Started way back in 1905, the Richmond – Mahinda cricket encounter has blossomed out to be the biggest sporting event in the South. It is very aptly coined “Lovers’ Quarrel”due to the thick fraternal bonds of two colleges.
Richmond had won a big match in 1969 and Mahinda in 1971 and since then both schools were in hungry for a win till 2008 where Mahinda College went on to win the match that year. It was a victory for Mahindians and ironically the Richmond College team that lost to Mahinda were the best in Southern Province that year. Richmond team played some positive cricket with a view to make a win but the game changed during the second session of the the second day.
This defeat for Richmond was a blessing in disguise, an eye opener for everyone. Soon the authorities and everyone concerned joined hands and formulated a strategy to uplift the standards of the game from the scratch. Plans were afoot to win a big match in five years. New coaches and masters in charge were appointed and all supporting net net-worked. With that the seeds, planted.
Seeds started to grow, flourish with bright green leaves and tender and after few years everyone started to feel the euphoria. Under 13 A division all island championship, under 15 all island A division joint champions were milestones on the way. During the same period Yashoda Lanka, A.K Tyron, Dananjaya De Silva, Pabasara Waduge, Saveen Nanayakkara, Charith Asalanka, Sithara Gimhana ,Kamindu Mendis and several other players represented national school under 15, under 17 and under 19 teams during several overseas tours. Yashoda and Tyron represented the Sri Lanka under 19 team during world cup and in several other series against several other cricketing nations like England and India.
Finally Richmond College team led by A.K Tyron won the big match in 2014, after 6 years making an end to the 44 year hoodoo.
Richmond College was at the envy of Mahindians (rubbed salt on the wounds of Mahindians) when they won the big match the following year, in 2015 under the captaincy of Sithara Gimhana. Richmond played positive cricket. The highlight of the match was the century by Charith Aslanka in the first innings.
The untiring efforts made by all during last few years after 2008 to uplift the standards of the game of cricket has flourished giving more hopes and expectations. The expectation of all was to win a big match against Mahinda in 5 years, but the efforts have brought priceless gifts for Mother Richmond in the form of some outstanding international level cricketers. Richmond had produced three test cricketers before 2008. Veteran player and Sri Lanka bowling Coach Champaka Ramanayake, Chamila Gamage and Suranga Lakmal who is spearheading the balling department of Sri Lanka national team are those three.
Recently we witnessed another test cap for Richmond in the form of an all-rounder. Dananjaya De Silva becoming the fourth Richmond player to win a test cap when he made his debut at Pallekele during the first Test Match against Australia. Dananjaya was the top scorer for Sri Lanka with his 24 runs in the Sri Lanka first innings who were bowled out for 117. He scored another valuable 36 in the second innings and took his first test wicket during the crucial time when Australia were batting 161 for 8 trying to save the game. It will definitely be a memorable first test match for Dananjaya.He , as a cricketer, has earned much credits to his career since he played for the college under 15 team.While playing his first match for the college first eleven team, he scored a century and so far in the history of Richmond Cricket there are five who could do so.The other four are Dudley Dias , Zayan Salie, Udesh Wijesuriya and Kusal Prabodha.
Dananjaya has earned the credit of scoring the most number of centuries for Richmond. Scoring 8 centuries in two cricket seasons , four in each,is one among his brilliant performances.He has made his highest score of 198 vs St Aloysius College and his best bowling performance was 8 for 40 Vs Lumbini Vidyalaya. Dananjaya is the first Richmond Player who has represented all levels as Sri Lanka School team, Sri Lanka A, Sri Lanka T 20 and Sri Lanka test. All other test players produced by Richmond, Champaka Ramanayake, Chamila Suranga and Suranga Lakmal are opening Bowlers but Dananjaya is first batsman play test cricket. He became the best batsman in last T 20 series and the best all rounder in the last 4 day series.
At the time of writing this article 5 Richmond cricketers are performing at different levels of international cricket. While Suranga Lakmal and Dananjaya De Silva are playing in the national side against Australia somewhere in South Africa former Richmond captain Pabasara Waduge is representing the Sri Lanka team in a cricket development tour while Charith Asalanka and Wanidu Hasaranga are playing for touring Sri Lanka under 19 youth team in England.
Charith won the best School Boy cricketer of the year two consecutive years in 2014/15 and 2015/16 season becoming only the fourth player to win the award twice in Sri Lanka after Arjuna Ranatunga, Marvan Atapattu and Thilan Samaraweera.
Charith has been an outstanding player and all- rounder not only for Richmond but for Sri Lanka school level cricket. He was included in the world under 19 team announced by ICC in 2016. Charith scored a brilliant double hundred against Sri Sumangala Vidyalaya, Panadura in their limited over match of the inter school under 19 limited over series. Charith Asalanka imprinted his name in the history of Richmond Cricket as the first player to captain Sri Lanka school team.While playing for the Sri Lankan A team , he was the best opening batsman and undoubtedly he is a good future prospect for the opening batsman of the Sri Lankan team. If the destiny lets him to be a test player , Richmond will be the first and the only college in Sri Lanka to play three test players in the same team.( Suranga Lakmal, Dananjaya de Silva and Charith Asalanka). Charith captaining the Sri Lanka under 19 team scored 81 and 70 in first and second innings respectively in the first four day test at Cambridge and saved the match for Sri Lanka. He has led Sri Lanka under 19 team to a 7 wicket win at Northampton during the second youth test which is a defeat for England under 19 team at home after six years.
The injured ambidextrous Kamindu Mendis who represented the world cup under 19 team this year is really missing cricket. Having gone through a major surgery in his right shoulder he’s recovering hopefully to lead Richmond team next season. According to information gathered 2015 big match winning captain Sathara Gimhana who is a wicket keeper batsman and opener is performing well at club level representing Tamil Union Team. He is opening batting for Tamil Union with Dananjaya De Silva.
It is very heartening to note that cricket at Richmond College has blossomed in a way that we as Richmondites both young and old now have the opportunity to boast of our talented players. All these achievement were made playing against the top schools in the country but without even having a proper ground for practices. But thanks to all those who contributed and we have been able to reconstruct and develop the college Sneath Ground to proper standards recently. Nothing is yet over and there is more to be done. Several young and very talented players like Thaveesha Abishek are grooming.
The fruits are ripe, tasty. The flowers have bloomed with vibrant colours and shedding fragrance all over. It is a collective and continued process. Let us share the joy and be proud as Richmondites.