then Principal of Kingswood, the late Kenneth de Lanerolle called for the two scorebooks, checked the scores carefully and very sportingly awarded the match to Dharmaraja. The Kingswoodians were heart broken. But having been nurtured on sound traditions and values, the Kingswoodians accepted their Principal’s word as law and went away calmly and quietly.
In 1967, Tissa Jayatilaka captained Kingswood and Harold Ranasinghe Dharmaraja. Jayatilaka had scored a century in the 1966 match and was on his way to another century to establish a record for scoring centuries in two consecutive Big Matches between the two schools. He had wanted to declare the innings at tea when he had only 74 to his credit in the hope of forcing a win as a farewell gift to his school principal Kenneth de Lanerolle who was due to retire that year. But his cautious coach would not allow him to take a chance. Jayatilaka eventually declared when he was at 91 just short of nine runs for a century but Dharmaraja managed to hang on for a draw denying Jayatilaka the prize he wanted for his principal.
The writers are of this article are two very old ‘boys,’ one from Dharmaraja and the other from Kingswood. The Big Match is a great sporting encounter where the young show their talent and the not so young from the two schools come to meet their old friends and reminisce, as we do in this article, about the Big Matches in which they played or watched. It is also very much a part of the tradition not only of these two great institutions of learning but also of the sporting culture and tradition of Kandy that we proudly call our home. We warmly congratulate the two teams for their performance over the current season. Observe the traditions of our two schools and treat the match for what it is, a sporting encounter. If one side wins the other side has to lose. That is life. Accept defeat or victory with equanimity. Looking back over fifty years as two old boys, one of Dharmaraja and the other of Kingswood, what has remained with us, served us well in life and sustained us, is the spirit of the game and the values that the two schools cultivated in us.
Play hard, young lads. We wish you the best of luck and everybody who comes to watch the match a lot of fun.