The bid to revive Antonian cricket
The late eighties and the early nineties saw the cricketers from St. Anthony’s Katugatota hold sway thanks to the efforts of Ruwan Kalpage, Piyal Wijetunga, Muttiah Muralitharan and Sajith Fernando, in the main.
There followed a period of decline from 1993 up to about 2005. In this period, they won only two games, those against Vidyartha and Zahira.
A group of concerned former Anthonians cricketers under the inspirational leadership of Ranjith Peiris got together and formed the old Anthonians cricket Wing in 2000 to arrest the decline. Their priorities were to assist the school by financing the coaches, to look into the needs of the players, to assist the poorer cricketers by providing employment and to arrange coaching camps and get down their former Sri Lankan players to hand down the gospel to the present generation.
In actual fact the spade-work was done in 1986 when the Old Anthonians started playing Division Three cricket. ‘Old’ is a misnomer, for the team comprised many schoolboys. The team did enter the finals twice.
Ranjith’s credentials are pretty good. He played for the school team in 1974 (under Hiran Jayasundera) in 76 (under Bernard Perera) and in 1977 he was deputy to Thaiyar Mohamed. He was a lock forward in the rugby team of 1976 and he represented the school at table tennis, taking part in YMCA and Central Province tournaments.
Ranjith kept wickets in his first year and, in his final year scored 781 runs and captured 38 wickets to be adjudged the best All Rounder (outstation schools) in the Times Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year Contest. He had 5 wicket bags against St. Benedicts’, St. Sebastian’s and Trinity. He recalls with a tinge of nostalgic two big opening partnerships he shared with the burly Russel de la Motte – 163 versus Nalanda at Campbell Park and 136 versus Ananda at Katugastota.
Once out of school Ranjith played for Tobacco Company in The Mercantile Tournament and, from 1979 to 1981 for Colts under Kumar Ramanathan and Gamini Gunasena. On returning to Kandy in 1983, he played for Kandy CC and was hit on the bridge of the nose by Army’s hostile paceman W.S. Fernando. Two days in the Intensive care Unit convinced his wife that her better half should bid adieu to the game.
Ranjith is indeed happy that the efforts of the cricket wing seem to be bearing fruit. He points to the fact the under 17 team of 2006 were runners up in the all island tournament. The under 13 team won the Seylan Tikiri Tournament, while both under fifteen teams entered the final round. The senior team, which is the apple of the cricket wing eye, had wins over Royal, St. Benedicts and Ibbagamuwa Central in 2006/07.
Speaking of the decline, he says there was no proper feeder to the senior team. Techniques were poor and those handling the junior teams were only interested in winning matches. He adds that, given the format, you can play negative cricket and still win matches.
Speaking of the three Anthonian spinners who played for Sri Lanka, Ranjith says it is their discipline, dedication and commitment that took them to that level. He was particularly happy when all three played in a test together.
He bemoans the fact that Kandy’s cricketers lack facilities – grounds, materials etc. Job opportunities are cited as the main reason for the exodus from Kandy. The talent was never in question.Ranjith singles out a former principal Fr. Aiden de Silva as one who supported all sports. He was a good motivator.