For 130 consecutive years now, Colombo, with much of the country, plunges into the ‘Battle of the Blues’ for three days in March. Between March 12 and 14, the Sinhalese Sports Club (SSC) ground in the heart of Colombo hosts two of the most prestigious high schools in Sri Lanka, Royal College of Colombo and St Thomas College, Mount Lavinia, for a three-day cricket match, arguably the second oldest such event in the history of cricket.
This three-day match has not only survived the decades-old ethnic conflict and the bloody radical Marxist insurrection of the late 1980s, it was also played during the World Wars.
The winner of the three-day match is awarded the DS Senanayake Memorial Shield (independent Sri Lanka’s first Prime Minister who for two years played for St Thomas College). But the game very evidently is played more for prestige and for continuing a rich tradition, fun and revelry.
For three days, the mood in Colombo changes. The city is transformed with thousands trooping in from around the island to the ground to see the match. Expatriates from the two colleges turn up too. The SSC ground becomes a riot of colours with tents and fluttering flags put up all around.
The two schools are closed for the three days but the students are expected to be in their uniforms and turn up to support their teams. (Very few bunk school on these three days!). Tents called Colts, Stallions and Mustangs are put up for the old boys to generally party and watch the match whenever possible.
The match triggers high passion and much raucous support. Something on the lines of an East Bengal and Mohunbagan football clash in Calcutta. Difference being while there are several such matches in Calcutta every year, the three-day match in Colombo is held only once. This year’s game was drawn. But like any old rivalry worth its salt, the two colleges war about the 130-match result tally. Controversy still lingers over the result of the match played in 1885!