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1983 Peterite Skipper Niranjan Rodrigo shares his thoughts on the 1978 Peterite victory in the Big Match

Posted on 12 August 2017 by admin



Good old ‘Big Match’ days
True sportsmanship the answer to break deadlock – Niranjan Rodrigo

by Reemus Fernando – Courtesy: The Island of 07 March, 2008.

Can they break the deadlock at least this year? This might be the question running through the minds of not only the Joes and Petes, but many followers, as St. Joseph’s and St. Peter’s meet in the 74th ‘Battle of the Saints’ ‘Big Match’ today and tomorrow at the P. Sara Stadium. Despite many strong teams featuring in the past three decades neither side could taste victory after the Suraj Abeysekara led St. Peter’s beat St. Joseph’s in 1978.

‘The Island’ met Niranjan Rodrigo, who was probably the youngest player at the 1978 ‘Battle of the Saints’ ‘Big Match’ recently with these questions. Rodrigo made his debut under the captaincy of Suraj Abeysekara, who is the last captain from either side to taste victory. Incidentally, Rodrigo happened to be the orator at a pre-Big Match Dinner hosted for the present teams, recently.

According to Rodrigo, all that matters is good sportsmanship and positive play. These will pave the way for teams to break the deadlock.

"There are a lot of expectations when ‘Big Matches’ are round the corner. Since it is the ‘Big Match’ no one wants to lose it. Because of that, no one wants to make sporty declarations like the captains of the two teams did in the 1978 match which is still spoken of by the older generation with admiration," said Rodrigo who is now the Director at Aitken Spence Travels.

"A result was possible only because of the sporty declarations of the two captains," said Rodrigo giving a summary of the memorable ‘Big Match’.

St. Joseph’s batting first scored 217 for 9 declared and St. Peter’s struggling in their reply, declared at 161 for 8 with a deficit of 56 runs. In their second innings St. Joseph’s declared their innings at 127 for 6 and offered the Petes a target of 184 to win in the last session. St. Peter’s reached it for the loss of four wickets.

"It was a crucial decision by Abeysekara as we had a deficit of over 50 runs. In return St. Joseph’s captain Shamilal de S. Wijeratne too made a bold decision. We had to chase over 180 runs in the last session. We lost two quick wickets. In most cases, the team would have put up shutters and played for a draw. Despite losing two quick wickets for nine runs, the team played positively. Kitto Fernandopulle scored an unbeaten 65. Rohan Buultjens with 73 runs and Walter Fernando contributing with some useful quick runs, we managed to achieve the target with three overs to spare. And the achievement left a lasting legacy in the Joe-Pete ‘Big Match’ history," described Rodrigo.

Playing only his first ‘Big Match’ Rodrigo was not ready for great heroics but he made a reasonable contribution which he still cherishes. "I couldn’t make a big contribution but I took a brilliant catch to dismiss the opposition captain," recalled Rodrigo.

The declarations

The decision to declare with a deficit of over 50 runs was something that could be expected only from a team with a lot of confidence. Asked what made the captain take such a decision Rodrigo explained; "The captain was very much confident that the team could do better in the second innings in all departments. In the lead up to the ‘Big Match’ we had done well against a number of formidable teams. We restricted Prince of Wales to 33 runs, Ananda to 34 runs and Nalanda College to 67 runs in our two day matches. Abeysekara had the confidence that the team would make in the second innings."

Meanwhile, Rodrigo added that the decision was taken by the captain alone and there were no influence from anybody. In the 1978 St. Peter’s were coached by Dr. H. I. K. Fernando and ironically, St. Joseph’s were coached by Tony Opatha, the former St. Peter’s player who also represented Sri Lanka at National level.

Referring to the strengths of the two teams, Rodrigo recalled that several players in the two teams went on to represent Sri Lanka at deferent levels. "Kitto Fernandopulle played for Sri Lanka Under-19 against Australia Under-19 where the likes of David Boon featured. And Rohan Buultjens went on to skipper Sri Lanka Under-23. From St. Joseph’s, Rohan Wijesinghe (Jnr) played for Sri Lanka Junior teams. While Vinothan John who was also a member of the St. Peter’s team went on to represent Sri Lanka, Rumesh Ratnayake who also became a household name in Sri Lanka, was a reserve in that match. Later, he was the vice captain for St. Peter’s in 1982.

Rodrigo urged both captains, Ruwantha Fernandopulle (St. Joseph’s) and Anuk Silva (St. Peter’s) to show the qualities of true sportsmanship at the 74th encounter that begins at the P. Sara Stadium.

Rodrigo, who played for St. Peter’s for five years went on to captain the college in 1983.

SPC TEAM 1978The team picture of St. Peter’s College who won the 1978 ‘Big Match’
Standing from left: Niranjan Rodrigo, A. Fonseka, Treherne Pereira, Rumesh Ratnayake, A. Dassanayke, Michael Elias, B. Mohamad Ali, J. Abeyguneratne, S. Perera.

Seated from left: Austin Fernando (MiC), Walter Fernando, C. (Kitto) Fernandopulle (V. Captain), Suraj Abeysekera (Captain), Rohan Buultjens, Vinothen John, Dr. H.I.K. Fernando (Coach)
On Ground: Groundsmen Nicholas and Somadasa. 

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