Dialog powers the 142nd Edition of the Battle of the Blues

CEYLON TODAY | Published: 2:00 AM Oct 25 2021

Despite the postponement of Sri Lanka’s blue ribbon cricket encounter due to the COVID-19 pandemic, premier boys’ schools Royal College, Colombo and S. Thomas’ College Mt. Lavinia, will battle it out once again for the 142nd uninterrupted occasion in history for the ‘Battle of the Blues’ played for the prestigious Rt. Hon. D.S. Senanayake Memorial Shield, from 28 to 30 October at the SSC Grounds, Colombo. 

The ‘Battle of the Blues’ which is traditionally played in the second week of March at the SSC Grounds was postponed, and the venue shifted to the Mahinda Rajapaksa International Cricket Stadium at Suriyaweva, Hambantota to be played sans spectators. However, due to a wave of Delta variant of the COVID-19 pandemic, the encounter was postponed again. Having taken into consideration the improving COVID-19 health situation, as well as the recent government circular permitting the resumption of some sports, including cricket, the Heads of Schools (HOS) have made the decision to proceed with plans for playing the match in consultation with their respective cricket Advisory Committees and the Joint Match Organizing Committee (JMOC). 

The relevant government authorities have granted permission for the match to be played with strict guidelines to be adhered by the organisers. Consequently, the match will be played behind closed doors / without any invitees or spectators. Further, the two teams and match officials will be following all COVID-19 protocols and health and safety guidelines of Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) that will regulate playing conditions, as well as be within a Bio Secure Environment (BSE) as per the guidelines of the Ministry of Health. As always, the safety of the schoolboys will be of paramount importance. In the 2021 edition the boys from Mt. Lavinia will be led by Shalin De Mel, whilst the lads from Reid Avenue will be playing under the captaincy of Ahan Wickramasinghe. 

‘The Royal – Thomian’, has a rich and colourful history spanning across a century and four decades, and is also the second longest uninterrupted cricket series played in the world, second only to the annual encounter played between St. Peters College, Adelaide and Prince Alfred College, Adelaide, Australia, that began just a year earlier and the Australia vs England Ashes Series just 02 years before. In 1880, the first match in which only the boys took part was played on Galle Face Green, the present location of the Taj Samudra Hotel. 

This was the start to the centenary series. Both teams are said to have rowed their boats across Beira Lake to play the match. The playing fields of the ‘Roy – Tho’ has the distinction of producing cricketers who later became eminent heads of state, with S. Thomas’ producing the father of the nation, the late Rt. Hon. D. S. Senanayake MP (1901 - 1902), whose name is etched in the prestigious shield, and his son, the late Rt. Hon. Dudley Senanayake MP (1927-1929) as Prime Ministers of Ceylon, while Royal, produced the late Rt. Hon. (General) Sir John Kotelawala MP (1914-1915) as Prime Minister and the first Executive President of Sri Lanka, the late J. R. Jayawardene (1925). 

The tally at present stands at 35 all, with the highly-debated match in 1885, where Royal College was all out for 09 runs with no play on the second day is considered a win by S. Thomas’ and considered a draw by Royal as shown by the respective souvenir books of the two schools. The Shield at present sits as the crown jewel amongst the silverware in the Warden’s trophy cabinet at S. Thomas’, after putting up a superb performance in 2020 under the captaincy of Thevin Eriyagama, which will be challenged by a determined Royal XI, this year. 

The boys from Reid Avenue last won the coveted shield under the stewardship of Geeshanth Panditharatne in 2016. The 142nd edition of the Royal-Thomian will be the twelfth year that the match is sponsored by Dialog. Sri Lanka’s premier connectivity provider, Dialog Axiata has also made a pledge to contribute Rs. 1,000 for every run scored and 10,000 rupees for every wicket that falls. Last year’s exciting encounter contributed Rs. 1,008,000 to the ‘Play for a Cause’ pledge. The proceedings were directed in consultation with the Principal of Royal College and the Warden of S. Thomas’ College to support and empower selected deserving schools. 

Since the inception of the ‘Play for a Cause’ pledge, Rs. 6,151,000 worth of cricket gear was donated to twenty-two deserving schools. Played in the highest tradition of excellence, the two schools have formed a bond of mutual respect, camaraderie, sportsmanship and friendly adversaries on and off the field, which has stood for almost one and a half centuries. As remarked by a yesteryear Principal of Royal College, “There is no Royal without S. Thomas’ and no S. Thomas’ without Royal.” As the principal sponsor, Dialog Axiata has made arrangements to LIVE stream the match via thepapare.com, Dialog VIU mobile app and will also be shown LIVE on Dialog TV Channel One in the interest of all present boys, old boys, parents, supporters, wellwishers and the cricket-loving public who are encouraged to watch the match from the comfort of their homes. 

Dialog Axiata is the proud sponsor of the Sri Lanka National Cricket, Rugby, Volleyball and Netball teams. The Company also has a close association with the President’s Gold Cup Volleyball, National Junior and Senior Netball tourneys, Club Rugby, Premier Football, Schools’ Cricket, Junior Volleyball and Paralympic sports - by powering the Army Para Games, National Para Games and the Sri Lankan contingent to the World Paralympic Games.

CEYLON TODAY | Published: 2:00 AM Oct 25 2021

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