There’s many a little quirk of our beloved pearl in the Indian ocean that’s baffling to outsiders and sometimes even us islanders too. The side-to-side head shake, calling your significant other Aiya/Akka/Nangi/Malli, Chathura Senarathna… and something that’s not so little; Big Match season.
Loyalty to one’s school runs deep and strong in Sri Lanka. That sentiment is at its most visible during March of every year when the oldest, largest, most prestigious boys schools turn Colombo into their own party town for their annual cricket encounters. Affectionately called ‘The Big Match.’ Often having about a century of history behind them, a big match will draw old boys from these schools, not just from around the town, but around the world. Having 80 year old great grandfathers passionately wearing school colours and waving flags next to kids still in school and wearing uniform is not unusual. It’s the norm.
Also, the giant parades that run through the city in the days before the match are quite the sight. While creating gridlock, is an explosion of colourful chaotic insanity. You can expect anything from elephants to sports cars to coffins, as well as raucous cheering as they pass by the girls' schools.
If you want to check them out (or avoid them), these are some of the big ones.
February 24th and 25th
The Battle of the Brothers will be fought between Isipathana College and Thurstan College for the 54th time at the SSC. While Isipathana will be keen to retain the trophy, Thurstan is riding a wave of success in the current season and expects to put up a strong performance.
March 3rd and 4th
The saints will come marching in on the 3rd and 4th. St. Peters college and St. Josephs make up the Battle of the Saints, which began all the way back in 1933. It’s said that this time both teams are balanced and are in good form. So expect a great match.
March 4th and 5th
Ananda and Nalanda colleges have moulded many a great cricketer through the years. You might be able to see a few in action at the latest Battle of the Maroons.
March 9th, 10th and 11th
The oldest and perhaps the biggest of them all; The Battle of the Blues. The 138 year rivalry between Royal College and S. Thomas College makes it one of the longest unbroken sporting events in the world. This year the on field umpires will even have tv replay technology on hand to assist on line calls.
Another big match with a long history is the Battle of the North between St. John’s College, Jaffna and Jaffna Central College, which will be played for the 111th occasion in Jaffna.
March 10th and 11th
Prince of Wales college and St. Sebastian’s college have been embroiled in the Battle of the Moratuwa Golds since 1933. Some interruptions means that this is only the 67th encounter, but it’s no less than any other.
The Kandy Battle of the Blues marks its centenary match when the Trinity and St. Anthony teams take the field. A win hasn’t been recorded by either side since 2012. Winning the 100th would be quite the honour so there’s sure to be extra effort from both sides.
March 17th and 18th
The Kandy Battle of the Maroons has a history going back to 1893. 2017 will be the 111th match between Kingswood and Dharmaraja colleges.