It’s time for the excited spectators to gush in and witness most the extravagant school cricketing event of the year ! The 2018 season is around the corner as gentlemen’s game becomes cynosure of all during the month of March.
Fluttering school flags, cycle parades, trucks, hats, school t-shirts, arm-bands, golliwogs and so much of exhilaration and excitement prevails all around the country. Yet again, it’s the Big Match Season !
In a cricket-crazy country like Sri Lanka, nothing else would get crazier than the ‘Big Match’.
‘Big Match’ is not a strange phenomenon for most of us but for those who are unfamiliar with this term, it refers to the annual cricket encounter between traditional rival schools as they play for their prestige and pride. It is the time of the year where Sri Lanka’s leading boys’ schools celebrate their passion for cricket.
Love and dedication to one’s school runs deep down in the hearts of Sri Lankan school boys and this sentiment is clearly seen during the big match season. Most prestigious boy’s schools turn their school cities into a gala town for these yearly encounters. Although there’s a big history behind them, we still see 70-80 year old grandfathers happily wearing school colours, waving flags and dancing next to kids who are of their grandchild’s age.
Official and unofficial gigantic cycle parades are an important part of big match culture. Cycle parades seems to have less and less cycles now a days other than sports cars, trucks and ‘papare’ bands. Most of boys decorate themselves with masks, hats and even with girls’ uniforms. While creating a traffic jam they never forget to raucously cheer as they pass by the girls’ schools.
The most anticipated ‘Big Matches’ are played all around in Sri Lanka and we witness battles of all kinds during this season. There are battles in colours; the Battles of the Blues (Royal College and S.Thomas College), Golds (D.S Senanayake College, Colombo and Mahanama College) and Maroons (Ananda and Nalanda Colleges). We have got the Battles of the Brothers (Isipathana College and Thurstan College) and even Saints are set for a battle (St. Peters College and St. Josephs College).
Other annual encounters between rival schools from the same town include The Kandy Battle of the Maroons (Dharmaraja College and Kingswood College, Kandy), The Kandy Battle of the Blues (Trinity College and St.Anthony’s College, Kandy), The Battle of the Nilwala [River] (St. Servatius’ College and St Thomas’ College, Matara), The Battle of Moratuwa Golds (Prince of Wales College and St. Sebastian’s College, Moratuwa), The Battle of the North (St. John’s College, Jaffna and Jaffna Central College), The Lovers’ Quarrel (Richmond College and Mahinda College, Galle) and many more.
Out of all these endeavours, the biggest, oldest and longest big match is the Royal – Thomian; the ‘Battle of the Blues’ which was started way back in 1879. It is the most celebrated sports game in Sri Lankan school cricket circle as it has the prestigious record of being the second longest uninterrupted cricket match series in the world.
Although cricket is considered a gentleman’s game, is it still a game played by gentleman ? This has become the bottom line of today’s school cricket and big matches.
Now a days most of us are blindly bound to the concept of ‘big match’, not simply because we are too frantic about it but because of the artificial hype it had created on us.
When I was a scholar at Bishop’s College, during Big Match season, without any permission, boys would break into our school and vandalize it. It was so normalized by our school culture that we even made fun out of it. All though we weren’t cricket enthusiasts nor cricket fans we use to cheers our brother school (STC) in every possible way we could, even while travelling in the school van. It was such a big deal for us and we still love those memories a lot.
But now we realize that this wasn’t something funny at all but it’s something that patriarchy and discrimination took place in a most unwitting form.
The true purpose of a big match is lost today. Amidst the large crowds, only a minority come to appreciate the art of the game and show some true appreciation for the players. Some will leave the ground not even knowing that cricket is played with a bat , not with a stick !
Furthermore, a new image has created among the laymen that big match is all about a fight between the two schools rather than promoting healthy competition and true sportsmanship. However, they do not no that it’s not a battle in the field but silly arguments created to show off the masculine power of some youngsters.
Pathetically, this has also become an event to amuse people who appreciate scoring in more personal aspects than the actual gaining in the score board, making it another valentine gala.
Yet, banning Big matches would not be the solution. It’s the attitude that matters and an attitudinal change is needed for all these acts of lack of intelligence.
Parades and fun is satisfactory where everyone enjoys and taken in good spirit. Nevertheless, it shouldn’t become an annoyance and a public botheration. It is important to understand that over the limit causes trouble in all means.
In the past most of the top cricket players of Sri Lanka were from Colombo and its suburbs but now, the outstation school players have come in a big way which is a positive sign for the cricket. Big matches could have been a possible reason for this.
By being a player in the big match, they know that they are knocking at the door to enter a bigger league. That is precisely a common belief among school boy cricketers that if they could end their school career being a part of the cricket team, they are only one step away from winning the Sri Lankan cap.
As the history reveals, most of the top talented players who have shown their colours in big match, straightaway walked into the national team, thus taking the name of their Alma mater to another level higher.
Big match is a big event for the team players who have been practicing for years while earning that reputable place on the ground where all their hard work will pay off. They not only play for themselves but also play for their school and the overwhelming crowd that’s there to cheer them.
Most interestingly big match is the time for the past generations to meet their old friends after a lapse of several years, let out a roar, raise their arms, dance a bit to the ‘papare’ and even try to get into their boyhood beliefs of teens even though they are suffering from arthritis or obesity. These are the little things that count for them, not the big scores or the centuries or even records being broken in the match. That’s the beauty of Big matches.
May this extravaganza continues for many years to come as brotherhood, friendship, sportsmanship and one’s loyalty to their Alma mater become the ultimate winner at the end of the day ! Not CRICKET !
Let the old see the young and they smile for them as they see themselves in a different period of time.
Collage credits : Naveen Chandima Dissanayaka.