The values I learnt from playing in the Royal-Thomian Match – Eran Wickramaratne | Daily News

The values I learnt from playing in the Royal-Thomian Match – Eran Wickramaratne

Eran Wickramaratne as State Minister of Finance
Eran Wickramaratne as State Minister of Finance

Eran Wickramaratne, the present State Minister of Finance was a full-blooded Royalist who played for the school in the traditional "Battle of the Blues" cricket encounter with S Thomas’ College in 1976 and 1977. He opened the batting for Royal College and in his second year was a top scorer of the match. He had a skillful and patient knock of 68 that enabled him to carry away the two batting prizes that were on offer.

Reflecting back on those glory days, Minister Wickramaratne said, “Playing in the Royal-Thomian was an honour because it has a large number of spectators, a festive atmosphere built around it and a lot of tradition.

“It is a meeting place for schoolboys from yesteryear. I think international commentators have also said from time to time that there is no parallel. It is also the second longest unbroken cricket match in the world played through two world wars as well.

Eran Wickramaratne opening the batting for Royal College in 1976 and 1977.

“When I was about 10 or 11 years old I just went for practices at the Royal Junior nets, it was a house match and I was not chosen. I was a reserve but someone did not turn up and suddenly somebody said, ‘Why don’t you pad up and go and open the batting?’. In my first match I scored and I was the permanent house opening batsman. I immediately became the opening batsman for Royal junior under 14s, under 16s and then for the first eleven.”


Minister Wickramaratne disclosed that he made his debut in the Big Match when he first opened batting for Royal in the inaugural limited-over match against St Thomas’ College in 1975, the year the first cricket World Cup also took place in England.

“I was the second eleven captain of Royal in 1975. I was invited to be the opening batsman with PNS Kariyawasam, the Royal College captain in the first limited over Royal-Thomian match. Before I played in the Big Match, I played in the first limited-over Royal-Thomian,” said Minister Wickramaratne.

“The limited over game was just starting but by the time I played the third limited-over I became the highest scorer. I got a fifty and I carried away two prizes for the fastest fifty. One, was the Brigadier Dennis Hulugalle trophy and the other, was the Lanka de Silva trophy.”

Minister Wickramaratne made his first Big Match appearance in 1976 and made 11 and 17, opening the batting with Kevin Balthazaar. The following year, he opened with PNS Kariyawasam and scored 68 and 16. His innings of 68 was the only half-century of the match played at the P Sara Oval; the next highest score being 46 by Ranjan Madugalle. Both matches ended in draws.

Minister Wickramaratne’s batting technique was built around a solid defence and accumulation of runs. “The game was different at that time. A lot of emphasis was placed on having the right technique and having a straight bat, playing straight, having a good defence” said Minister Wickramaratne.

“I tried to emulate people like Anura Tennekoon, the Thomian captain who went onto captain Sri Lanka. Tennekoon was really a different player like Geoffrey Boycott the English cricketer. There was also Michael Tissera and Vijay Malalasekera. These were some of the best players of the time.  At that time it was more about the right technique. Today it's about how fast they score. The game has evolved so much,” he said.

Minister Wickramaratne loved school cricket in his era and said, “I thoroughly enjoyed it. My lifelong friends were the people who were basically on the field with me. Ashok Jayawickrama captained the final year. Dye Pathmanathan and Rohan Jayasekera  went onto play for Sri Lanka and Canada. Ranjan Madugalle who captained Sri Lanka was one down when I opened. Kariyawasam opened with me. Anudatta Dias who was opening bowler and was the popular dance duo, Vajira and Chitrasena’s only son. The team also had people like Susantha Ratnayake who played for John Keells, a left-armer Ajith de Alwis who came from St. Joseph’s College; and Antonian Kevin Balthazaar and Anura de Alwis who was a wicket-keeper.”

Minister Wickramaratne continued cricket after school by representing Sri Lankan Schools. When he went to England, he played in the Kent League. He then branched into academics and became a successful banker, before moving into politics in 2010 as a member of the UNP.


“Sports and cricket  basically helps you become a rounded personality. It teaches you discipline. I remember while I was a cricketer, I was already a coloursman and I was with Vice Captain, Dye Pathmanathan in that particular year. We turned up late one day for practices and the cricket master didn’t hesitate punishing us for coming late even though we were prefects and senior people in the school,” recalled Minister Wickramaratne.

“I went onto become Head Prefect but he punished us by letting us stand on top of a short wall for everybody to see. It was a bit embarrassing but it certainly taught us a lesson we will never forget. It really built discipline into us. It also taught me patience.  It taught me that you don’t get results overnight, and it also taught me to face victory and defeat in life. I learned to handle victory without trying to demean other people and face defeat with my head held high. That lesson stands with me in every sphere of life including politics,” he said.

“When I look at it from a skills perspective, sports and cricket taught me strategy and planning, I learnt those things there. I’ve been to university and business school, but the first lessons about having a vision, mission, strategy and planning I had already learned on the cricket field. If you think your only objective is the marks you get at exams, I think you are missing out on a lot in life. You are not getting the skills required to succeed in life.”

Despite his strict schedule as State Minister of Finance, Minister Wickramaratne said that he still makes it a point every year to be present at the Big Match.

“I don’t follow the teams very closely but I make it a point every year to come for a few hours  and also to connect with everyone else. From a social point of view it has gone on from strength to strength. One outstanding thing about the match is that when the game is over, the rivalry is over. It is not carried beyond the boundary line. That’s the value these two schools give to the rest of the colleges.”


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