At a time when so-called big match cricket encounters are looked forward to as occasions for alcohol consumption to celebrate the event, two schools have agreed to ensure alcohol is not served or sold at their big match.

Organisers of the big match between Colombo Hindu College and the Jaffna Hindu College told the Nation that the intention of such a decision was to spread the message of temperance through sport. The match is played this weekend (Friday 3 and Saturday 4) at the Bambalapitiya Hindu College grounds. The walk takes off at 7.30 am from the Bambalapitiya Hindu College on Saturday.

The Battle of the Hindus, as it has come to be known now, started very recently after a three decade hiatus. This encounter is very unique because the schools involved are from two different provinces, Western and Northern. It is the first time that schools from two provinces are involved in an annual big match encounter. The encounters are scheduled in such a way that the matches are played in each province every year.

Both provinces were virtually cut off from each other for decades due to the war. Today, as Sri Lanka attempts to bridge the two provinces through various reconciliation methods, inter-school cricket tournaments such as these will no doubt go a long way to bridging this gap.

Speaking to the Nation on why they opted to organise a cricket match with the intension of delivering a strong message of temperance, the organizers said that they looked at how the encounter could stand out among the other big matches held during the same season.

“We wanted to do something special. Our big match history is very brief. So we thought of giving a message through our big match encounter,” said Dr. Prasanna Varun Logenthiran, vice president, Sports of the Old Boys’ Association of Hindu College Colombo.

Both schools had therefore written to the government and the Presidential Task Force on Drug Prevention stating their intention to conduct an alcohol-free big match cricket encounter.

Director of the Task Force Dr. Samantha Kumara Kithalawaarachchi earlier made a public appeal to old boys associations and unions to organize big matches among schools sans beer stalls and thereby work towards the theme of drug-free sports.

He confirmed that the Jaffna Hindu College and the Colombo Hindu College had pledged to organize their inter-school cricket match in such a manner.

This year’s encounter will take place under the tagline or theme ‘Do sports, not drugs’. “We wanted to see how we could use sports as a tool against drug usage. That is how we came up with the slogan,” Dr. Logenthiran added.

The Task Force had earlier raised concerns over the increase in drug and alcohol addiction among school students and urged school authorities and old boys associations to address the issue. According to Dr. Logenthiran, this move also falls in line with the government’s agenda to eradicate alcohol and drug use among school students.

President Maithripala Sirisena in his speech to commemorate two years of good governance had spelt out a special programme for schools. One of the plans was to implement a programme to eradicate drug and alcohol usage starting at school level.
“Therefore, we also thought it apt to conduct our big match in a manner that would fall in line with the thinking of the President,” Logenthiran added.

The walk
In addition, the schools will also take part in a walk which would also focus on this theme. “It will not be a parade. A parade would inconvenience the people,” Loganathan added. In addition, the walk and the theme of the big match has garnered widespread support from several quarters, including former cricketers.

“Some of the members of the 1996 World Cup winning team have also pledged their support by taking part in the walk,” Loganathan said.

The Battle of the Hindus is one of those cultural phenomena affected by the war. The first match was played over three decades ago. The battle with guns and bombs halted their own battle with bats and balls for over 30 years with a solitary match played in 2005.
The very first encounter between these two schools took place way back in 1982. They also organized the second match the following year. However, the changing political atmosphere and the war cut off both schools from each other.

The organizers attempted to revive the encounter during the mid-2000s, at the time when the ceasefire agreement was in place. They organized the match in 2005, a few months before war once again stopped all further proceedings.

“Since the war was over, we once again tried to re-organise the encounter and we succeeded,” Dr. Logenthiran said. The matches once again commenced in 2013 and have been conducted alternately in Colombo and Jaffna since then. The big match encounter was accompanied by two more events in the form of a football match and a debate.

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