Cricket goes mad in March.
Sri Lanka the paradise island in the Indian Ocean truly celebrates madness in the month of March.
Fathers and mothers alike finally prepare for their life’s dream of watching their teenage sons go to battle in the longest battle of all in Sri Lanka. 134 years in fact.
New outfit are stitched or bought by teenage girls. Them and their mothers giggling in excitement. The mothers relieving the excitement of their youth.
Long walks in the evening, holding hands, kisses stolen under a tree, at a friend’s house…
The daughters to watch the young men battle, and hopefully land a nice boyfriend. A first kiss, a first slow dance with a boy…
For the young men, this is what they have practised for all their lives.
On the roads, in the fields, in back gardens, on the beach, anywhere with a patch of green and sunshine.
They’re the ones who practised for hours, until muscles ached, callouses came from hitting that ball inside a sock tied to a rope hanging from a tree with their cricket bats.
Yes, I am talking about cricket. Willow bats, cherry shined red leather balls, oval grass fields, six stumps, four bails, the long boundary rope; twenty-two young men in full white, two umpires and we’re ready for cricket.
Which Sri Lanka took from the British, and made their own.
In March especially when Sri Lanka’s cricket nurseries, the Public schools ready for their annual battles of cricket. Held in the three day format these battles of cricket are popularly know as a Big Match.
The longest in Sri Lanka’s is between Royal College and St. Thomas’s College. The RoyTho annual encounter is firmly etched in Sri Lanka’s social calendar.
Celebrated the most by its students and the Old Boys.
An Old Boy myself, after many moons, I decided to observe this great tradition after 28 years. In March 2012, I made the RoyTho pilgrimage again.
The tropical heat in March, a cacophony of sound, a sea of school boys in white, blue yellow and blue, blue black and blue flags of every size, supporter tents of every type imaginable, the Royal Taverners the most original to a general sense of overall bohemia, everyone hugging and greeting each other, the SSC cricket ground was rocking.
The old boys exclusive tents all with their private bars, DJ, Band and trumpet band were all vying with each other to see who could create maximum sound and effect. Most tents with the luxury of mist fans to keep bay the tropical heat, cold towels at intervals and my tent the marvellous alcoholic fruit punch made with great reverence by the good Captain Sopaka, an ardent and loyal Old Royalist. The very gentlemen who lured me back all the way from England to see this great tradition.
The cheers of R – O – Y – A – L resound from the boys tent.
The Thomian boys’ tent explodes in reply.
The Stables tent is the most revered as it holds all the young looking mothers and their teenage daughters. Many mothers the wife of old boys. The more revered are the ones whose husbands have played the game for college.
Suddenly a huge roar fills the ground. Eclipsing even all the sound produced by the DJ’s and bands.
The two umpires stride to the middle.
Eleven boys in full white run on to the field.
Two knights in full white, gloved, padded, helmet on and carrying their trusty willows stride in confidently to bat.
The umpire tosses the red cherry to the Captain. He tosses it to his opening fast bowler.
The Royal Thomian, RoyTho has begun.
My flights booked, ticket bought and outfits all planned. Even three pairs of shoes for the three days of cricket, camaraderie and fun.
Come on Royal!