There was a time when most boys in Jaffna could only dream of playing serious cricket. The war took away their childhood and any little opportunity to get on the streets and play the bat and ball game. However the annual cricket big match between Jaffna Central College and St. John’s College took place in most years, but there were breaks in between due to the armed conflict between Government Security forces and tiger rebels. Jaffna is once again in the news due to cricket largely because of this big match-termed Battle of the North-is happening again.
Today (March 12) will be the final day of the match. Whoever wins, the bigger win will be for the cricket crazy lads in Jaffna who have got their lives back. Administrative Officer of St. John’s College Vijay told Nation that security will be tight at the match venue-Jaffna Central College Ground-and that spectators will have to be at their best behavior. “There is a Police station near the grounds and they (Policemen) are expected to patrol the ground area during the match,” said Vijay.
The ground at Chundikuli is expected to seat around 3000 spectators. According to Vijay, a large number of old boys of both schools have already flown to Sri Lanka for the match. “Some of the old boys who are already here have had their own old boys meetings. Some of the affluent ones have even promised to finance certain welfare projects of the schools,” he said.
This year’s big match is the 110th in the series and is sponsored by Airtel. This big match has a rich history. The inaugural match was played in 1904 at a time when both schools were administered by missionary authorities. However, the two schools faced many changes over the years. At present St. John’s College has turned into a semi government institute. Jaffna Central College is fully administered by the Government of Sri Lanka.
Jaffna has known violence for years. An outsider visiting Jaffna might think that these northern citizens might have to be taught discipline and law order, given that there were places in the north, during certain times, which were affected by rebel activity. Vijay sent such thoughts into oblivion by stating that all school children representing the two schools have to come in school uniform during the three days of cricket. Those who don’t have entry tickets won’t be entertained.
Vijay also added that there were several volunteers offering their services at the match. Representatives of the famous St. John’s Ambulance service will also be in attendance.
He was also quick to mention the spiritual and moral support given by the two principals H. Elilventhan (St. John’s College) and Rev. M.J Gnanaponraj (Jaffna Central College) to their respective players.
There was a moment to remember when former Sri Lanka cricket captain and the present Minister of Ports and Shipping Arjuna Ranathunga graced the occasion as a special invitee.
It is a well-known fact that pupils of the famous Chundikuli Girls’College are keen followers of this cricket big match. The boys of course will be at their best behavior during the match. Vijay however, cautioned that there could be little incidents associated with boys after the match and outside the venue. After all, boys will be boys!