by Jeremy Brohier
The second oldest inter-school cricket fixture in the country will be played at Campbell Park on the 16th and 17th February 2018 for the 125th year between two of the finest educational institutions, Royal College and Wesley College for the Sir Frank Gunesekera Shield.
The first encounter between the two schools was played in 1893 at San Sebastian Hill, Hultsdorf which was the home ground of the Royalists. Royal was Captained F.S. De Silva while Percy de Bruin captained Wesley. The Royalists won the inaugural encounter by 53 runs. The only break in the series came in 1943 when the grounds of both schools were taken over by the British during the Second World War.
The shield is named after a famous Ceylonese Senator, an old Royalist Sir Frank Gunesekera who was the Deputy President of the Senate of Ceylon in 1948. Both Sir Frank and Dr. Lucien had connections with both Royal and Wesley. Although both were educated at Royal, Sir Frank resided close to Wesley at the junction of Campbell Place and Baseline Road near the Welikade prisons. His two brothers Eric and Donald both studied at Wesley and played cricket for school in 1908 and 1910. The former ended up as Vice Principal and lived at Karlsruhe Gardens right in front to the Wesley Principal and Vice Principal’s bungalow. Their sister Irene too lived here.
Sir Frank, whose portrait hangs in the Royal College hall, was a brilliant student winning the Thoburn prize for the best all-rounder in 1904. The Chief Guest Sir Henry Blake predicted success in whatever career he chose. Five generations of Gunesekera’s have studied at Royal and Wesley College, including Eric, Donald, Elmer, Terrance, Lal, Chrysantha, Nalin, Rohith, Hiran, Sharmal, Sivaji, Shivantha, Rajiv, Tharindra and Anujith.
It was in 1969 that Dr. Lucien Gunesekera presented the Sir Frank Gunesekera Shield in memory of his father which Wesley became the first recipient in the famous last ball victory under the leadership of Amaresh Rajaratnam. Sporting declarations by both sides made the match one of the, if not the most interesting of the 125 encounters played between the two schools.
Batting first, Wesley scored 260 for 9 while Royal replied with 207 for 7. With a lead of 53 runs in the first innings, Wesley declared at 105 for 8, setting the Royalists a target of 158.
The game ended in one of the most thrilling finishes when the Royalists were bowled out for 148 in the last ball of the last over of the game, giving Wesley a famous 9 run win.
Wesley’s reign was short lived, as Royal won it back the following year, leaving Wesley with no option but to wait for another 42 years to taste victory, reclaiming the trophy in 2012 under the captaincy of Ashen Fonseka.
The centenary encounter was played as a three-day match played at the P.Sara Oval in 1993 where Royal was captained by Gamini Perera and Wesley was captained by Teheran Rasool. After bowling Wesley out for 103 runs, Royal posted a mammoth total of 411 for 6 with the Captain himself scoring an unbeaten 152. The match ended within two days when Wesley was skittled for 112 in their second innings, giving the Royalists an emphatic innings and 196 run victory. N. Rajan’s brilliant bowling earned him a match bag of 10 for 43.
In 1906, C. A. Perera of Wesley made 108, becoming the first ever Wesleyite to score a century against Royal. Another interesting feature of this longstanding encounter was when Danesh Dissanayake scored centuries against Royal in 1988 and 1989 while his father Edmund Dissanayake too scored 107 in 1946. They remain the only father-son duo to score centuries against Royal, while for Royal, H.C. Gunasekara scored 120 in 1912 and his son C.H. Gunasekara (Jnr) scored 100 in 1949.
The record for the highest individual score is held by the former Royal skipper Chulaka Amarasinghe who scored an unbeaten 207 in 1983 while Roshan David’s 199 in 1990 stand as the highest for the Wesleyites. M.L. Warish holds the bowling record for Wesley against Royal taking 9 for 17 in 1897. Warish’s match bag of 14 for 48 in that match still continues as a record for both schools.
Another unique feature of this series is when the Harmer brothers Mervyn and Russell had a hand with dismissal of all 10 Royal batsman in the 1st innings of the 71st match played in 1964 a Campbell Park. In that innings S. Rajaratnam from Royal was the only batsman to be run out for 62.
Over the 125 years both schools have produced some outstanding and great cricketers, a few that come to mind are Dr. C.H. Gunasekera, Sargo Jayawickrema, Col .F.C. De Saram, Sathi Coomaraswamy, C.I. Gunasekera, Gamini Goonasena, Fritzroy Crozier, Darrel Liversz, Jayantha Amerasinghe, Gajan Pathmanathan, Asitha Jayaweera, Ranjan Madugalle, Rohan Jayasekera, Sumithra Warnakulasuriya, Sudath Pasqual, Asantha De Mel, Chulaka Amarasinghe, Roshan Jurangpathy, Jehan Mubarak and Kushal Janith Perera from Royal with the famous M. Sathasivam, S. Gunasekera, R.L. Kannangara, A. Mylvaganam, S. Nagendra, I.H. Walbeoff, H.L. A. Matthysz, Edmund Dissanayake, Lucky Goonetilleke, M.N. Samsudeen, Lou Adihetty, the Claessen brothers, Bryan, Radley and Herman, the Harmer brothers Russell, Mervyn and Granville, Darrell Maye, the Jeganathan twins, Sritheran and Hariharan the Fuard brothers, Ansar and Abu, L.C.R. Wijesinghe, Amaresh Rajaratnam, Tyronne Jansz, Dilangen Jayasekera, Mahendra Dissanayake, Ganesh Mylvaganam, Navin De Silva, Sanjeeva Wijesingha, Dharshika Jayakody, Roshan David, Danesh Dissanayake, Farveez Mahroof and more recently Ishan Jayaratne and Jeffrey Vandersay playing for Wesley. Some of these gentlemen went on to represent the country.
The Royalists are the current holders of the shield, having won it in 2015 under the captaincy of Harith Samarasinghe.
Giving a synopsis of the second oldest schools cricket fixture in the island leading to the 125th year, Royal have won 50 with Wesley winning 22 encounters while 52 matches were drawn.
The Chief Guest for this memorable encounter will be former Wesley and Sri Lanka Schools under 19 cricket captain, Capt. Navin De Silva. Navin began playing 1st XI cricket in 1978 and ended captaining Wesley in 1981and 1982. He was a dashing batsman who feared no bowler and a right arm fast medium bowler deceptive with speed. Many of his knocks were dazzling and worth going miles to watch. Considered to be one of the finest cricket captains in the 80’s, Navin was selected to lead the Sri Lankan schools team on its first ever cricket tour to England in 1981 with Arjuna Ranatunga as his deputy. The tour was a success with Sri Lanka remaining unbeaten a great achievement at that time. The side consisted of players in the caliber of Aravinda De Silva, Marlon Von Haght, S.H.U. Karnain, Graham Labrooy and Rumesh Ratnayake. Navin went on to be adjudged the best schools captain and best all-rounder in school cricket in 1981.
Celebrating the 125 years of cricketing encounters in 2018, the Royalists will be looking to hold on to the Sir Frank Gunesekera shield under the Captaincy of Pasindu. Sooriyabandara while the Wesleyites under the leadership of Thusaraka Akmeemana will be shifting all gears to bring the shield back to Karlsruhe Gardens. Whatever the outcome may be both sides are bound to provide the cricket loving spectators an entertaining game.